Arena renovation ushers in new era at Northwestern
More than 32 years after the last changes were made to Welsh-Ryan Arena, a new era in Northwestern athletics will get underway with a $110-million renovation project next March after the men's basketball season concludes.
The Welsh-Ryan Arena, home to the men's and women's basketball teams, the volleyball team and wrestling team, will undergo a top-to-bottom renovation that will include the installation of new seating, which will replace the wooden benches with back-chairs, five new elevators to make the arena more accessible, new restrooms and concessions, new suites and new locker rooms and offices. A large portion of the project has been funded by Pat and Shirley Ryan and Stephen and Susan Wilson.
"Sometimes we get these great ideas and sit on them for a while," Northwestern University president Morton Schapiro said in announcing the massive project. "Not this one. This was an idea funded thanks to the generosity of a number of people ... obviously the Wilsons and the Ryans, always there for their beloved alma mater."
Jim Phillips, vice president for athletics and recreation, contends this move is the final piece that completes Northwestern's position in the Big Ten.
"We do know where we've fallen relative to others in the Big Ten Conference," Phillips said. "And (wrestling head coach) Matt [Storniolo] put it well -- it's the last missing piece. We have a top-ten academic institution, we're in the greatest city in the world in Chicago and the Chicagoland area, we're in the best conference in the country, and now we're going to have a facility to match that. It's coming."
The construction for the project is set to conclude before the 2018-19 basketball season begins. Men's basketball head coach Chris Collins wasted no time getting into contact with recruits to sell the new arena as his latest pitch.
With the arena renovations, Collins hopes to attract some of the top recruits to Northwestern to continue their quest of finally receiving a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Although the renovations will bring changes to the stadium, the small-feel environment will be a constant for Welsh-Ryan Arena. Because of the added facilities, the seating capacity of the arena will decrease to about 7,500.
Collins is glad that the building's unique character will remain intact.
"We've talked about having an arena, and even though it's state-of-the-art and has all of the things that are out now and are top-of-the-line, that we don't lose sight of the character we have at Northwestern," Collins said. "I think that this building is going to reflect that. We're still going to stay true to who we are, and that's what's going to make it such a great venue to play in."