CRE Midwest

Northwestern University's Welsh-Ryan Arena to get $100 million renovation

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The $110-plus million project will be funded by a leadership gift from Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan, along with a $10 million gift from Stephen R. and Susan K. Wilson, donations from other loyal Northwestern benefactors and the existing athletics maintenance and equipment budget.

Welsh-Ryan Arena, the home of Northwestern University’s basketball, volleyball and wrestling teams, will be transformed as a result of a complete facility renovation. Construction will begin at the conclusion of the basketball season in March 2017 with anticipated completion by fall 2018.

The $110-plus million project will be funded by a leadership gift from Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan, along with a $10 million gift from Stephen R. and Susan K. Wilson, donations from other loyal Northwestern benefactors and the existing athletics maintenance and equipment budget.

“Simply stated, this is a historic moment for the future of Northwestern Athletics,” Jim Phillips, vice president for athletics and recreation, said. “There are no greater champions for Northwestern than Pat and Shirley Ryan. We never will appropriately convey our gratitude for their vision and generosity, which have made a seismic impact on our University and generations of students. In addition, we are also incredibly appreciative of Steve and Sue Wilson’s continued unconditional support and leadership; they are truly two of our very best Wildcats.”

The project, part of the 2010 master athletics facilities plan recommendation, will entail a complete renovation of Welsh-Ryan Arena and McGaw Memorial Hall, including:

  • New seating throughout the arena, with chair-back seats replacing existing wood bleachers
  • Wider, more accessible concourses with improved lighting to alleviate congestion
  • Improved accessibility for the mobility-impaired, with five new elevators replacing the existing one
  • New restrooms, doubling the number of toilet fixtures as well as the addition of accessible family restrooms
  • New concession areas with twice as many point-of-sale stations to increase efficiency, along with new food and drink offerings
  • State-of-the-art lighting, audio and video capabilities in the arena
  • Premium seating areas and expansion of the N-Club, which provides space for pre- and post-game events, by more than 400 percent. The club, which is located on the second floor, will be extended south onto Randy Walker Terrace at Ryan Field and provide expanded hospitality opportunities on football gamedays.
  • Expansion of the building lobby by nearly 50 percent
  • A new ticket office
  • New locker rooms for men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball
  • New offices for men’s and women’s basketball
  • Expansion of usable court space in both the main arena and fieldhouse.
Welsh-Ryan’s new seating configuration will be finalized in the coming months and communicated first to current season ticket holders.

The athletic department is in the process of arranging alternate locations for teams to practice and play during renovation.

Construction on McGaw Memorial Hall, in which Welsh-Ryan Arena is located, was started in 1951 and completed in 1953. In the early 1980s, aided by a leadership gift from the Ryans, the basketball arena was renovated and named in honor of the parents of Mr. and Mrs. Ryan. Additional improvements have been made to the building since that time, but this project will be the first top-to-bottom renovation of the entire structure since its original construction.

The new $10 million commitment from Steve and Sue Wilson brings the family’s giving to more than $27 million through We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern. The Wilsons previously provided $15 million in support of Northwestern’s lakefront athletics facilities, as well as other gifts to the campaign.