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New Home Court for the ’Cats

The new Welsh-Ryan Arena offers state-of-the-art amenities for student-athletes and fans alike and accessibility for all visitors.

womens basketball
The new Welsh-Ryan Arena is the home for women’s basketball as well as men’s basketball, volleyball and wrestling.

Spring 2019

Northwestern dedicated the striking new Welsh-Ryan Arena in November, opening the doors of a world-class facility built to be the most accessible in college athletics. The renovated facility is now a modern home for men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and wrestling.

The transformation of one of the University’s most used and versatile venues was made possible by the generosity of loyal Northwestern bene­factors and alumni, most notably Trustee Patrick G. Ryan ’59, ’09 H and Shirley Welsh Ryan ’61.

“The new Welsh-Ryan Arena is a world-class venue that will host competitions, practices, graduations, concerts and community events,” said Jim Phillips, the Combe Family Vice President for Athletics and Recreation, at the dedication. “We are so thankful to Pat and Shirley Ryan for the impact their generosity will make today and for generations to come.”

A look inside the new Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The arena floor is constructed of maple wood sourced from Menominee Tribal Enterprises. A four-sided, center-hung scoreboard offers cutting-edge video, audio and lighting. New windows feature automatic translucent and blackout shades. New locker room facilities for men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball each include a kitchen, “fueling station” and lounge, while lounges for wrestling and cheerleading feature the latest audio and visual technology.

“The new Welsh-Ryan Arena is stunning and will provide Northwestern scholar-athletes with state-of-the-art facilities that they deserve,” Pat Ryan said at the dedication. “This renovation gives us a top fan-friendly and athlete-enabling game venue. The new Welsh-Ryan will have the ambiance to create a distinct home-court advantage. It will be a real pit.”

The arena is believed to be the most accessible anywhere in college athletics.

“The architectural design is very responsive to people with special and differing needs,” Shirley Ryan said. “There are five strategically positioned elevators, and guardrails have been placed down the center of all aisles, with wider and deeper steps at a slightly lower rise. Also, all of the washrooms are at the very high end of ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliance. We were very pleased to see family bathrooms, so that families can take their young children into a private washroom. Finally, wheelchair-accessible seating is distributed generously throughout the arena, rather than at just one location.”

Construction on McGaw Memorial Hall, in which Welsh-Ryan Arena is located, was started in 1951 and completed in 1953. In the early 1980s the basketball arena was renovated and named in honor of the Ryans’ parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Welsh Sr. and Mr. and Mrs. Patrick G. Ryan Sr., in recognition of the Ryan family’s extraordinary leadership and support for Northwestern. Additional improvements have since been made, but this is the first top-to-bottom renovation of the entire structure.

Northwestern Athletics and Recreation also received lead gifts from Trustee Howard J. Trienens ’45, ’49 JD, ’95 H; Trustee Stephen R. Wilson ’70, ’74 MBA and Susan K. Wilson ’70; and Trustee Harreld N. “Kip” Kirkpatrick III ’94, ’97 MBA and Sara Kirkpatrick. Additional benefactors include Trustee Tim Sullivan and Sue Sullivan and alumnus Howard Witt ’63 and Marilyn Witt.

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