Men's and Women's Basketball
The Big Ten Conference is known for its enthusiastic, record-setting crowds and first-class facilities, and Northwestern's historic Welsh-Ryan Arena is no exception. When opponents arrive to play a game in Evanston, they know they're in for quite a battle.
McGaw Memorial Hall has been the home of the Wildcats since 1952, when it was built in part to accommodate a meeting of the World Council of Churches at the University. One of the best facilities of its size in the nation when it opened, McGaw Hall played host to the 1956 Final Four, which saw San Francisco win an 83-71 decision over Iowa in the championship game -- a contest which drew a crowd of 10,653, still the building's basketball attendance record. McGaw Hall was one of just three different arenas to stage the event from 1953-59.
McGaw Hall was officially dedicated on Jan. 18, 1953, although the first game in it was played Dec. 6, 1952, with Northwestern taking on Western Michigan. The fieldhouse was donated to the University by Foster G. McGaw and friends in memory of his father, the Reverend Francis A. McGaw, a Presbyterian minister who died at his mission in Nairobi, Africa, in 1942
After its early glory days, the structure to which the Wildcats returned in 1983-84 was not the same one they had left 12 months earlier. A $6.75 million renovation of the building had dramatically altered its interior, with the biggest improvement being the completion of Welsh-Ryan Arena. Now considered one of the top facilities of its size in the nation, Welsh-Ryan Arena is situated at the south end of McGaw Hall, and has a seating capacity of 8,117.
As a part of the $20 million Campaign for Athletic Excellence, various facilities in McGaw Hall were updated and improved. New wood basketball courts were added to the back of McGaw Hall for extra practice and playing time for the men's basketball, women's basketball and volleyball teams.
The arena is named in recognition of a leadership gift to the $21 million Athletic Facilities Campaign by the Patrick G. Ryan family of Kenilworth, Ill. Ryan, chairman of Northwestern's Board of Trustees, is president and chief executive officer of AON Corporation. The name-gift pledge to the Campaign was made by the Ryan family in honor of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Patrick G. Ryan Sr. and his wife's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Welsh Sr.
The first intercollegiate athletic event held after Welsh-Ryan Arena's 1982-83 renovation was a women's volleyball match between the Wildcats and Illinois-Chicago on Sept. 2, 1983. Since then, Welsh-Ryan Arena has played home to countless exciting Wildcat volleyball matches.
Welsh-Ryan has been the home of NU wrestling since the late 1950s, and fans have been treated to some of the best amateur wrestling from around the nation. Every season in late December, the Midlands Championships draws thousands of fans to Welsh-Ryan.
"There is a lot of history in Welsh-Ryan Arena," said NU head coach Drew Pariano. "It is a perfect venue. Its smaller size makes for a better experience because the fans are right there on top of the action. A lot of wrestling history has been made at Welsh-Ryan Arena."
The Brown Family Basketball Center
The Locker Room Project is a $4 million, two-phase operation. The first phase includes the locker rooms, player lounges and team rooms for the men's and women's programs. The McGaw Hall (Welsh-Ryan Arena Locker Room Project, part of the Athletics Initiative), includes:
Two 1,400 square-foot locker room areas
Theatre-style classrooms for team meetings
Two player lounges with flat panel TVs
New officials locker rooms
The second phase will be completed in the summer of 2008 when the coaches' offices will be relocated to the second floor of the facility. This project was made possible by the generous support of:
Don and Alice Brown - Their leadership gift will be recognized with the naming of the Brown Family Basketball Center.
Howard and Marilyn Witt - The men's basketball locker room will be named in their honor.
Tim and Susan Sullivan - The men's basketball offices will be named in their honor.
Fast Break Club - The men's basketball booster group made a commitment to name the men's players' lounge.