The Big Ten Conference is known for its enthusiastic, record-setting crowds and first-class facilities, and Northwestern's 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. However, the structure to which the Wildcats returned in 1983-84 was not the same one they had left 12 months earlier. The $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. The arena's construction included a concrete floor, replacing the dirt floor, and a new hardwood playing surface; 2,000 theatre-type seats for season ticket holders, and more than 6,000 permanently fixed wooden bleachers, increasing the arena's seating capacity by nearly 15 percent; and a four-sided scoreboard hanging over midcourt, featuring full animation characteristics.
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 basketball court housed in Welsh-Ryan Arena was refurbished and repainted, while a new lounge was built in the men's basketball lockerroom.
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 renovation of McGaw Hall began on June 21, 1982, and was sufficiently completed by June 18, 1983, to accommodate Northwestern's 125th commencement exercises. The first intercollegiate athletic event held in the Welsh-Ryan Arena was a women's volleyball match between the Wildcats and Illinois-Chicago on September 2, 1983. The dedication of the arena was held prior to the NU Bradley men's basketball game on November 28 of that year.
McGaw Hall was officially dedicated on January 18, 1953, although the first game in it was played on December 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.
At the end of its construction, McGaw Hall was one of the largest college basketball arenas in the country. It was so big that it attracted the 1956 NCAA Basketball Championship, and drew a crowd of 10,653, the building's basketball attendance record, for the final game. The ever-changing McGaw Hall and Welsh-Ryan Arena provide Wildcat teams and fans with a top-flight collegiate facility.
Directions to Welsh-Ryan Arena - by Car:
Welsh-Ryan Arena is located just beyond the north end zone of Ryan Field. Cash parking is available in both the east and west parking lots adjacent to Ryan Field and Welsh-Ryan Arena.
From the North:
Take I-94 to Skokie Blvd/Route 41 Exit. Exit ramp becomes Skokie Blvd. Continue South to Lake Ave (2nd traffic light). Turn left on Lake Ave. and proceed east to Green Bay Road. Turn right on Green Bay Road and proceed to Central Street. Turn left on Central Street to Welsh-Ryan Arena.
From the South:
Take I-90/94. Where I-90 and I-94 split, take I-94 (Milwaukee). Follow I-94 to Old Orchard Road. Turn right (east) on Old Orchard Road and proceed to Gross Point Road. Turn left on Gross Point Road to Central Street (first light). Turn right on Central Street and continue to Welsh-Ryan Arena.
From the West:
Take I-55, I-88, or I-90 to I-294 north to Dempster Street east. Follow Dempster Street east to McCormick Blvd.. Turn left on McCormick Blvd. and proceed to Green Bay Road. Turn left on Green Bay Road and proceed two lights to Central Street. Turn right on Central Street to Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Directions to Welsh-Ryan Arena - from O'Hare Airport:
Take I-294 north to Dempster Street east. Follow Dempster Street east to McCormick Blvd.. Turn left on McCormick Blvd. and proceed to Green Bay Road. Turn left on Green Bay Road and proceed two lights to Central Street. Turn right on Central Street to Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Alternate Exit from I-294 and I-94:
Take Touhy Avenue east and proceed to McCormick Blvd. Turn left on McCormick Blvd. and proceed to Green Bay Road. Turn left on Green Bay Road and proceed two lights to Central Street. Turn right on Central Street to Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Directions to Welsh-Ryan Arena - by Public Transportation:
The Central Street Metra Station is also conveniently located, 2 blocks to the west of Welsh-Ryan Arena at 1601 Central Street. Contact the Metra offices for fare and departure schedules.
For more detailed information on the CTA and Metra please call 836-7000 from the 312, 847, 708 and
630 area codes.