Northwestern held a press conference Thursday at the Welsh-Ryan Arena Fieldhouse to announce the $110-million renovation to Welsh-Ryan Arena that will begin in spring of 2017. A huge cast of Northwestern characters was in attendance, including president Morty Schapiro, Pat Fitzgerald, Chris Collins, Joe McKeown, donors and more.
Northwestern University President Morty Schapiro
-Schapiro started off by challenging Alex Olah to a game of one-on-one, citing his superior post moves.
-Schapiro was very thankful to the donors, including the Ryan and Wilson families: "This is an idea funded thanks to the generosity of a number of people. This is a great idea, it got funded, and now we're going to build it."
-He said "It ushers in a new era for Northwestern."
Chairman of the Board of Trustees Bill Osborn
-Osborn raved about Jim Phillps. "He is the most respected athletic director in the country."
-Osborn also discussed the positive change in culture, both on campus and in athletics brought upon by Schapiro and Phillips.
Athletic Director Jim Phillips
-Phillips was peppy and positive from the start: "This is a monumental, transformational and historic day for Northwestern."
-He thanked the Board of Trustees for making the renovations possible, especially Osborn and Schapiro: "We have the best trustees out there."
-Phillips also discussed his high regard for Steve and Sue Wilson, two of the donors: "They want to be behind-the-scenes, go to the games, support the student athletes and be who they are."
-On Pat and Shirley Ryan, two more donors: "They are true champions of Northwestern." He said no one has had a greater impact on Northwestern than the Ryans.
-He noted the fan expectations for Northwestern: "This will be a seismic change for our fans. We have one of the most sophisticated fanbases out there."
-"This building and these teams are one of the first interactions that many young kids will have with this university."
-Phillips hinted after the presser at Northwestern playing in Chicago during the 2017-18 season, saying he wants to advance the "Chicago's Big Ten Team" moniker but didn't give any official arena names.
-Finally, Phillips emphasized that this project is donor-driven and will not take any money away from student tuition.
-He remembered coming to his first Northwestern basketball game in the 1950s and McGaw Hall: "Athletics didn't try to be magnificent like the rest of the university. They tried to be mediocre."
-Pat said he's been watching Northwestern basketball for 61 years, and is glad that year 63 will be spent in a new-and-improved arena. "Chris (Collins) and Joe (McKeown), you will have an incredible facility that you deserve."
-After the press conference, Ryan discussed the renovations in more detail. He said that a better arena doesn't necessarily mean bigger. In fact, the seating capacity may even decrease, as the arena will employ a more theater-style seating that goes high up but the capacity shouldn't change. Ryan said, "It might not be the biggest, but it'll be the best."
Shirley Welsh Ryan
-She said part of the goal of the renovations is to encourage more students to get involved in athletics: "Sports are the core of our democracy. ...It's a very important part of our society."
-On Welsh-Ryan Arena, "We named it after our parents, to thank them for allowing us to come to Northwestern. Gratitude is the key to happiness in life."
Coaches Chris Collins, Joe McKeown, Shane Davis (volleyball) and Matt Storniolo (wrestling)
-McKeown on what the renovations will do for recruiting: "The nationwide phone calls from high school coaches, AAU coaches and even some of our competitors who are afraid we're building something they can't compete with, it sends a message that we're serious about basketball."
-Collins: "I can be up here telling you how it's going to affect recruiting positively for a while. This building will be on par with anything. For my coaching staff and I to let [recruits] know that their freshman year, we're going to open up a state-of-the-art facility raises eyebrows."
-Davis: "It's a game-changer for our volleyball program. It's been an unbelievable couple of days."
-Storniolo: "This is the last piece of the puzzle for Northwestern wrestling."
-Phillips: "It was the right time. You can see a transformation around campus already. ...This was donor driven. Other schools use a different structure to pay for these things. For us, it's donors."
-Collins said that coupling the pre-existing positives for Northwestern athletics with a world-class facility makes Northwestern second to none.
-Phillips: "If you want the best student athletes, you have to have the best facilities."
-Collins: "It's still going to be quaint and small—a fan-on-top-of-the-court type of arena. It's going to have character... We won't lose sight of the character we have at Northwestern. We're going to stay true to who we are."
-Phillips compared Collins' comment to Pauley Pavilion in UCLA, which was refurbished and not replaced. He said he went to Cameron Indoor before making the decision.
-Phillips joked about the 2017-18 basketball season being an unknown in terms of where Northwestern will play: "We'll be like the Harlem Globetrotters... In a different arena every night."
-He said they've been in discussions with some arenas in the Chicagoland area to play during that season but wouldn't share which ones specifically. "It might be more than one facility... We've got some good options."