Northwestern basketball is on the path to a new era, as the university’s overhaul of Welsh-Ryan Arena is underway.
In March, Welsh-Ryan Arena hosted its final game before it was closed to begin an elaborate renovation. The upgrades will lead to a modernization of amenities throughout the venue, which will see its seating capacity reduced from 8,117 to roughly 7,000 in an effort to create a more comfortable fan experience.
The scope of the project requires the Northwestern Wildcats to play their home games elsewhere as construction takes place. In a move that is only expected to affect the 2017-18 NCAA season, the Wildcats will shift their games to Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL, the former home of the DePaul Blue Demons. Once the renovation project is completed, the Wildcats will return to Welsh-Ryan Arena.
In the meantime, work is underway as construction crews look to wrap the project up in time for the 2018-19 NCAA season. The work that has taken place so far has led to many features being removed from the venue, creating a scene that was recently described in The Chicago Tribune:
The scoreboard is down, of course, and the floor on which Nate Taphorn fired a bullet to Dererk Pardon to beat Michigan on March 1 has been disassembled and put into storage.
Some wood will be used to manufacture clocks and make up the court of the new practice facility. Other pieces will be turned into gifts — “special things for special people,” said Mike Polisky, NU’s deputy athletic director for external affairs.
Polisky said contractors recommended a 24-month timeline to transform the facility into the new Welsh-Ryan Arena, which will have modern amenities and fewer seats (from 8,117 to about 7,000), with chairbacks replacing bleachers. But the job will be completed in about 18 months, allowing for a fall 2018 unveiling.
Next comes the roof demolition, a four-week process to turn it into rubble.
Welsh-Ryan Arena originally opened in 1952, and has been home to Northwestern basketball throughout its history. Northwestern’s women’s basketball program, which had also used Welsh-Ryan Arena until the renovations began, will spend the 2017-18 season at Beardsley Gym in Evanston, Il.