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Welsh-Ryan Arena

McGaw Hall/Welsh-Ryan Arena
"The Shrine","The Litter Box"
Location 2705 Ashland Avenue
Evanston, IL 60201
Owner Northwestern University
Operator Northwestern University
Capacity 8,117 (1983–present)
7,070 (1981–1983)
7,013 (1973–1981)
8,800 (1960–1973)
9,500 (1952–1960)
Surface Hardwood
Broke ground May 1, 1951[1]
Opened December 6, 1952
Renovated 1983
Construction cost $1.25 million
($11.1 million in 2016 dollars[2])
Architect Holabird & Root & Burgee
General contractor R.C. Weiboldt Construction Company[3]
Northwestern Wildcats
(Basketball, Volleyball, Wrestling)

Welsh-Ryan Arena is an 8,117-seat multi-purpose arena in Evanston, Illinois, United States. It is home to the Northwestern University Wildcats basketball, volleyball and wrestling teams. It is located to the north of Ryan Field on the Northwestern campus.

McGaw Memorial Hall hosted the NCAA Final Four in 1956. Patten Gymnasium, formerly located on the main campus at Northwestern, hosted the first NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in 1939 and was later torn down in order to build the Technological Institute in its place, which was completed in 1942. A smaller Patten Gymnasium was built to the north of the original site, which still stands and is mostly used for student recreation, intramural sports, and club sports.

For years, Welsh-Ryan Arena was the only basketball arena in the Big Ten Conference that did not seat at least 10,000. Its capacity is more than 4,500 seats fewer than the next smallest arena in the conference, the Crisler Center at Michigan. Welsh-Ryan lost its status as the Big Ten's smallest arena in 2014 when Rutgers joined the conference. The Scarlet Knights' facility, the Louis Brown Athletic Center (colloquially known as the Rutgers Athletic Center or "RAC") has a listed capacity of 8,000.


McGaw Memorial Hall was built through the generosity of Northwestern University trustee and donor Foster G. McGaw, founder of the American Hospital Supply Corporation. The building, named in memory of McGaw's father, Presbyterian minister and missionary Francis A. McGaw, to house sporting events and large-scale meetings. With a seating capacity of about 13,000, McGaw Memorial Hall was one of the three largest auditoriums in the Chicago area at the time of its construction. Designed by the architectural firm of Holabird & Root & Burgee and built of reinforced concrete, McGaw Memorial Hall contained 54,000 square feet of interior space. The lighting system, consisting of 180 mercury vapor lights, was said to simulate “pure daylight.”

Partitions, portable bleachers, and a removable basketball floor made the building suitable for a wide variety of uses. While the intent was to provide a space large enough to hold the entire student body of Northwestern University at once during convocations and other such campus occasions, the auditorium was also used by the North Shore Music Festival and, soon after its opening, by the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches. This event, held from August 15-30, 1954, featured a convocation address by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In 1983 Northwestern completed extensive renovations on the interior of the McGaw Hall. In recognition of major contributions to the work, the principal interior spaces of the building have been named Welsh-Ryan Arena and the Ronald J. Chinnock Lobby. The arena itself was renamed in honor of the principal donor, Patrick G. Ryan, president of the Board of Trustees, and of his wife's parents, Mr. & Mrs. Robert J. Welsh, Sr.

The McGaw Fieldhouse is a practice facility within the building, which in 1997 was renovated to allow practice space for basketball and volleyball.

In 2007, the Brown Family Basketball Center was constructed within the McGaw Fieldhouse to include new locker rooms and team lounges for the men's and women's basketball teams, as well as offices for their respective coaching staffs.


  1. ^ "NU Will Begin Work Tuesday on Fieldhouse".  
  2. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  3. ^ Dubin, Howard (August 15, 1952). "New McGaw Hall to Open for First Basketball Game".  

External links

  • Welsh-Ryan Arena (from
Preceded by
Municipal Auditorium
NCAA Men's Division I
Basketball Tournament
Finals Venue

Succeeded by
Municipal Auditorium

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