Welsh-Ryan Arena opens Friday with game, pregame ribbon-cutting

Peter Warren, Sports Editor

Welsh-Ryan Arena officially opened Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and men’s basketball exhibition.

Following a delay of almost an hour, University president Morton Schapiro, Athletic Director Jim Phillips, arena namesakes Pat and Shirley Ryan and others officially cut a purple ribbon to open the new Arena.

“This is a transformational moment for us,” Phillips said.

The ceremony itself was very prompt, with only a PA announcer counting down from five before the ribbon was actually cut and then announcing that people could enter Welsh-Ryan. In addition to the marching band and Northwestern cheerleaders, members of the Wildcats teams who were on campus this weekend and prominent members of the NU community filled the concourse just outside of Welsh-Ryan.

Almost everything about the Arena is new and sleek. Except for the student section, all the seats in the arena are normal event seats with cushioning. The scoreboard over the middle of the court is new and there is an additional ribbon scoreboard that encircles the building.

“We had a dream that this was going to be something we wanted to do,” Phillips said. “To think about what’s happened over the last 18 months has been nothing short of remarkable.”

Along the white walls of the Arena are purple cutouts that feature dedication to historic Northwestern athletes who played or coached for the teams that will occupy the building.

There are some subtle changes to the Arena as well. The court itself is about 30 feet north of where it was before the renovation and there is now air conditioning in the facility.

There was a subsequent press conference where Phillips, the Ryans and women’s basketball coach Joe McKeown answered questions from the media.

When talking about the arena, Pat and Shirley Ryan said they were most happy about the accessibility of the Arena and that it was a point of pride for them. Welsh-Ryan is the most ADA-accessible college-sports venue in the country. There is an ADA section from every vantage point in the Arena, as well as five accessible family restrooms.

As for the first game in the arena, the Wildcats annihilated Division II McKendree by 39 points, winning the contest, 83-44. Senior forward Vic Law led the team with 14 points while graduate guard Ryan Taylor and freshman forward Pete Nance added 12 points.

“Some may say that this is end because we cut the ribbon and this is a long process, but I beg to differ. I think this is just the beginning.” Phillips said. “Because we haven’t had a chance to recruit to it yet. We haven’t been able to train in it yet. We haven’t been able to do the things that I think your are going to see a facility of this magnitude will do for all of our programs.”

This article was updated following the conclusion of Friday’s exhibition game.

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