Northwestern students denied at Welsh-Ryan Arena on night of Jan. 4 win over in-state rival Illinois


Olatunji Osho-Williams/Daily Senior Staffer

Students are held back from entering Welsh Ryan Arena by members of the arena’s staff. Photographed by Senior Staffer Olatunji Osho-Williams

Olatunji Osho-Williams, Digital Managing Editor

Though Northwestern’s home court advantage rang in a triumph against rival Illinois, a packed student section left many NU students waiting outside the doors of Welsh-Ryan Arena, unable to witness the victory Wednesday.

“Nobody knew, when we got there, that not everybody was going to get in,” Weinberg junior Leslie Robins said. 

Robins rode a crowded game-day shuttle to Welsh-Ryan with the hopes of seeing her first NU basketball game and snagging one of the heavily advertised white gameday t-shirts, but was stopped at the door by Welsh-Ryan staff.

According to students, the arena’s staff stopped letting them in around 15 minutes prior to tip-off, prompting many Wildcat supporters to crowd the entrance, with some boo-ing them. 

With NU currently 12-3 overall and 8-2 at home games, the sold-out rival match brought throngs of orange-clad Illinois fans and a sea of purple to the doors of Welsh-Ryan. Northwestern Athletics Ticket Office’s policy allows NU students with a valid Wildcard to watch home games for free. 

Though the student section line stopped early, the ticket-holding line flowed through the doors up until 8 p.m tip-off.

 Robins said that after arriving around 7:40 p.m., students were able to enter the arena for half the time she was in line, until Welsh-Ryan staff announced that they were at capacity.

NU is the only school in the Big Ten where home game men’s basketball tickets are always free for students.

While Robins ended her night early by watching the game from a friend’s apartment, other students such as Weinberg sophomore Eduardo Andrade didn’t.

“I kept my eye on the score, but by the time I got back, I didn’t feel like watching,” said Andrade.

Northwestern senior associate athletic director for external affairs Tyler Jones tweeted in response to online criticism about Welsh-Ryan’s lack of student seating for the Jan. 4 game. 

“We are working on ideas to provide more students access to future games. Consistent student attendance like Wednesday will better help us operationalize those creative solutions,” Jones said.

Further in the thread, Jones also encouraged students to arrive early since doors open 90 minutes before tip-off.  

NU’s student game-day shuttle begins free round-trip rides to Welsh-Ryan 90 minutes before tip-off, with an estimated arrival time of 20 minutes from any of its four stops offered on campus.

Weinberg-Bienen sophomore Ismael Perez said he waited at the Technological Institute shuttle stop for 30 minutes before arriving at Welsh-Ryan at 8:20 p.m. 

He said traffic around Welsh-Ryan was gridlocked, and added that there should be a new method of dispersing student tickets, like “ an organized system in which [staff] can ensure the people that are going can get seats,” said Perez.

School of Communication junior Carolyn King said syllabus week, packed game-day shuttles and increased traffic around the stadium caused her to arrive closer to game-time. 

She waited half an hour to enter the arena and was admitted at half-time, after Welsh-Ryan staff let students in to replace the exact number of spectators that left. King was grateful for the staff’s crowd management and the eventual NU victory.

“A hard fought moment to get there, to witness that victory, to enjoy it,” she said.

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