Skip to main content

Northwestern breaks ground on Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center

Facilities to provide space for varsity teams, recreation, campus events
Perkins + Will rendering of Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center


EVANSTON, Ill. --- Despite being delayed by a student demonstration, Northwestern University broke ground today (Friday, Nov. 13) on Ryan Fieldhouse and the Walter Athletics Center. 

The ceremony was interrupted just as it started by several hundred demonstrators who were marching in sympathy with students at the University of Missouri and who called for greater inclusion of African-Americans, Native Americans and other diverse groups at Northwestern.

After the students marched out of the groundbreaking ceremony, President Morton Schapiro reassured the event’s attendees, saying, “Whether you agree with everything that was said or not, we really do want students at Northwestern who care about the world. We really do want students who want to make Northwestern better than it is. We really do want students who don’t just go into an ivory tower and forget about Ferguson and the University of Missouri and the rest of the world.”

Approximately 500 people attended the celebratory event, which featured a ceremonial groundbreaking and enthusiastic remarks from student-athletes, key supporters of the project and University leaders.

“This is a transformational day for Northwestern,” said Jim Phillips, vice president for athletics and recreation. “Ryan Fieldhouse and the Walter Athletics Center will provide the best support, training and developmental facilities for Northwestern student-athletes and host campus events such as convocation and Dance Marathon. Northwestern has always offered a world-renowned education, and we’ve always provided outstanding coaching and mentorship for our young men and women. Now, we will proudly say that we are providing world-class facilities for our student-athletes and, indeed, the entire community.”

Construction on the lakefront facility will begin immediately. The facility will include a fieldhouse that will provide a large, indoor multipurpose facility for football practice as well as Olympic sports team practices and competitions, recreational activities and non-sporting events. It will be named Ryan Fieldhouse in honor of the generosity of alumni Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan. The playing surface within Ryan Fieldhouse will be named Wilson Field in honor of a $15 million gift from alumni Stephen R. and Susan K. Wilson.

The facility also will include the Walter Athletics Center, a state-of-the-art facility that will house academic support services for more than 500 student-athletes, a nutrition center and dining facility, a sports performance center, and office space for coaches and administrators. The building is being named in recognition of a $40 million gift from alumni Mark and Kimbra Walter.  

Lacrosse player Spring Sanders, who represented more than 500 Northwestern student-athlete peers, was the first speaker to express her appreciation for the project during the ceremony.

“Today, I am proud to say that Northwestern Athletics is better than it was yesterday, and our future has never been brighter,” she said. “We have one opportunity to be undergraduates, and to be able to do it at a place like Northwestern -- where visions like this amazing new home become reality -- is evidence that we are getting the best experience possible. Thank you again, and ‘Go ’Cats!’”

Ryan Fieldhouse and the Walter Athletics Center will be located adjacent to the existing Henry Crown Sports Pavilion/Norris Aquatics Center and Combe Tennis Center.

Ryan Fieldhouse will include:

  • Wilson Field, a full-sized indoor athletic field that will enable Northwestern’s student-athletes to practice and/or compete indoors during inclement weather.
  • Strength and conditioning space for Olympic sports teams.
  • Seating to accommodate campus events such as University convocations, Dance Marathon and other community functions.
  • Sports medicine facilities.
  • Locker rooms for multiple Wildcats varsity programs.

The Walter Athletics Center will include:

  • Headquarters for Northwestern football, including coaches’ offices, meeting rooms and locker rooms.
  • A football strength and conditioning center.
  • Offices for coaches of numerous varsity teams.
  • A nutrition center and dining facility.
  • Academic and professional development support offices.

“These lakefront athletics facilities are an absolute game changer for our football program, and our entire department,” Dan and Susan Jones Family Head Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “Now we will offer state-of-the-art facilities to holistically develop our student-athletes on and off the field in preparation for the rest of their lives. Like so many of the young people here, this is absolutely the complete package.”

In thanking the donors who made the project possible, Phillips said:

“There is a common thread interwoven amongst this group. Hard working, blue collar, selfless, dedicated. All of them came from humble beginnings. They laid the groundwork for success at this University, and their transformative philanthropy is a reflection of both their life’s work and an unconditional belief in this institution and the effect it has on young men and women.”

The Norris Aquatics Center, home of Wildcats swimming and diving, will be expanded. Enhancements will include a new dryland training area, locker rooms, coaches’ offices and multipurpose meeting space.

The entire project also will incorporate the replacement of three existing recreational basketball courts and an indoor running track currently located in the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion.

Construction of a new outdoor football practice field and renovation of the soccer/lacrosse and field hockey fields that began this summer will provide improved facilities for varsity sports, club sports and intramurals. The renovated soccer/lacrosse field will be named Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium in honor of a $15 million campaign gift from alumnus J. Landis (Lanny) Martin and his wife, Sharon, while the new football practice field will be named Chap and Ethel Hutcheson Field. A new playing surface at the nearby home of Wildcats field hockey was completed this summer. 

In support of the project, Northwestern Athletics and Recreation recently received a new leadership gift of $23 million from University trustees Kimberly K. Querrey and Louis A. Simpson as part of We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern. The gift will be recognized by naming the Kimberly K. Querrey and Louis A. Simpson Wing in the Walter Athletics Center. This space will house a state-of-the-art nutrition center for student-athletes, a dining facility that also will host University events, as well as the academic services, student development and compliance departments. The gift from Querrey and Simpson raises their total support of the “We Will” Campaign to more than $152 million.

Northwestern also recently received a $5 million gift from Mitchell and Valerie Slotnick in support of Athletics and Recreation. In recognition of the family’s generosity, Northwestern will name the atrium of Ryan Fieldhouse the Mitchell and Valerie Slotnick Family Atrium.

“The generosity of Kimberly Querrey and Lou Simpson, along with the Slotnick family and other recent donors, provides tremendous momentum as we move forward on this project,” Phillips said. “We are forever grateful to those leadership donors -- namely the Ryans, Walters, Wilsons and Martins -- who have demonstrated their belief in this project from the outset with unwavering commitment.” 

The project also includes the extension of a popular University walking/biking path along the shore of Lake Michigan on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. The path will be extended north around Ryan Fieldhouse/Walter Athletics Center to Campus Drive, thereby linking a city of Evanston bike path on the south end of campus with Lincoln Street, a city-designated bike route, on the north end. When the project is completed, the University’s north beach will be open to Evanston residents.

For complete information on the lakefront facilities, visit

The funds raised through We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern will help realize the transformative vision set forth in Northwestern’s strategic plan and solidify the University’s position among the world’s leading research universities. More information on the campaign is available at