NU athletic complex to honor Ryan's gifts

It was once anticipated that Northwestern's new lakeside athletic complex would take a great deal of time to fundraise for. However, significant donations, including one from Pat and Shirley Ryan, have the $220 million project surpassing $55 million in support.

There's Ryan Field, Welsh-Ryan Arena, and will soon be the Ryan Fieldhouse.

Northwestern's new lakeside facility will be named after Pat and Shirley Ryan, honoring their lead gift toward the multi-purpose athletic complex. The project, requiring $220 million, has received $55 million just three months after the plan was formally announced.

"Our teams' and coaches' passion and commitment to excellence is apparent to all," Patrick Ryan said in a statement. "Shirley and I are excited to enable such excellence with state-of-the-art facilities that will play a crucial role in both recruiting and training Northwestern's student-athletes and bring together the campus community for recreational activities."

It was once anticipated the fundraising efforts could take a great deal of time. However, the rapid response has led to a potential groundbreaking date in the summer of 2013.

"This bold investment in a multi-purpose complex for athletics and recreation on the lakefront will help foster the kind of vibrant, tight-knit community outlined in the University's strategic plan," NU President Morton Schapiro said.

In addition to the significant gift from the Ryans, a donation from Stephen and Susan Wilson led to naming the athletic field inside the complex Wilson Field.

Northwestern's facilities master plan was first unveiled in 2010, but took more than two years for the first fold to become official. The plan may include future renovations or rebuilding of football and basketball facilities. However, it was made a priority to first enhance the competitive environment for each student-athlete.

The Ryan Fieldhouse will provide a home for each of Northwestern's teams, while offering a convenient on-campus location.

"The consolidation of our student-athletes' facilities onto the main campus will integrate them seamlessly into the life of the University," athletic director Jim Phillips said. "We look forward to further reducing the divide that occurs at other institutions where student-athletes are relatively isolated from the rest of campus."

Phillips has long admitted that Northwestern's football program is the engine that drives the athletic department, and must receive the greatest benefit from the facilities plan. Surely, an unrivaled location and top-notch building offers great advantages to the program.

"To compete at the highest level requires a major investment -- to equip our current student-athletes for success and to attract top talent," said Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald. "Our number one selling point, outside of the best education in BCS football and the opportunity to play in the Big Ten, has always been our campus. Now to have a 24-hour a day, 7-day a week, 365-day a year, world-class facility in a location that no one else can match raises the bar for expectations of this program."

An official announcement will be made at Northwestern's Gator Bowl pep rally, held on New Year's Eve in Jacksonville.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats. He resides on Chicago's north side.
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