Daily NU: Facilities Update

Well done Daily Northwestern. The LTP community has been clamoring for an update on the much anticipated athletics facilities overhaul plan and Colin Becht and Justin Schecker have provided just that with this feature story yesterday. Take the time and get up to speed on a piece that features an interview with Bill Osborn, the chairman of the Board of Trustees. 

The short version take-away from the article is that it is a matter of when and where the facilities upgrades will happen moreso than an “if”. Bill Osborn cited other projects like the $117million state-of-the-art Henry Bienen School of Music and the NU Welcome center – both to be built on south campus near the lake as projects that had multiple locations discussed before settling on the final spot. President Schapiro was also interviewed and shared his philosophy on wanting athletic facilities upgrades that benefit the entire student body as SPAC, Patten Gym are being considered for upgrades as well as a potential gym on Clark Street.

 Ifeadi Odenigbo shared what he was told by the football staff that they  were committed to upgrading the facilities and that a lakeside practice facility would be completed by 2013.  While NU is indeed committed to the upgrades, president Schapiro offered the most concrete timeline to date saying that the “earliest” it would be completed would be 2014.

I learned a few things from this feature including some of the complicated “puzzle pieces” that go in to this. Morty used one example of a site where NU would have challenges building since Evanston owns the water passage rights under the building. Osborn freely admitted that NU was land-locked. 

Simply put, we’re all frustrated that things aren’t moving faster and I’m confident Jim Phillips, Fitz and everyone associated with NU Athletics share our collective sense of urgency. However, as Bill Osborn alluded to, NU needs to get this right.  This is the most ambitious athletics facilities upgrade by quite a big multiple. 

I also wanted to underscore Bill Osborn’s point that once this gets approved, THEN the fundraising begins. We’re talking about several hundred million dollars to accomplish the plan and you, me and everyone we know who has an affinity for NU Athletics will be called on so get ready.

Tennis Falls

Another year and another exit for women’s tennis in the round of 16 to Stanford. The Cardinal downed NU 4-1 ending the Wildcats season.  Another great year for the team and nothing to be ashamed of.



  • NU68

    My “take away” from the article was that none of us will live long enuf to see this happen. They are so tied up in knots over this grandiose plan that it may never see the light of day inspite of the lip service the Admin has given it.

    • oldprlady

      You must not live in Evanston, nothing gets done quickly here. Despite better relations there is still a lot to go through with city hall; alderman Jane Grover suggested painting the fire hydrants all purple, city council was very negative on that proposal.

    • ReadingBetweenTheLines

      Based on what we’ve seen in the past as far as sites the Athletics facilities committee was considering and sites that are now promised to Kellogg, the welcome center etc. It seems to me that perhaps the various schools and the athletics department weren’t coordinated on who was going to get which plot of land. As a result, it looks like the athletics committee’s proposal (at least the one we initially heard rumors about) focused on a plot of land that was promised to Kellogg right around the time they would have been finishing their proposal. I wouldn’t be surprised if the delays are the result of having to come up with new plans as old scenarios were taken off the table due to the other capital projects that are moving forward.

  • Icehockeycat

    I would have to agree – also, it seems clear it is very focused on “NU-only” and then to football first, “general students” next and then basketball. I guess any hope of doing something with the city on a multiuse venue seems not to be considered.
    Also, I knew of course the campus was landlocked, but unaware of all the other restrictions we had (resivor, etc.). I really cannot see the university expanding in anyway other than just “upgrading” exisiting buildings. This will hurt NU going forward I fear…..

  • NUUM

    @ Icehockeycat: I just couldn’t let this go. “resivor”? resivor?! RESIVOR?!? REALLY?!? Shame on you!

  • Peter Skillz

    We’re land-locked, but we can build more land.

    • cebpd

      I have a crazy pipe dream of building like, a 8 lane road about 1/2 a mile into lake Michigan that leads to a stadium completely surrounded by water, right smack dab in the middle of the lake. Tell me THAT wouldn’t impress recruits. it’d be the most amazing technological, architectural accomplishment in the country.

      • Jim7368

        It could have boat slip “parking”. Sailgate every home game!!

  • Purple to Pasadena

    I think the facilities that are most in need of an upgrade are Dyche Stadium and Welsh-Ryan Arena. It seems that the area of greatest focus for the committee is a new football practice facility. This seems to be a bit misguided. We have a good outdoor practice facility and a 15-year-old indoor facility. I can’t imagine taking up precious lakefront property to replace a 15-year old facility that seems to be fine and is only used on rainy days and late in the season when it is too cold outside. As for the reasons for replacing it, (1) it is only 80 yards – so is UCLA’s practice field, and probably the practice fields at other schools located on expensive real estate; (2) you can’t punt in it – that is an inconvenience, but a minor one; and (3) it would be closer to the dorms – I’m guessing that the one mile shuttle ride from the north campus dorms to the current practice field is a shorter distance than most of the athletes at the other Big 10 schools travel to get to practice.

    Also, if we move the practice fields to the lakefront, what would become of the current practice fields? Possibly additional parking. But that would only be used six Saturdays per year. On a campus as land-starved as Northwestern, that does not make sense.

    I understand we need to keep up in the facilities arms race if we want to bring in guys like Ifeadi Odenigbo and compete for Big 10 championships. I just don’t believe that we’re heading on the right path in competing in this race. I would think that an upgrade to the stadium, arena and existing practice facilities would be a better way to go.

    • CEBPD

      WR is going to get torn down.

      Dyche Stadium upgrades are fine, but what recruit really cares if the bathrooms at the stadium are better.

      It’s defeatist attitudes such as yourself that make me want to throw this computer into the wall.


      A lot of indoor areas(like Ohio State, Michigan) have FULL indoor practice fields.

      The 15 year old indoor facility, including offices, weight room, etc etc. are EYESORES and are pathetic compared to the rest of the Big Ten.

      So now you are worried about whats going to happen to the old practice fields? OHH NOOOO. i’ll tell you, lets dedicate that space to student tailgates so we can have more students at the game and have them getting crazier.

      your path essentially surrenders the arms race which is VITAL to recruiting players.

      Can you imagine the coaches talking to a recruit watching the sun rise over lake Michigan? Or walking into a state of the art weight room where you can walk right out the doors to the beach?

      Can you feel for the players who have to travel in -0 degree weather in the wintertime to get to 6AM workouts? Do you think its possible that some guys would be more inclined to come in for extra workouts or film time if their dorm room was a 5 minute walk away instead of a 25 minute walk?

      Can you imagine a facility comparable to OREGON in terms of fancy stuff and amenities that can be built and accompanied to as opposed to putting a few new signs up or a few new graphics?

      nothing like this is going to happen for another 30-40 years(possibly, knowing NU), we need to go BIG because its likely something like this wont be possible again.

      • Purple to Pasadena

        I’ll assume that you are in the know about WR being torn down, and all I can say in response is, “It’s about time!” That is a great news and should make a huge difference for our basketball programs.

        What you refer to as a “defeatist” attitude, I would call pragmatism. My point was that I thought our resources, which will surely be stretched by this project, would be better served making some upgrades to the existing practice facilities rather than building an entirely new facility on the lakefront (which is more expensive and would take up some of the campus’s best real estate).

      • FroshDad

        People have no idea what a significant inconvenience it is for some of the players to travel to practice, workouts, team meetings, etc. at the present location of the athletic offices, playing and practice fields, and workout facilities. The requirements to attend these events are almost daily for the entire school year and occur in some cases several times and at different times a day. Players with cars have it a little better than those who have to catch a shuttle, but it’s still a significant hassle.

        And it’s more than an inconvenience with classses to attend, meals to eat and studying to do. Plus, it is not something that is lost on recruits who visit and tour the campus and the athletic facilities. They notice, especially if they’ve visited competitive programs who specifically make this an issue for NU (“So five-star, how about the beauty of these palm trees as you make your way to practice every day? You go to NU and you can replace them with blowing snow, ice and temperatures around zero before you go to practice in an indoor facility.” Certainly some things will never change (like the weather), but they can be made to be a whole lot more convenient and a lot less of an issue to players and recruits.

        I think, too, what’s often lost on people who are concerned that this proposal is limited to athletics is the impact it would have on the overall quality of the school. It is a well-known statistic that school applications go through the roof along with alumni and outside donations for schools with athletic success in the more visible sports such as football and basketball. Winning begets winning in more ways than one for the entire university and its students and alumni.

      • FroshDad

        In summary, NU trustees need to get over their egalitarian attitude that in some way spending money upgrading and improving the athletic facilities at NU takes something away from academics and not the opposite.

      • haberstr

        Well played, but I still say “the arms race which is VITAL to recruiting players” might be a race to the bottom not to the top. A fifteen-year-old facility MUST be replaced, because the field’s 80-yards long not 100, or or or 15-star recruits will go elsewhere? OMG, hadn’t noticed it’s an eyesore, must improve my architectural glitz-factor monitoring skills. Shouldn’t we follow the lead of Oregon’s Nike megabucks sugar daddy? I mean there’s nothing better in USA 2012 to spend money on? Priorities priorities …

  • Alaskawildcatdalejay

    Apparenly there is a movement afoot to demolish and relocate Wrigley Field since the wind patterns there have been identified as the underlying reason the Cubs can never successfully compete. Maybe creative minds could come up with a joint facility for NU to share.

  • chasmo

    When sports is your only connection to the university, it’s tempting to want that university to do all it can to improve its sports program because that’s all you care about at this point in your life.
    Watching NU’s football and basketball teams win gives all of us great joy and, since we no longer attend classes or live on campus, it’s tempting to want the university to ignore other needs and spend millions to improve sports facilities so that NU perhaps can win more games and bring us more happiness.
    Yet spending millions on facilities that will be used by only a handful of students is not something a university should be rushed into. Before the arrival of the Big Ten network, it was estimated that NU spent $20 million out of its general fund to pay for its athletic program. NU probably spends less than that now but it still spends millions tuition or endowment money to maintain its sports.
    So until NU alums and supporters are ready to do what Stanford’s alums and supporters do — that is contribute enough money every year so that the school doesn’t have to dip into its general fund to pay for all its intercollegiate sports programs — yelling for NU hurry up and start building better sports facilities displays a lack of awareness of how difficult a decision it will be to make.

    • Jim7368

      One leads to the other though! Think the onus is on NU admininistration to demonstrate they want that also. Then fans and alums will better participate. Our size though will always be a factor.

      I am not an alum. I am a football fan and season ticketholder since 1996. I also represent what other source of funds are available to NU. NU is figuring out if it wants to compete on the field you need to get the better recruits. Better recruits are influenced by better facilities as well as academics. Better facilities cost more money. More fans= more contributors, More wins = more fans. Other conference teams have bigger stadiums and with the exception of Indiana, generally fill them.

      The NU marketing campaign has the right idea to significantly build the fan base locally and improve the football image nationally. No wonder Illinois fights us on the marketing side.

      NU has a bunch of brainiacs there. They can figure out the parking problem. Suggestion might be parking decks for the non tailgaters or for multi person vehicles. Parking can be a problem now. Start filling the place all the time and something will need to be done.

      Whatever they do, Go Cats!

    • VAWildcat

      I’m not sure you’re right about where the money for Athletics comes from. Seems to me I heard that general funds are not used, but I don’t have evidence for that.

  • Mark

    In the Spring Prospectus on the Cats official website it says a revised two deep lineup will be posted after Spring practice. I didn’t find it anywhere. Does anybody know if it has been posted and where it is?

  • NUARA95

    Has anyone from the administration looked into putting practice facilities on top of existing buildings on campus–Tech Institute has scores of football field space on its roof. This is much cheaper than addding landfill and could be done in a way that does not disrupt the open nature of the campus. Tech was built in a way that it could probably hold an aircraft carrier on top.