Northwestern approves new athletic complex

By Kyle Rich

Northwestern University gained approval from its board of trustees Sept. 15 to build a massive athletic complex and renovate existing buildings at an estimated cost of $220 million.

The new facility will feature space for the university’s annual student convocation, club and intramural sports, recreational activities such as yoga and aerobic classes, and practice and competition spaces for its athletic programs.

The multipurpose practice facility will offer seating for 2,500 people, a diving well, a pool, locker rooms, offices and sports medicine facilities and outdoor practice fields, said Storer Rowley, director of Media Relations at Northwestern, in a press release.

The construction timetable and completion date both depend on fundraising, Rowley said.

“This is not a process that started just with the announcement,” said Paul Kennedy, assistant athletic director at Northwestern. “It has been going on for some time behind the scenes. The development staff has been hard at work. We’re hopeful that the construction process will start sooner rather than later.”

The new facility will also bring the football program closer to campus. The football team currently practices and trains approximately one mile west of the Evanston campus, according to Rowley.

“This is a game changer,” said Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern’s head football coach, at a press conference following the team’s Sept. 15 win against Boston College. “[It] completely changes the landscape of Big Ten football. No one else will have the opportunity to [access] a state-of-the-art facility and the location that we have.”

The new facility may prove to be an important selling point for Northwestern recruiters, according to Kennedy.

“This will be a world-class facility comparable to the best in the country, but it will have the added advantage of being on the shores of Lake Michigan, something no other school can boast,” Kennedy said.

In addition to the new facility, renovations will be made to the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion and Norris Aquatic Center, both of which were built in 1987, and house an Olympic-size pool and courts for basketball, volleyball and racquet sports. Rowley said there are also plans to build a new parking garage to alleviate the lack of space that has plagued the university.

“Unlike many of our Big Ten brethren, Northwestern does not have the luxury of being surrounded by rolling hills and open space,” Kennedy said. “Parking on campus, not just for athletics and recreation but for all purposes, is limited. This new parking structure will remedy that considerably.”

The current parking spaces will be replaced by a two-acre landscape with an open lawn, according to Rowley.

“This is an opportunity for our entire university to come together,” Fitzgerald said. “[We want] our students and our student athletes will have an unbelievable community feel.”