Although the Northwestern Wildcats claim to be Chicago's Big Ten team, the Big Ten just may not claim the Wildcats based on the team's athletic facilities.
Despite Northwestern being located in Evanston, Illinois, one of the state's most wealthiest communities, Northwestern's sports facilities appear to be that of a high school at best.
Located along the shores of Lake Michigan, Northwestern's campus is certainly among the most beautiful in the nation. However, go a few miles west to the university's sports facilities, and one may be surprised at the condition of the stadiums.
NU's football stadium, nicknamed Ryan Field, opened in 1926 and has undergone few renovations since it opened. Sure, the stadium was at one time a mecca for college football. But even ESPN thinks that Ryan Field isn't what it used to be. ESPN.com's Ryan Field page describes the stadium as a "once-hallowed ground in college football." That's code for "you missed its glory days by about 30 years."
The good news for Northwestern football is that the school is currently building a brand new, state of the art athletics facility on the campus's north side. The bad news is that it will only be for practicing, not for Ryan Field and the games themselves.
Architecturally speaking, the stadium is quite unique. Its stands have a pronounced parabolic shape, a design used to allow more seating near the middle of the field. Although the design is eye-appealing, it leads to quite the hike up the ramps of the stadium.
Unfortunately, there's not much relief from the walk up the ramps. According to the Ryan Field visitor's guide, the only elevators are on the west side of the stadium and only accessible to those with a handicapped pass.
As for the concourses, don't expect much comfort when navigating through them. The concourses are narrow enough, but throw in the long lines from the concession stands, and the trek through the stadium makes one feel like a salmon attempting to swim upstream.
Perhaps, the most absurd part about the stadium is the lights, or lack thereof. Ryan Field's stadium lights for night games consist of nothing more than a few spotlights standing just above the bleachers.
Unfortunately, the basketball arena isn't much better. Opened in 1952, Welsh-Ryan arena houses 8,117. The arena has the look of a high school gymnasium, with wooden bleachers and a standard gymnasium roof. The scoreboard is generic and outdated, and there are no suites due to the facility's small size.
Perhaps, the arena's state is a contributing factor in why the Northwestern Wildcats have never reached a March Madness tournament.
The dark, dull gymnasium is the smallest in the Big Ten. If they are Chicago's Big Ten team, the supposed pride of one of (if not THE) world's most foremost city, one would think that the team would need something more than an 8,000 capacity gymnasium.
Northwestern is in dire need of an improvement to its facilities. For a school so proud of its prestige and superiority, its athletics and facilities far from match up to their advertised reputation.