Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Some thoughts on Welsh-Ryan Arena

There has been some talk recently about making changes in Welsh-Ryan Arena. While little doubt exists some work needs to be done, I want to offer some positive thoughts on the Wildcat's home venue and offer so ways to perhaps get some more people to show up. Feel free to add your own.

The best thing about Welsh Ryan is the arena’s small size provides fans an intimate feel not available in the large event center type venues which have become common today. At Welsh-Ryan the fans are right on top of the action. From almost any seat you can get the sense you’re really part of the game. Those who sit on the baseline can literally reach out and touch the players when they inbound the ball from under the basketball. I wouldn’t recommend doing so, but the fact it’s possible tells you how close fans can get. Of course, nobody really knows this as Welsh-Ryan and Northwestern basketball are often so far below the radar they might as well be stealth.

Someone recently made the point that most famous arenas have some sort of nickname which makes them and the program they host easily identifiable. I don’t know if Welsh-Ryan really needs some sort of nickname, but any recruiting expert will tell you high school kids are drawn to colleges for any number of reasons—including the name recognition of the school and its athletic facilities. It’s the marketing principal of branding at work. Every high school basketball player in America knows the University of North Carolina wears powder blue and plays in “The Dean Dome” or Michigan State’s green t-shirt clad students help form “The Izzone”. On the other hand, I doubt most high school kids could pick Welsh-Ryan Arena or Northwestern’s purple jerseys out of a lineup. This needs to change. Maybe a hokey nickname isn’t the answer, I’ll admit it’s probably not, but somehow Northwestern needs to start selling Welsh-Ryan Arena to prospective players and fans. If I were Northwestern Coach Bill Carmody or Athletic Director Jim Phillips, I’d tell anyone who would listen, “When you walk into Welsh-Ryan Arena you’ll get the sense you’re at college basketball game.” In today’s increasingly corporate college sports world there aren’t many institutions who can say this. In recent years a slew of schools have sold naming rights to sponsors in order to build opulent new facilities. These facilities are spectacular, and usually have great food, but they give the college games played in them a watered down-NBA feel. I prefer Welsh-Ryan and other venues where I can get a legitimate college sports atmosphere.


John said...

I like the feel of Welsh-Ryan Arena. It's got a very collegiate atmosphere. I just hope that Northwestern doesn't decide one day that it needs a gigantic sterilized arena to compete with the Michigan States and Indianas of the world in basketball. That would be over thinking it.

Go with your strengths Wildcats. I think this post definitely highlights some of them.

Lunker 35 said...

I agree. I love Welsh Ryan for the fact that it doesn't feel like an NBA arena. I really love to watch games here. I've been to a couple DePaul games at Allstate and it's not the same feel. We really don't need to change anything, other than a new scoreboard. If we can get that an establish a better student fanbase then we will be on the right track.