When Dyche Stadium (now Ryan Field) opened in 1926, it was already the fourth football venue in Northwesterns history. The first had been Deering Meadow. In 1891, with footballs growing popularity, the University built Sheppard Field on the site of the present fraternity quads, but this soon became inadequate. In 1903, William A. Dyche, Northwesterns Business Manager, saw the need for better facilities, and within two years he had arranged for the construction of Northwestern Field on Central Avenue, seventy-five feet west of the current stadium. Northwestern Fields wooden stands, with their capacity of 10,000, served for two decades, until it became clear that larger facilities were needed yet again. Again, William Dyche rose to the challenge.
Dyche had attended high school at Northwestern Academy, graduated from the University in 1882, and received his masters degree six years later. He was a trustee of Northwestern and president of the Alumni Association. In 1932 he was awarded an Alumni Medal for his many services to the University, including advocating and carrying to a successful fruition the plans for the beautiful and spacious athletic field now known as Dyche Stadium.
The new stadium would cost $1,425,000. Realizing that soliciting funds for the construction of the new stadium from donors would take too long, Dyche arranged a bond issue. By December 1924, the trustees were able to authorize construction of the stadium and appoint a committee to work with University architect James Gamble Rogers. Dyche helped survey the site and oversaw construction. The Evanston City Council granted permission for the construction in December 1925, and work by the J. B. French Construction Company began the following spring under chief engineer Gavin Haddin. Four hundred workers labored through the summer of 1926 to construct a concrete arena 702 feet long, with curving stands on the east and west sides; the north and south ends behind the goal posts were left open. The seating capacity was over 37,000. To insure efficient drainage the field was elevated two feet above ground level. Under its stands, the stadium sported a practice field, handball court, showers, and equipment rooms.
The west-side stands were completed and the main block of seats on the east side ready for the inaugural game, which was played before 19,000 spectators on October 7, 1926, against the University of South Dakota. Northwestern won, 34-0. The fields formal dedication took place on November 13, 1926. With the stands now finished, and additional steel-based seating added to accommodate a crowd of 45,000, Northwestern again prevailed with a score of 38-7 in its first victory over the University of Chicago Maroons since 1916.
Through the years Dyche Stadium saw a number of additions and renovations. In 1949, the south end of the field was closed with new steel stands, and on the north end both sides were extended, creating a horseshoe-shaped stadium and adding about 12,300 seats. The total permanent seating capacity was now nearly 50,000. The field was converted from natural to artificial Tartan Turf in 1973; this was replaced by SuperTurf in 1984 and by AstroTurf in 1994.
A comprehensive remodeling of Dyche Stadium was made possible by the 1995 Campaign for Athletic Excellence. The campaign raised over $28 million to build a new press box, restrooms, concession spaces, media center, sports medicine and equipment rooms; to install new (and slightly expanded) seating, widen the concourse, return the field to natural grass, and build the state-of-the-art Trienens Indoor Practice Center (opened in 1996).
The Campaign for Athletic Excellence culminated in Dyche Stadium being renamed Ryan Field in 1997, in honor of Northwestern trustee Patrick G. Ryan (Kellogg 1959) and his wife Shirley (WCAS 1961), who made the leadership gift to the campaign. The Campaigns success was ratified when Ryan Field was named the 2000 college football Field of the Year by the Sports Turf Managers Association.
Source: University Archives - Northwestern Architecture
The day after the last home football game in 1996, a $20 million renovation of NU's stadium began. Opened in the fall of 1997, the new stadium was christened Ryan Field, in honor of the Patrick G. Ryan family. Mr. Ryan is the chair of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees and has been a member of the board since 1978. The 1959 graduate of Northwestern is the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Aon Corporation in Chicago. His wife, Shirley, a 1961 Northwestern graduate, is chairman and co-founder of Pathways Awareness Foundation and is chairman of the Chicago Community Trust. She has been a member of Northwestern’s Women’s Board since 1978.
The Ryan family made the major gift to the Campaign for Athletic Excellence, Northwestern’s fund-raising drive for athletic facilities. Mr. Ryan also led the 1982 athletic fund-raising campaign that resulted in new facilities for Northwestern basketball, baseball and other sports.
The renovations of the stadium included new seating, the replacement of artificial turf with natural grass and an enclosed three-tier structure on the stadium’s west side that includes the stadium club. Also, an end zone facility housing the football locker room, sports medicine and equipment rooms was constructed.
As part of the $20 million Campaign for Athletic Excellence, a full-scale multipurpose indoor practice facility was constructed. This facility, named for former NU Board of Trustees chairman Howard J. Trienens, was opened in the fall of 1996.
Gridiron interest has helped NU’s stadium return to its status as a leading center of Chicagoland football, a position it held in the ’40s and ’50s when more than 40,000 people regularly attended Wildcat home games.
The old stadium, built in 1926, was named for William A. Dyche, former vice president and business manager of the University. A graduate of Northwestern, Dyche served as mayor of Evanston prior to his appointment as business manager in 1903. In 1905, he directed construction of the original wooden stands which had a seating capacity of 10,000.
By the early 1920s, football’s popularity had outgrown the wooden bleachers, and Dyche spearheaded the planning of a 45,000-seat stadium to be erected on the site of the old field. He proposed to the board of trustees that the project be financed by a bond issue. The original estimate of $800,000 soared to $1,425,000 by the time construction was finished in Dyche’s 23rd year as business manager.
In 1949, the stadium was enlarged by a horseshoe enclosure at the south end, increasing seating capacity to 49,256. Dyche Stadium’s capacity occasionally rose to 55,000 by the addition of temporary bleachers at the north end. A press box and an elevator to the second deck were installed in 1961.
Tartan Turf replaced the grass field in 1973 and much more refurbishing of the old stadium took place during the early years of John Pont’s tenure as head coach and athletic director.
The last renovation of the old stadium occurred in the summer of 1994, as 10-year-old SuperTurf playing surface was replaced with new AstroTurf.
October 14, 1999
Copyright 1999 MediaVentures
The family of William Dyche is so dismayed about the removal of the family name from Northwestern University's football stadium that it will pay to have a banner flown over the venue this Saturday saying, "Welcome to Dyche Stadium." The name was changed two years ago to Ryan Field in honor of Patrick Ryan who donated more than $8 million to renovate the stadium. A plaque commemorating Dyche was placed on a stadium wall. Dyche, who died in 1936, was a former Evanston mayor and school business manager who oversaw construction of the stadium. When trustees voted in 1926 to name the stadium in his honor, the resolution read: "Be it resolved that the stadium now being erected for Northwestern University and any additions thereto and any other stadium which may be erected at any time or place to succeed it shall be named Dyche Stadium."
It had been many years since this serious scholastic institution had been represented by an equally serious football team. Games at the once proud 45,000 seat Dyche Stadium were poorly attended, and the facility itself was showing its age. All that changed in the '90's, when a football program that made their team a contender got them to the tournaments, and started bringing the alumni back to the games. A major fundrasing program was undertaken and renovation was completed in time to open the 1997 season.
There were several important design considerations. First, a previous system which covered the entire stadium from a cluster on top of the press box made life miserable for the working press inside, so this cluster location was immediately ruled out. More important, the stadium is in the middle of a residential neighborhood, so minimizing intrusion of the sound system into the neighborhood was critical. A key client executive wanted to put the loudspeaker system on a scoreboard located at the opposite end of the stadium from the apartment building, but this would have pointed the highest power long throw elements of the system straight at the building. Our first responsibility was thus to develop a better plan and convince the University that it was in their best interest.
Although neighborhood noise control was the deciding factor and the final system was the one that led to the best performance in that respect, the speed of sound also drove the design. For sound to be intelligible, a listener can't be confronted with sounds of nearly equal levels arriving at very different times, This timing issue meant that all loudspeakers covering the visitor's grandstand had to be in one of the two stair towers -- using both towers would have led to an unintelligible babble in many seats.
It didn't take long to realize that the two large stair towers flanking the main grandstand (see photo) would be great loudspeaker locations, but we did extensive computer modeling of several possible system configurations before settling on the one chosen. Although not shown in the photo, a long section of bleachers (but no grandstand) extends from end zone to end zone for "visitors" seating. Loudspeakers in the stair towers could cover the grandstand, but not the home grandstand or upper deck. Luckily, most of the area beyond the visitors' bleachers is owned by the University for a distance of at least three blocks, providing a buffer zone for the long throw loudspeaker system.
The final system uses almost a dozen different types of loudspeakers, from Community Light and Sound, Electro-Voice, Renkus-Heinz, RCF, and Sound Advance. The home grandstand is covered by two rows of loudspeakers on the underside of the edge of the upper deck (the black boxes in the photo below). One row faces the field, and reaches all the way to the front row. A second row of loudspeakers (light tan in color) covers the dozen or so rows of seats under the upper deck. The upper deck is covered by two horns, one on the roof of the stair tower (at right in the close-up photo) and the other at the right end of the press box.
Three new sections of fully and partially enclosed seats were added within and below the new pressbox structure. Each is covered by a separate sub-system. Patrons in the fully enclosed upper section can't hear any crowd noise or the pep band, so a separate system was installed to serve them. A stereo pair of mics on the face of the upper deck just over the pep band is fed to two rows of compact high fidelity loudspeakers (the small white boxes just over the windows and behind the second soffit -- the large boxes suspended in front of the window are video monitors which carry a feed from a broadcast truck).
Another separate system serves the press box -- the top floor for broadcast and the floor below it for print media. Both floors have direct wired feeds from the main park announcer, the official scorer, the two referee wireless mics. We specified a clean technical power system for the press area. In addition, there are tie lines to the home and visitors dressing room area for use by visiting broadcast media.
The system is implemented using the Peavey Mediamatrix digital signal processing system, originally developed by Peak Audio for use in the US Senate chamber, and recently installed in the US House of Representatives. Mediamatrix was chosen for its power and flexibility in meeting the very complex requirements of the system. It was also the least costly way to build the system -- separate components to do the job would have cost much more. And the DSP system makes the system much easier to modify to adapt to changing needs. This capability was used during the installation process to implement the stereo sound in the VIP suites.
THE ULTIMATE SPORTS ROAD TRIP
By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
November 15, 2003 - Come to the Chicago suburb of Evanston, and you will find a really nice community of well groomed houses, leafy tree-lined streets, and a bustling "downtown" brimming with newly built condos and loft apartments. Architecture buffs should really love this place, for the mix of housing styles make exploring the neighborhoods here a lot of fun. In the center of all this is Northwestern University, hugging the Lake Michigan shoreline and a college which truly defines this community. And best of all, the world class cultural facilities, theatres, shopping and sports of Chicago are all just a 35 minute train ride away.
Northwestern University opened in 1851, and today boasts over 1800 undergraduate students. One walk throught the campus and the streets of Evanston and you can feel a sense of tradition and a bridge to its storied past.
And then there's Ryan Field, the University's football stadium which is your quintessential neighborhood venue. In fact, the stadium isn't even located on the campus proper, but is tucked into a residential community about 1 1/2 miles north of downtown Evanston. Adjoining the stadium is their basketball venue, the Welsh-Ryan Arena.
The stadium was built in 1926, and like many of its peer facilities, underwent numerous renovations and expansions. The most recent facelift took place in 1997, a $20 MM project which included installation of natural grass turf, an enclosed three tiered structure high above the stadium's west side for press facilities and an indoor club seating configuration, and new end zone locker rooms, training and sports medicine facilities.
Parking at the stadium is really limited, so they have made available an entire network of satellite parking lots scattered throughout downtown Evanston and on campus. Shuttle busses run throughout town to pick up fans and deposit them outside the stadium gates. Nevertheless, on game days the streets are bustling with fans, and there is a bit of tailgate scene not only outside the venue, but even far away in the remote parking facilities. Souvenir vendors and hot dog stands are in abundance on the plazas near Ryan Field.
Unfortunately on this day, the ferocious animal had to be somewhat upset with what happened on the field, as the 'Cats committed some critical turnovers in the first half and it eventually led to Northwestern's demise by a 41-10 count. However, for a program long known for its ineptitude, (it used to own the record for longest losing streak in Division 1 history) he has to be somewhat satisfied with the team's 5-6 record at that point in the season.
All in all a great day for football in classic football weather....overcast, damp, and chilly.....as it should be!
NORTHWESTERN MAKES PLANS FOR UPGRADES
November 4, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
Evanston, Ill. - The Chicago Tribune reports that Northwestern has selected the Populous
architects to develop a master plan for the university.
Athletic director Jim Phillips called it a "monumental milestone" that likely will lead to the
renovation of existing facilities such as Welsh-Ryan Arena and Ryan Field and the development of new ones, such as a weight room and coaches' offices.
Northwestern is believed to be spending at least $1 million on the plan, which will identify priorities and propose strategies for facilities on NU's main and athletics campuses, the newspaper reported.
The school said the planning study, which begins this month, will include the athletics campus surrounding Ryan Field as well as playing fields and recreation buildings on the main campus. The final plan will establish an architectural program to align athletic facilities design and use with new services, identify priorities for improvements or options for existing facilities, propose strategies to stage renovations and identify where and when additional facilities may be needed in the future.
An early phase of the study will include assessment of the needs and interests of the University community in relation to existing facilities. Students, faculty and staff will be surveyed to determine their perceptions of current services in order to anticipate possible program changes and develop projections of future use.