Northwestern's Welsh-Ryan Arena a ghost town in midst of transformation

On a Sunday afternoon two months ago, Welsh-Ryan Arena was the loudest place on earth. Or so it seemed.

CBS Sports' Final Four crew was courtside for Northwestern's regular-season finale against Purdue, and Jim Nantz described it to the Tribune as "one of the five greatest scenes I've been a part of."

Fast forward to Monday afternoon, and all was quiet. And dark. And dank. And, yes, a little creepy.

The popcorn stand is long gone. Wiring is exposed and the purple seats are smashed in. The lobby no longer exists. It's just concrete that gets hosed down to turn dust into mud, improving the air quality for the two dozen workers demolishing what had been the Wildcats' home gym since 1952.

The scoreboard is down, of course, and the floor on which Nate Taphorn fired a bullet to Dererk Pardon to beat Michigan on March 1 has been disassembled and put into storage.

Some wood will be used to manufacture clocks and make up the court of the new practice facility. Other pieces will be turned into gifts — "special things for special people," said Mike Polisky, NU's deputy athletic director for external affairs.

Polisky said contractors recommended a 24-month timeline to transform the facility into the new Welsh-Ryan Arena, which will have modern amenities and fewer seats (from 8,117 to about 7,000), with chairbacks replacing bleachers. But the job will be completed in about 18 months, allowing for a fall 2018 unveiling.

Next comes the roof demolition, a four-week process to turn it into rubble.

Until then, Welsh-Ryan Arena is a ghost town.

tgreenstein@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @TeddyGreenstein

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
48°