On Nov. 13, Northwestern University held a groundbreaking ceremony for its new Lakefront Athletics and Recreation Complex. “Construction will begin immediately,” said Northwestern in a prepared statement.

The Lakefront Athletics and Recreation Complex will include a fieldhouse, named Ryan Fieldhouse, that will provide a large, indoor multipurpose facility for football practice as well as Olympic sports team practices and competitions, recreational activities and non-sporting events.

The complex also will include the Walter Athletics Center, a state-of-the-art facility that will house academic support services for more than 500 student-athletes, a nutrition center and dining facility, a sports performance center, and office space for coaches and administrators.

“This is a landmark day for our entire campus community,” said Jim Phillips, vice president for athletics and recreation. “Ryan Fieldhouse and the Walter Athletics Center will provide the finest support, training and developmental facilities for Northwestern student-athletes in an incomparable location.”

Ryan Fieldhouse and the Walter Athletics Center will be located adjacent to the existing Henry Crown Sports Pavilion/Norris Aquatics Center and Combe Tennis Center.

The Norris Aquatics Center, home of Wildcats swimming and diving, will be expanded.  Enhancements will include a new dryland training area, locker rooms, coaches’ offices and multipurpose meeting space.

The entire project also will incorporate the replacement of three existing recreational basketball courts and an indoor running track currently located in the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion.

Construction of a new outdoor football practice field and renovation of the soccer/lacrosse and field hockey fields that began this summer will provide improved facilities for varsity sports, club sports and intramurals.

The project also includes the extension of a walking/biking path along the shore of Lake Michigan on Northwestern’s campus. The path will be extended north around Ryan Fieldhouse/Walter Athletics Center to Campus Drive, linking a City of Evanston bike path on the south end of the campus with Lincoln Street, a City-designated bike route, on the north end.

When the project is completed, the beach north of the existing complex, the Henry Crown Sports Center/ Norris Aquatics Center, will be open to the public.

Alan Cubbage, vice-president of Unversity Relations, told the RoundTable that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources advised Northwestern in a letter dated Oct. 30 that the agency had issued a permit for the project. Several groups had objected to the project on the grounds that the lakefill on which the complex is to be built belongs to the public under the public trust doctrine.