Ryan Field/Dyche Stadium

When Dyche Stadium (now Ryan Field) opened in 1926, it was already the fourth football venue in Northwestern’s history. The first had been Deering Meadow. In 1891, with football’s 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, Northwestern’s 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 Field’s 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 field’s 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 Campaign’s success was ratified when Ryan Field was named the 2000 college football “Field of the Year” by the Sports Turf Managers Association.

Dyche Stadium, Aerial View: Pre-1951
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Quick Facts

Date: 1926

Architect: James Gamble Rogers, Gavin Hadden (stadium enginee

Named for: Patrick Ryan, William Dyche

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