Northwestern to formulate facilities plan

Northwestern on Thursday announced it will launch its first ever "master plan study" of its athletics facilities, which likely will result in a plan for large-scale renovations.

The study begins in November and will include Ryan Field and all the football office and practice facilities. According to a news release, the master 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."

Northwestern has commissioned the Populous sports architectural design firm (formerly HOK sport) to conduct the facilities study. Populous previously has done similar facilities master plans for Indiana, Ohio State and Penn State, and designed new facilities such as Yankee Stadium and Heinz Field.

"This is the first step in addressing facility needs and creating a roadmap for our future," Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips said in a statement. "We plan to review every athletic facility and recreation building on the main campus before determining the priorities for our department. Enhancing and improving our facilities will allow our coaches and admissions staff to continue attracting the nation's top scholar-athletes to Northwestern University."

Much like a recent marketing campaign, this study is overdue at Northwestern, which last renovated Ryan Field in 1997 and has fallen behind the curve a bit. Don't be surprised to see the school consider decreasing Ryan Field's seating capacity and adding suites to boost overall revenue.

A draft of the facilities plan will be presented next spring.