Northwestern looking to amend zoning to host professional sporting events at Ryan Field


Julia Esparza/Daily Senior Staffer

Welsh-Ryan Arena, 2705 Ashland Ave. Northwestern University is working with the city to get approval to host more event at its Ryan Field Campus.

Kristina Karisch, Print Managing Editor

Northwestern is looking to amend the Evanston zoning codes for its Ryan Field campus facilities in order to host professional sporting events and concerts.

Dave Davis, Northwestern’s executive director for neighborhood and community relations, said the University received a proposal in January to host a professional tennis tournament on campus but had to decline due to the current zoning ordinance.

As it stands, Northwestern can only host collegiate sporting events, amateur sporting events or nonprofit events at Ryan Field and the surrounding facilities. Davis said the January proposal proved an “impetus” for the University, and they submitted a proposal for an ordinance amendment to the city in April.

Johanna Leonard, the city’s community development director, told The Daily in an email that the submitted text amendment to the code is currently under review. She said the application will be brought before the Plan Commission this summer.

Davis said he and his colleagues presented the zoning plans to residents at a 7th Ward meeting, where they were met with concerns about the frequency of these potential events and possible increased noise associated with the events. He said residents stressed the importance of putting robust safety and protection protocols in place.

Because of resident concern, the University is considering reducing the number of professional events it would host if the amendment passes to accommodate residents.

Davis said the new zoning ordinance would also bring benefits to the city — wider-reaching events would attract more visitors to Evanston who spend money at local restaurants and businesses. He said that following the Plan Commission meeting this summer, the University hopes to have a decision in place in the next few months.

“These are ongoing conversations,” Davis said. “There isn’t really a deadline right now, in terms of why this needs to happen. But we’re hoping this could happen sooner than later.”

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Twitter: @kristinakarisch