Northwestern to pay $1 million to city for use of Robert Crown


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

The $1 million dollars will go toward ice rink rentals for Northwestern’s University’s Men’s Club Hockey Team and Synchronized Skating Team.

Jason Beeferman, Senior Staffer

Northwestern will pay $1 million in exchange for the University’s use of the Robert Crown Community Center, an agreement City Council voted to approve Monday.

The agreement, which will last until 2026, allows NU to use Robert Crown’s ice rink for the University’s Men’s Club Hockey team and Synchronized Skating team. Northwestern will also rent out classroom space for Northwestern programs.

Northwestern announced plans to contribute $1 million to the community center in 2017. The council’s 2-7 vote on Monday finally approved the contribution. The money will be given to Friends of Robert Crown, a nonprofit group that formed to raise money for Robert Crown when plans around renovations first started to develop.

Though the agreement said Northwestern can rent up to “$1 million worth” of Robert Crown facilities, City Manager Erika Storlie said it isn’t “practical” that NU will use the entirety of the agreed-upon $1 million by 2026. Historically, she said, the University has used about $75,000 worth of services each year.

Storlie said she expects there to be leftover money from the agreement, which will be disbursed to the city and Robert Crown.

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd), who voted in favor of the agreement, said Evanston residents should not expect the center to be overrun with NU students. He added that currently, NU students tend to use facilities in the early morning or late evening.

“I don’t go to Robert Crown for the ice, but I don’t think I’ve ever been there and I’ve run into a Northwestern ice hockey player,” Braithwaite said. “If the concern is that all of a sudden we’re going to see purple and white students running through Crown all sorts of hours of the day, that is not the fact I have come to understand.”

Storlie said the city already received about $300,000 of the $1 million from Northwestern and Friends of Robert Crown ahead of Monday’s vote.

Ald. Thomas Suffredin (6th), who voted against the agreement, took issue with a 2017 letter from the Friends of Robert Crown, which Suffredin said indicated that the money NU pledged was not for fees and services, but instead a contribution to the city.

“I want to get the money into the city, but we’re getting the money in by selling ice time, not by receiving a contribution from Northwestern,” Suffredin said. “That’s not a small distinction.”

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) argued that holding off from a vote based on Suffredin’s concerns could jeopardize the agreement as a whole.

He accused Suffredin’s aim to push back the vote as “acting irrationally.”

“You’ll feel really good when Northwestern calls us next Thursday and says, ‘You know what, we want our $330,000 back.’ How are you gonna explain that to the taxpayers?” Wilson told Suffredin.

Storlie said the bulk of the payment will be paid off by the end of next year.

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Twitter: @jasonbeeferman

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