Northwestern, 7th Ward residents form working group to discuss Ryan Field rebuilding


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Ryan Field. Evanston residents and Northwestern have worked alongside each other to discuss concerns about the Ryan Field rebuild.

Charlotte Varnes, Social Media Editor

When Northwestern plays at Ryan Field, 7th Ward resident Ken Proskie said his house looks like a movie set. The lighting from the field shines directly into his bedroom, making it seem like the middle of the day well after the sun has gone down. 

Proskie, who has lived east of Ryan Field since 1985, has been vocal about NU athletics’ impact on the 7th Ward. He said he previously protested to City Council in 2019, when the University sought permission to hold for-profit, professional events at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The rebuilding of Ryan Field, first announced in September 2021, marks a new chapter in the relationship between 7th Ward residents and NU. As part of a working group of residents collaborating with the University, Proskie is trying to make sure the next chapter is an improvement from the past. 

“It’s the first time that Northwestern and the neighbors have sat down together and tried to work together positively in a transparent, honest way and rebuild some trust,” Proskie said.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said Dave Davis, NU’s executive director of neighborhood and community relations, first approached her about forming the group after he spoke about the rebuild at a 7th Ward meeting. The pair created the group as a forum for residents to share input about the rebuild in a timely manner, she said. 

The working group, which first met in February, includes four residents from the east, west, south and north sides of the stadium. Davis and a few NU representatives are members as well. 

Proskie, who serves as the representative for the east side, maintains an email list reaching 84 residents as a way to solicit feedback. He said there are three main areas of resident concern so far: parking, the physical design of the stadium and the construction process. 

The new parking lot has been one of the biggest concerns among residents. Some residents’ hopes for the revamped east parking lot include installing proper stormwater drainage, refraining from building a parking garage and maintaining the current structure of Wildcat Alley, which is a green space near the stadium where fans host tailgates.

Angela Shaffer, the executive director of Central Street Evanston, called parking a “big issue” in the area and predicted it will be a concern for the businesses surrounding Ryan Field. 

Both Revelle and Proskie said they have heard concerns about the design of the stadium, including the impact of lights and video boards on residents living nearby. For many, Proskie said it’s important that the stadium reflects and respects its surroundings in a residential neighborhood.

Construction is important to residents as well, Proskie said, but it hasn’t been discussed at working group meetings. He said neighbors worry about noise after the building of Ryan Fieldhouse. Often contractors would crowd the parking lot at Ryan Field, making noise in the neighborhood as early as 5 a.m., he said.

Shaffer said she hasn’t attended the working group but feels well-informed by attending University-run meetings about the rebuilding. At Central Street Evanston, she has previously worked closely with NU Athletics and hopes to continue doing so throughout the rebuild process. 

“The working group has met five times since February, and the meetings have served as a useful forum for neighbors to share issues, concerns and suggestions about the Ryan Field project,” University spokesperson Jon Yates said in an email to The Daily.

Proskie said the working group has been a positive way to rebuild trust between NU and Evanston residents. He said it has mostly been residents providing feedback while the University listens, and he hopes to hear more about NU’s plans soon. 

Revelle said Davis has been sincere and willing to listen to residents throughout the process. She said the working group has been helpful so far and expects the rebuilding to become a more prominent issue in years to come.  

“This working group is a really good way to proceed,” Revelle said. “It shows the University is really interested in hearing from the neighbors at the beginning of the process… This is probably as good a process as I could picture for us.”

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Twitter: @charvarnes11

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