Rebuild Ryan construction leadership promises to work with local woman- and minority-owned businesses


Shannon Tyler/The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern’s executive director of Neighborhood and Community Relations Dave Davis talked to residents and business owners about the next steps of the Rebuild Ryan Field project.

Shannon Tyler, City Editor

Northwestern University announced a partnership March 23 between Turner Construction Company and Walsh Construction to oversee the Rebuild Ryan Field project. The university and the two companies hosted an initial community outreach session to introduce the team and announce project plans Wednesday morning. 

Pamyla Fountain-Brown, Community and Citizenship Director of Turner, made promises to “look local first” when it comes to the project’s contracting in construction, food and T-shirts, to ensure the stadium is a community asset. 

“We are visitors to your community,” Fountain-Brown said. “We are visitors here and so we’re going to need your partnership to help us understand.” 

Turner Construction Company is headquartered in New York City, while Walsh Construction hails from Chicago.

Community neighbors and businesses interested in working on the project –– along with representatives who traveled from other cities and states –– gathered in Welsh-Ryan Arena to hear about the project plans. The University announced plans to renovate Ryan Field following a $480 million donation from the Patrick and Shirley Ryan Family last September.

In its initial announcement, NU declared it would ensure 35% of its total subcontracted spending is local, minority-owned and woman-owned businesses, with priority given to businesses and individuals located in Evanston.

Fountain-Brown said the Evanston community is integral to the agency’s work on Ryan Field. NU executive director of Neighborhood and Community Relations Dave Davis said the school chose to hire Turner because of their commitment to communities and diversity. 

“I’m going to ask you for your hand, your partnership in getting this done and getting this done the right way,” Fountain-Brown said.

One of the company’s major goals in the rebuild, according to Fountain-Brown, is breaking down the barriers that have historically kept local minority- and women- owned businesses out of large construction projects. 

Some business representatives expressed concerns about NU’s payment terms for smaller minority companies, who may have a challenge waiving payments for more projects.

Project Executive for Walsh Construction Dan Welsh talked about the company’s streamlined payment process, intended to help break down these barriers. 

“We’ve already been talking about facilities about how to make sure their processes are especially streamlined for this project,” Welsh said. 

Irma Holloway, CEO of Phoenix Construction and Consultancy Inc. and chief executive director of Black Contractors Owners and Executives, said she was excited to see the university’s outreach efforts. 

“It’s never too early to start outreach,” Holloway said. “It is so important and it’s instrumental to the success of community engagement.” 

For the plan to move forward, City Council would need to approve changes to the stadium’s current zoning uses.

Evanston Resident Fred Waldman said he came to the meeting to learn more about the project as a whole. He had questions about how the university plans to incorporate Evanston businesses in the general operation, especially those in the surrounding Central Street District.

“You have a lot of local businesses stretching the course of Central Street or Green Bay Road, and that will be impacted by the nature of ongoing operations within the facility,” Waldman said during the Q&A. 

Waldman said he was concerned the field’s new amenities would take business away from those down the street on game days and proposed concert days throughout the year. 

Luke Figora, the University’s vice president for operations, said while it is too early in the process to make solidified plans for partnerships with vendors, the facility will bring infrastructure to these partnerships, which NU will focus on once the construction has taken place.

Fountain-Brown told businesses to stay engaged with the project, as they may need services or goods during the process. She encouraged businesses to fill out a vendor inquiry form on the Rebuild Ryan Field website to let them know what services can be provided. 

NU is set to send its Planned Development Application this month. Hearings will follow at the Land Use Commission and City Council in the coming months.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @shannonmtyler

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