Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern Ryan Field rebuild hearing draws crowd of Evanston residents

If+approved+by+City+Council+in+time%2C+the+demolition+of+Ryan+Field+could+begin+as+soon+as+December+of+this+year%2C+with+completion+slated+for+summer+2026.
Seeger Gray
If approved by City Council in time, the demolition of Ryan Field could begin as soon as December of this year, with completion slated for summer 2026.

Hundreds packed Evanston’s City Council chambers at Wednesday night’s Land Use Commission hearing as city, university and community representatives hashed out the details of Northwestern University’s contentious Ryan Field rebuild.

Wednesday’s hearing opened with a 30-minute presentation from Northwestern representatives, who gave updates on the project, which will modernize the stadium and decrease its capacity from 47,000 to 35,000. The University representatives spoke to its potential benefits to Evanston, which they said includes increased tax revenue and profits for local businesses.

Members of the commission later had the opportunity to question university representatives. The hearing then continued with presentations from several community groups, including the Community Alliance for Better Government and the Evanston Chamber of Commerce.

Over 100 residents and stakeholders crowded into the council chambers, and hundreds more followed along in listening areas set up throughout the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center.The meeting lasted over five hours, concluding just after midnight. Since its proposal, the renovation has sparked debate within the Evanston community, especially among residents of the 7th Ward, where Ryan Field is located.

Proposed in Sept. 2022, the $800 million proposed renovation of Northwestern’s football field would modernize the stadium, allowing the university to host several concerts per year in the new venue. This proposition has drawn the most backlash from residents, some of whom are apprehensive about the noise and traffic that potential “megaconcerts” could bring.

Though Northwestern representatives previously said the stadium would host ten to 12 concerts per year, that number has fallen to six concerts. During questioning at Wednesday night’s hearing, NU Chief Operating Officer Luke Figora said using a potential new stadium for only a handful of football games a year is “not something Northwestern is prepared to do,” and that concerts remain necessary to offset the cost of the project.

Commissioners also questioned NU representatives about stadium parking, which would remain at the current 1,400-spot capacity. Firms suggest Ryan Field’s capacity will require about 6,000 parking spaces, pushing visitors to occupy parking spaces throughout the city.

With approvals from City Council, the demolition of Ryan Field could begin as soon as December of this year, with completion slated for summer 2026.Yet the university still has several hurdles to clear before breaking ground on the project.

Supporters of the rebuild said concerts at Ryan Field could bring more revenue and economic opportunity to the city, particularly in the Central Street area. Many opponents continued to maintain the noise, parking and years-long construction process could be more trouble than it’s worth. The ongoing debate about the project is part of a larger issue some neighbors take with Northwestern’s presence in Evanston.

Discussion will continue at the Land Use Commission’s next special hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 27. After that, the commission will vote on whether to recommend the Ryan Field development and zoning amendment to City Council.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @lilylcarey

Related Stories:
Northwestern speakers address community concerns at 7th Ward special topic meeting on Ryan Rebuild project
Central Street businesses divided over impact of Ryan Field rebuild
NU pushes for Ryan Field renovation, 7th Ward neighbors criticize expected repercussions

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