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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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City-commissioned Ryan Field study finds that rebuild, concerts could generate $77.8 million for Evanston

Daily file photo by Seeger Gray
The city released the results of a study on the economic impact of Northwestern’s plan to rebuild Ryan Field and host six for-profit concerts at the venue each year.

Evanston released the results of its independent study on the projected economic impact of Northwestern’s controversial Ryan Field rebuild Friday. The study found that the project could generate $77.8 million for the city if the venue hosts six concerts per year.

The city contracted a Chicago-based real estate consulting firm in May to conduct the study. Opponents of the project criticized a previous NU-commissioned study for not explaining its estimate that the rebuild would generate $97.9 million for the city by 2026. 

The report comes as NU begins its push for the city to approve the rebuild of Ryan Field, which includes a zoning change that allows NU to host six concerts each year. The University originally asked for 12 concerts annually, but NU decreased that number after receiving pushback.

The city released a 99-page summary of the study’s findings, which projected that the rebuild, as well as the concerts hosted at the stadium, will bring $2.5 million in tax revenue and 510 jobs to Evanston over five years

The city report, conducted by Johnson Consulting, agreed with the criticisms’ of the University-commissioned report by Tripp Umbach, saying it released “only its top-line findings without sufficient supporting data.” The November 2022 Tripp Umbach report claimed that the project would generate over $1 billion for Cook and Lake Counties.

The newly-released report found smaller figures for economic impact than the university- commissioned study. The Tripp Umbach study evaluated the economic impacts if NU were to host 10 concerts each year, while the city-funded study looked at the impact of hosting both three and six concerts each year.

The report noted that stadiums are rarely offered at “virtually no cost to the host community,” as NU is footing the bill for the project. It added that hosting concerts at the venue could provide a boost to Evanston’s struggling hospitality industry. 

The study criticized the transportation analysis of parking and traffic at the new stadium and recommended it be revised with more details on the frequency of CTA and Metra trains, as well as how people parking far from Ryan Field will get from their cars to the stadium.

Johnson Consulting also recommended that concerns about the impact of concerts on the surrounding neighborhoods should be addressed through a Community Benefits Agreement between NU and the city. 

Following the release of the report, local organizations Community Alliance for a Better Government and Most Livable City, both of which oppose the Ryan Field rebuild, released their own letter criticizing the report. The letter takes issue with the “minuscule amount” of additional revenue projected for Evanston, and its “(failure) to account for the massive external costs – the externalities – this project would impose on surrounding neighborhoods and on the city as a whole.”

The letter also pointed out that the new study builds on many arguments presented by opponents of the new stadium, such as its criticism of NU’s transportation analysis and its recommendation that the university enter into a community benefits agreement with the city.

Last week, hundreds packed a Land Use Commission hearing – the first step in the city’s approval process – where NU presented its proposal while various community organizations voiced their opinions. At the meeting, an NU representative said the University was “not prepared” to go forward with the rebuild if it is unable to host concerts to offset the projects’ costs.

The meeting is set to continue on Sept. 27. After that, the commission will vote on whether to recommend the Ryan Field development and zoning amendment to the Planning and Development Committee and City Council. 

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