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

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

The Daily Northwestern


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The Daily Explains: What’s in the updated draft contract between NU and Evanston on the Ryan Field rebuild?

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Daily file photo by Seeger Gray
The updated draft, released Saturday, contains several key changes to both the memorandum itself and the University’s public benefits package.

With City Council set for a Monday vote on the Rebuild Ryan Field project, the city government released an updated draft of the proposed memorandum of understanding between Evanston and Northwestern officials regarding the project Saturday night.

The memorandum of understanding, a contract that would be legally binding if signed, establishes plans that NU and the city would collaborate on throughout the stadium rebuild and outlines a public benefits package that the University would provide to the city.

Throughout discussions on NU’s contentious plan to rebuild Ryan Field and host public-facing concerts at the new stadium, residents have called on city government to work toward a more beneficial deal for the city with NU. The University released the earlier proposed memorandum of understanding on Oct. 30, but residents were still unsatisfied, urging city officials to push for more public benefits at several recent meetings.

The updated draft, released Saturday, contains several key changes to both the memorandum itself and the University’s public benefits package.

With NU hoping to gain final approval on the stadium rebuild and rezoning at Monday’s City Council meeting, here’s what’s on the table for councilmembers to deliberate.

Extending the public benefits package

In the updated draft, Northwestern extended many of its key financial benefits for Evanston to apply for 15 years, as opposed to the 10 years indicated in the original proposal.

The memorandum says the University will donate $10 million annually to several city initiatives, including one providing financial aid for Evanston residents to attend NU and another to help revitalize the city’s business districts. 

The public benefits package aims to help offset any potential negative impacts of the stadium rebuild. The University will begin making 11 of these annual donations starting in 2024 if the ordinances are approved Monday.

Seven more benefits originally slated to begin in 2027 will begin upon completion of the stadium under the new proposal. NU will guarantee $2.5 million in tax revenue for the city — an uptick from an initial guarantee of $2 million in the Oct. 30 memorandum.

Donations will also be adjusted annually to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index, ensuring NU’s contribution value keeps pace with inflation. 

‘Without unreasonable restraints’: Changes to language outlining public benefits package

The language that establishes NU’s public benefits package was also changed in the updated memorandum draft.

The new version notes that “public benefits are reliant on a newly rebuilt Ryan Field and the ability of Northwestern to host Concerts at Ryan Field as provided for in the Approval Ordinances without unreasonable restraints imposed by the City beyond those contained in the Approval Ordinances.”

Additionally, the original Oct. 30 memorandum required NU and the city to acknowledge that “Northwestern is tax-exempt and any such voluntary payments shall not impact Northwestern’s tax-exempt status or be considered a tax, tariff or duty or a payment in lieu thereof.”

The new draft does not include this reference to “voluntary payments,” which drew criticism from residents

“In the event that Northwestern demonstrates that such unreasonable restraints being imposed by the City adversely effect Concerts beyond general market risk factors, then such public benefits will be reduced and/or eliminated accordingly at Northwestern’s discretion,” the updated memorandum draft reads.

Traffic, security plans exempt from public records requests

Both the original and updated proposals call for the city and the University to collaborate on four plans for key areas of the new stadium operations: sustainability, concert operations, traffic management and security.

However, the updated memorandum says security and traffic management plans will not be made available for public records requests made under Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act.

The new draft cites an Illinois state law that allows certain items to be protected from public records requests if “disclosure could reasonably be expected to jeopardize the effectiveness of the measures or the safety of the personnel who implement them or the public.”

The full proposed draft of the memorandum of understanding is available on the city’s website, and will be taken into consideration at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @lilylcarey

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