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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‘A mortal attack by a neighboring city’: Wilmette residents urge litigation against Evanston, challenge Ryan Field rebuild

Daily file photo by Maya Schwartz
A group of Wilmette residents are urging their Village Board to take legal action against Evanston over the Ryan Field rebuild.

A group of Wilmette residents are urging the village to sue the City of Evanston for approving the rebuild of Ryan Field. 

At a July 25, 2023 Village Board meeting, Village President Senta Plunkett said there were over 200 emails sent to the board regarding the rebuild. And on Aug. 8, Plunkett and the Wilmette board of trustees passed a unanimous resolution denouncing Evanston City Council’s consideration of Ryan Field concerts. 

Plunkett said at the meeting that the action came after nine months of feedback from residents.

City Council ultimately approved the stadium rebuild, and the rezoning of the surrounding area to allow for public-facing concerts, in November. But, for months before the project was approved, NU’s plans to host concerts at the new stadium were a main point of contention for Wilmette neighbors. 

At the July 25 meeting, when residents filled the Board chamber, Wilmette residents like Rick Levy said these events induce behavior like drugs, drunkenness and petty crime. Wilmette resident and Pritzker Prof. Steven J. Harper called Northwestern a next-door “bully” at the meeting, and shared concerns about how the stadium’s concerts would harm Wilmette’s quality of life with noise pollution.

And at a later meeting on Dec. 12, 2023 — just weeks after Evanston approved the project — Harper contended that Wilmette would be exposed to “a mortal attack by a neighboring city” if the village does not move forward with litigation.  

“The adverse impact of Evanston’s ordinance will spread throughout Wilmette, starting with a multimillion dollar hit to our homes,” he said. “Adding insult to injury, resulting erosion of Wilmette’s tax base will require an increase in everyone’s property taxes.”

Other residents said the new Ryan Field and its commercialization would cause property values in the village to depreciate. 

“Noise, traffic, congestion, all will reduce property values, anywhere from five to 20%,” said North Shore real estate agent Mary Rosinski, who said she estimated the losses with Wilmette resident Carl Hopman. 

Although Ryan Field sits in Evanston’s 7th Ward, it is directly across from the southern edge of Wilmette.

In a statement to the Daily, Village Manager Michael Braiman said the village is not publicly discussing its litigation strategy as it may “impact the ultimate goals such litigation or threat of litigation desires to achieve.”

Braiman also reaffirmed the village’s support of its residents and said it is continuing to consider all of its options to mitigate the impact of Ryan Field on its residents.

Depending on the specifics of a challenge, a lawsuit can be filed before or during construction as well as when the stadium is in operation,” he wrote.

Wilmette would not be the first group to pursue litigation against Evanston over Ryan Field — the Most Livable City Association and 13 neighbors of the stadium filed a four-count complaint against the city in November 2023. 

Dave Davis, NU’s senior executive director for neighborhood and community relations, said in a statement to The Daily that the University held several meetings with Braiman and Plunkett to listen to the village’s concerns during the Ryan Field approval process.

He said the University will continue to regularly inform Wilmette about construction activities and consider feedback from the city throughout the demolition phase of the project.

But not every Wilmette resident agrees that litigation is the best strategy. 

Wilmette resident John Powers has lived a block and a half away from Ryan Field for the last 25 years. He said the village and its community organizations made a “trivial effort” to find a compromise with Evanston.

“If you’re looking for solutions, there are solutions available,” Powers said. “There are huge stadiums in residential neighborhoods all over the United States.” 

Over the years, Powers said he’s spoken to NU officials about crowd and community management during game days. He said officials were willing to listen to his concerns about both Big Ten events and the new Ryan Field. 

He added that Wilmette residents who are in favor of the stadium are not listened to and are unrepresented in Village Board because the opinion does not provoke debate. 

“I oppose probably about 25% of the plan, but so what?” he said. “Let’s work through those 25% of objections, rather than throwing our arms up and (saying) ‘that can’t be done.’”

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Evanston prepares for next chapter in Ryan Field rebuilding as accountability concerns linger

Ryan Field demolition to begin in days amid 7th Ward concerns

Most Livable City Association files complaint, asks Cook County to invalidate Ryan Field rezoning

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