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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LTE: NU should pursue Soldier Field for temporary football stadium

In a February 4 article, “NU requests city analysis on possible lakeside football field,” The Daily reported that Northwestern is considering adding capacity to Martin Stadium for up to 15,000 spectators as a temporary nonconference football venue while Ryan Field is under construction. Other local venues are also being explored as opportunities for possible sites, NU spokesperson Eliza Larson said.

Do those local venues include Soldier Field, located roughly 14 miles south of Evanston? I suggested Soldier Field as a permanent replacement for Ryan Field in a letter The Daily ran in October 2022.

The prospects are unlikely, but Soldier Field is an ideal interim site during the two-year span it will take to rebuild Ryan Field.

Soldier Field, a some-63,000 seater, offers a far greater potential revenue yield than Martin Stadium, which hosts NU soccer and lacrosse teams and must be modified for football.

As the Chicago Bears’ home since 1971, Soldier Field already meets local zoning requirements. Will an expanded Martin Stadium meet Evanston’s zoning requirements?

The Bears lease Soldier Field from the Chicago Park District and recently announced they will build a new stadium nearby with $2 billion in private funding. No completion date was stated. In the meantime, the Bears could continue to play at their current location on Sunday, Monday or Thursday, while NU plays its home games on Saturdays.

NU could charter buses for student transportation. Students could also take the CTA, Uber or Lyft. NU’s student body alone won’t fill 63,500 seats. The ’Cats previously attracted robust crowds in games played at Wrigley Field — though opposing fans made up a large portion of spectators.

The new Ryan Field, when it finally opens, will be a smaller version of its predecessor, with just 35,000 seats as opposed to its 47,000-capacity original stadium. In my earlier letter, I questioned the wisdom of spending $800 million to downsize a stadium by nearly one-quarter of its previous seating capacity. I still do.

This is almost as absurd to me as the plot of my favorite Marx Brothers movie, “Horse Feathers.”

Groucho Marx plays a university president who wants to demolish a student dormitory and replace it with a new football stadium. “Where will the students sleep,” asks a professor. “They’ll sleep in class, like they always do,” replies Groucho.

I’m not sure if “Horse Feathers” is a proper analogy for NU’s Ryan Field situation. Perhaps another film title, “Dumb And Dumber,” is more appropriate. But both reflect what I view as poor logic by NU’s administration. During a time of public outrage over shrinkage in food products and other consumer items, why does NU shrink its football stadium? Wildcat fans deserve a home team venue fully restored to its former full size and glory.

Richard Reif is a Medill alum. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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