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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Parts of demolished Ryan Field find new homes through memorabilia sales

Rachel Smith/The Daily Northwestern
Rebuilding Exchange and TrueNU sell Ryan Field memorabilia online and in-store.

As of early April, Ryan Field’s Leonard B. Thomas press box is the historic venue’s lone structure visible from Central Street. The stadium where Wildcat fans stood, cheered, laughed and cried is nearly gone, taking with it nearly a century of memories.

Despite the stadium’s demolition, Ryan Field has plenty of physical remnants like signs, seats and stadium telephones now being repurposed in fans’ homes. 

TrueNU, an organization that supports local charities and student athletes through NIL partnerships, is auctioning Ryan Field items and memorabilia to the Northwestern community.

“We were able to get our hands on hundreds of really great pieces of Ryan Field history, (which) we’re able to get into the hands of our lifelong season ticket holders, fans and alums, and be able to use the revenues to support TrueNU,” said TrueNU Executive Director Jacob Schmidt.

The online auction began April 8 and will last through the calendar year, with new items released each month, according to TrueNU’s bidding website.

The organization hopes to provide multiple chances for community members to purchase items.

“This is a chance to build community and be that liaison between the Ryan Field rebuild and our fans and alums,” Schmidt said. “TrueNU is happy to raise our hand and take the opportunity to build stronger relationships. But in the meantime, (fans) get a cool piece of history in return.”

Rebuilding Exchange, a company dedicated to reusing and renewing items, also sells Ryan Field memorabilia.

Rebuilding Exchange Marketing Manager Zach Share said the Ryan Field opening sale on March 1 was one of the store’s busiest days.

“It’s amazing to see so many people supporting our mission of diverting materials and coming to buy something that’s reclaimed.” Share said. “It’s similar to an antique store, but for building materials.”

Share said the nonprofit salvaged a variety of artifacts, signage, seating and athletic equipment. The proceeds will go toward Rebuilding Exchange’s mission to keep reusable materials out of landfills, Share said.

Chicago resident Rob Rotering (Weinberg ’83, Kellogg ’85), a season ticket holder and donor, set the date in his calendar to purchase the memorabilia. Being abroad, he bought items online within the sale’s opening minutes, but the Rebuilding Exchange website was just as busy as its storefront.

He said he saw online item quantities decrease in real time as he was bidding.

“When they renovated Welsh-Ryan, I took a basketball sign,” Rotering said. “So I’m going to put my football sign with the basketball sign.”

Another piece of the partnership between Rebuilding Exchange and NU is the organization’s initiative to support the building trades workforce. Share said the company trains Evanston residents to potentially become part of the Ryan Field rebuild.

Employees can learn the trades during the deconstruction process with a skilled supervisor and potentially come back when it’s time to rebuild.

“A demolition project can employ one person with a bulldozer,” Share said. “But a deconstruction project can employ dozens.”

Share said Rebuilding Exchange hopes to continue collaborating with NU and that projects like these are replicated at other institutions.

This way, he added, items can be kept out of landfills and put in the hands of fans.

“It’s a really beautiful thing,” Share said.

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