Community members still at odds with Northwestern University over plans for Ryan Field

Mack Jones, Staff Writer

Seventh Ward Alderperson Eleanor Revelle said on Jan. 11 in an interview with Evanston Now that she would not be in favor of Northwestern University’s new Ryan Field hosting concerts, if it should be built. A vote has yet to be taken on whether the stadium will be constructed at all. Plebiscites on alcohol sale restrictions, zoning laws regarding concerts (the stadium is currently zoned only for college sports), and others have not been held yet either. 

According to Northwestern officials, they want to host at least 12 concerts a year, in addition to other special events, which would generate more than $3 million in tax revenue for the city. Most of these concerts would take place in the summer, as the stadium would be open-air. This led to speculation that there would be a concert a week in the summer. 

However, some groups dispute this idea and think that the community around the stadium will suffer from the proposed concerts throughout the year. Some also insist externalities such as concert noise, road repair, and a possible decline in property value will negatively affect Evanston residents. 

If the stadium is built, the money will have been provided privately, and NU claims that a new stadium will have various economic benefits to the city, even without the concerts. To back that up, the school paid consulting firm Tripp Umbach to conduct a study quantifying the economic impact of the stadium. 

According to the study, “The findings of this report represent conservative economic impact projections based on the capital expenditures that would be required to complete the project, revenue generated from stadium operations for intercollegiate athletics, and visitor spending.”

Revelle, whose ward includes Ryan Field, agrees with some groups that are against building the stadium and said in an Evanston Now interview that 12 concerts are, “Too many, in my view. We need a good ‘sound’ analysis. We don’t want to make a decision on the stadium dazzled by numbers that are unrealistic. My role is to help residents get as much information as possible.”

Revelle has not decided to vote “yes” or “no” on the stadium and the concerts that would be held there. She plans to hold another virtual meeting about the stadium, specifically the sale of general admission alcohol, on Jan. 19. 

One of the groups that are against the stadium is the Most Livable City Association. The non-profit organization has planned to launch a campaign named “Field of Schemes.” 

According to their website, “Our goal is to raise awareness about Northwestern University’s plan to profit off its proposed rezoning of Ryan Field for commercial events while hiding the true costs to the surrounding communities.” 

Their specific concerns include public safety, nuisance behavior from intoxicated fans, noise and light pollution, parking, and more. They are also concerned about the effect on Central St. business owners. While Northwestern claimed that businesses around the area would benefit from the customers a new stadium would bring, many of those businesses are already at capacity, meaning that more people around the area would only crowd shops and restaurants instead of providing income. 

Many things are still unknown about the new stadium, from specifics about the “state-of-the-art” canopy to what events will be held at the venue. Northwestern has faced backlash from members of the community that they may have hoped would be less intense. It is because of that backlash that the project Rebuild Ryan Field may take longer than expected to be completed.