The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian


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The Field of Broken Dreams | Episode 3: The City

Note: This podcast is designed to be heard. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio if you are able, which includes emotion and emphasis that’s not on the page.

Mack Jones Nov. 20, 1920. 

A college football Saturday in Evanston.

Notre Dame against Northwestern. 

The final home game of the year, and the stadium’s packed. 

(Train noises)

Mack Jones The Chicago Union’s railway tracks went beside the sidewalk by Northwestern Field on Central Street. It was the early days of city railroads, and sound regulations had yet to be implemented in Evanston, leading to an ear-piercing noise for the stadium’s neighbors.

Northwestern Field and the Central Street “L” Station were only a few blocks away. There weren’t enough parking spots for everyone in the tiny lot North of the stadium off Ashland Ave., but the trains meant infrastructure was in place to support the hoards of fans heading to 1501 Central Street. 

Little retail shops and small-scale restaurants lined the sidewalk, and the eclectic shops created a small-town, vintage feel. As the stadium grew closer and closer, the criss-cross pattern that made up the wooden grandstand came into view. The timber gave it a homelike and hospitable look, something like a log cabin. 

Grass surrounded Northwestern Field, and it was the perfect place for kids to pretend they were the ones competing on the field with the best in the Big 10. Children had the chance to meet some of the stars of Northwestern football on non-game days since the stadium and the freshman football field east of the stands doubled as a practice facility for the Wildcats. 

Northwestern Field had been around for 20 years by the end of its tenure, and all those years of use led the structure to become unsound and rickety. The splintered wood was a step away from becoming rotten. Northwestern didn’t build the stadium to last. 

But fans were rocking the bleachers at Northwestern Field anyway. There were 20,000 of them in the stands on Central that fall Saturday to see the Wildcats play Notre Dame in just the fifth matchup all-time between the two teams. It was so full that Northwestern needed to add overflow seating. Fans packed the general admission sections behind each endzone, and even with the quarter-mile track around the field pushing everyone back a few yards, it was like a concert atmosphere. 

Every bench seat was occupied by a fan, all standing in support of Northwestern. The university could have sold tickets to the baseball diamond behind the stadium and probably sold them out. Football in Evanston was more than a hundred years younger but felt a hundred times more popular than in the present day. 

Some fans on the west side needed to dangle their legs over the front railing to fit in with the massive crowd. The ‘Cats got creamed by Notre Dame, 33-7, but the score didn’t dampen the atmosphere.

Diehards filled the stadium. The contest set a new attendance record for the football program, which was becoming more lucrative by the day, despite a lack of success on the field. The university needed a new facility, so it shocked almost no one when they announced a rebuild. 

It all seemed so simple. Northwestern University planned to update its too-small and run-down stadium to fit the times. College football was starting its journey to the behemoth that it is today, and, Northwestern, eager to take advantage of the soaring popularity of the sport, wanted to build up its facilities to be one of the premier destinations in the game. Not to mention, it would have made them boatloads of money.

They had the means after business manager at the time, William A. Dyche, arranged for a bond issue to fund the $1.4 million field. It would have 80,000 seats and three tiers, the first with that many levels. 

Initial concept drawings featured towers on the east and west sides simultaneously serving as archways into the stadium. Some called it a “Grant Park Bowl” for the North Shore because of its gothic similarities to Soldier Field. 

There should have been no controversy. 

And there wasn’t. 

The university quickly got approval for the stadium and began work in the spring of 1926. Dyche, who graduated from Northwestern in 1882, surveyed the site and oversaw construction. Budget constraints prevented NU from fulfilling its ambitious plans for the stadium, but the result was still impressive.

The concrete arena was 702 feet long on the east and west sides, with the ends open because of the budget issues. There was everything the team needed to function underneath the stands: a practice field, locker rooms, showers and almost every amenity imaginable. The capacity was around 37,000, but temporary seating was available behind the endzones if the stadium’s size needed an increase. 

At the final home game of the 1926 season, the university named the field Dyche Stadium in honor of the man chiefly responsible for making it happen. Northwestern’s board of trustees claimed it would be the name of the stadium and any others constructed on the site for as long as the university existed. The name remained through a Rose Bowl win, a 1949 renovation and three years of consecutive losses. 

Then, in 1997, it became Ryan Field. Apparently, perpetuity only lasts 70 years.

I’m Mack Jones, and this is The Field of Broken Dreams.


Mack Jones Heading into the 1996 football season, the Wildcats were coming off a Rose Bowl appearance and one of the most successful years in the team’s history. With three sellout crowds the prior season, Evanston was again behind the team. 

Unfortunately, the stadium had become decrepit and couldn’t easily accommodate its newfound popularity. It suffered from a small concourse, awful turf and unkept restrooms. The other spaces were no better. The “indoor practice facility” was just a 20-by-50-yard turfed area in the north end of Welsh-Ryan Arena. Northwestern was one of the best schools in the country academically, but athletically they couldn’t compete. 

Rick Morrissey Rick Morrissey, I was hired by the tribune in 1997. And covering Northwestern football was my first beat.

Mack Jones Morrissey graduated from the school in 1982, and the stadium was in just as poor shape then as in the ‘90s. The years of neglect were showing, and the last major renovation in 1949 wasn’t doing it for the student fanbase. Almost no one liked the place. Players hated the facilities. Head coach Gary Barnett despised showing recruits around because it was so bad.

Rick Morrissey I have to be honest here. You know, it was so bad, I hardly went to any games. I go back and look at, I can’t believe there were many people who went to the games and the fans who did go were probably from fans of the other team. I mean, that was right in the middle where they were setting an NCAA record for consecutive losses, whatever it turned out to be. So I didn’t go.

Henry Bienen Henry, B I E N E N

Mack Jones This is Henry Bienen, Northwestern’s president from 1995 to 2009.

Henry Bienen No sooner did I get there, then the AD, who was Rick Taylor, wanted to show me what was called Dyche Stadium. The stadium was in very poor shape. Elevators didn’t work. We went into the restrooms, and there was a half inch of water in the restrooms, ceilings were falling down. So it was very clear that the place really needed substantial work.

Mack Jones Bienen and the rest of the Northwestern administration created the Campaign for Athletic Excellence. It was a fundraiser project to raise money for a stadium renovation, a new indoor practice center and other sports-related facilities. Tons of things needed lots of money to construct, and even with the football team’s success, raising that much wasn’t easy.

Henry Bienen Annual giving all of a sudden went up a little bit, we started selling more T-shirts and sweatshirts. Though, again, people had an illusion. Students would come to me and sometimes say, ‘Oh, you make so much money selling Rose Bowl paraphernalia.’ I’d say, ‘You’re confusing Northwestern with Michigan.’ I think Rosebowl year, the revenues were maybe 800,000 or a million bucks, up a couple hundred thousand. And then, after the Citrus Bowl, they went right back down. We were never making a lot of money.

Mack Jones The university didn’t need to be, though. Patrick Ryan, the founder of the Aon Corporation and a billionaire, was chairman of Northwestern’s board of trustees. Ryan contributed around $10 million to the campaign, raising the total to 28. With the money situation sorted, Taylor announced the renovation to the stadium’s neighbors. 

There was a mixed response, but many in the Evanston area don’t remember any specific controversy surrounding any aspect of the stadium.

Daniel Kelch My name is Daniel Kelch, I own LuLu’s, Taco Diablo, Five and Dime, Blue Horse Tavern at 1026 Davis, Evanston. At that time, my parents lived right on central line, right across the street from the stadium, or just kitty corner to it, and they’ve always been very supportive of it.

Kevin Vedder My name is Kevin Vedder. I attended NU from 89 through 93. They did some seating renovations. You didn’t hear about it, you know?

Mack Jones Bienen didn’t recall too many pessimistic reactions either, but feelings were overwhelmingly negative among a portion of the Evanston community. Many felt Northwestern had gained more and more power over the years by subtly increasing its asks and then using precedent to argue for more. 

Yvi Russell My name is Yvi Russell.I’m the person who created the website, and the person who has all the original material on which the website is based on up in my attic.

Mack Jones Russell is an Evanston resident who has lived close to the stadium since she moved to the city. The material she referenced was for a website she helped create in response to the Campaign for Athletic Excellence, Spotlight on Evanston. The site documents the history of conflict between the City of Evanston, Evanston’s residents and Northwestern. It includes everything from NU buying cheap farmland to resell at a profit to the city in the 1850s to a recent battle over for-profit events only a few years ago. 

Yvi Russell I was very angry about that. And I did. That’s why I collected the material. We had a fight in 1996 with Northwestern. That’s when I went to City Hall and to the microfilm department and collected all the history that I could get my hands on it. It’s a long history. And so that’s why the old timers like us who have been through this, or who are who are reading the history. Not convinced of Northwestern’s good intention to the city.

Mack Jones Russell’s reasons are complicated and steeped in years of what felt like the city not listening and Northwestern not caring. It began in 1921. 

At that time, the city’s zoning code for Northwestern Field’s district stated the height limit was 35 feet, but it was changed to accommodate Northwestern. The new height limit was 80 feet for stadia operated and owned by Northwestern and used for educational or athletic purposes.

It wasn’t enough for the university. The original plans for Dyche Stadium had three tiers of seats, and those would have been impossible to fit under 80 feet unless they wanted fans’ legs dangling in front of everyone’s faces. 

When the City Council deliberated the change in 1925, Northwestern argued that since Dyche Stadium differed from inhabited buildings, it deserved to be exempt from the 1921 ordinance. The city agreed and amended the ordinance, and NU continued its plans for the stadium.

Even almost a century later, this decision frustrates Russell.

Yvi Russell Because there are people who are either in the pocket of Northwestern meaning that they either work for them or they have interests. There is just ignorance, apathy. There’s there’s all kinds of reasons including incompetence, include money under the table interests, or if not outright gifts.

Mack Jones In 1961, an elevator tower forced another ordinance change, justified as an extension of the previous variation. But the renovation in the ‘90s didn’t need a modified ordinance despite the stadium exceeding the new 125-foot limit by almost 20 feet. A homeowners group called North Evanston Watch appealed to the city, but nothing came of it. 

Brian Cox My name is Brian Cox, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune who covered Dyche Stadium back when it happened in the 1990s. People were a little bit surprised. It seems sometimes that a big institution like Northwestern often gets what it wants when it comes to zoning. And, you know, they’ve got a lot of lawyers, I’ve got a lot of people who used to work for the city who now work for Northwestern. And they seem to get what they wanted.

Mack Jones While Evanston residents were fussing over the height of the new stadium’s skyboxes, Northwestern continued to make progress on the stadium. Time was running out before the season opener, and the university didn’t want all of the season’s games to be in Soldier Field. 

However, it was a challenge to keep the focus on the Campaign for Athletic Excellence when there were so many other projects for Bienen and the university to keep track of. 

Henry Bienen Even before I came, there was a big renovation of the Technological Institute, that my predecessor had started.

Mack Jones That renovation dealt with cost overruns and required lots of time and energy to ensure its success. The final cost at the time was $125 million, more than four times the Dyche Stadium renovation.

Henry Bienen One thing I was determined from the experience of the renovation of the Technological Institute, don’t let people change the plans midway. That’s really expensive when we started, you know, altering, whatever plans. That’s, that’s a killer when you do that.

Mack Jones The Dyche Stadium renovation had none of those problems. It didn’t go too far over budget and was treated similarly to any other building’s renovation on campus. To Northwestern, it was the same process but with an athletic facility instead of an academic one. 

However, to some Evanston residents, there was a substantial difference because of parking, another issue Russell had with the stadium and its history.

Parking at the old Northwestern Stadium was only two dollars. That number steadily increased over the years along with the demand, but the size and quality of the lot didn’t, partially because Northwestern didn’t need to comply with some city laws since they built the lot before the code was in place. If the university redid the parking, it would have been forced to observe the city’s demands. 

This created a situation where renovating the parking lot would benefit Northwestern, the City of Evanston and its residents, but the university didn’t want to do it. Parking steadily got worse and worse, and it was even difficult for people like Cox just trying to cover the game.

Brian Cox They have a shuttle service from different parts of the city and delivers them to the stadium. So you can park on the campus a few miles from the stadium. And that helps, but on game days, forget about it. It’s just a traffic nightmare. The residential streets nearby are clogged with traffic and things like that. It is a bit of a problem.

Mack Jones People parked illegally in neighborhoods around the stadium on the lawns of residents. Northwestern and Bienen couldn’t overlook the problem, but there wasn’t an easy solution. They couldn’t expand the lot to other places in the neighborhoods because it was and is a residential area. They could only build up, and, in many ways, that was even worse. 

Henry Bienen You can’t go underground; it’s unbelievably expensive. The only alternative was to build vertically, and I never seriously considered it. It would be hard to get in and out of that. It would slow things up.

Mack Jones If the university constructed the parking garage, there would have been the same traffic flow issues as the current lot, but with three or four extra levels. A bottleneck would exist at each entrance and exit, and the building would have been more of an eyesore for residents than a stadium.

Henry Bienen So I was never very enthusiastic about it, and I don’t know how seriously we considered it. But that would have been the only way in that area.

Mack Jones Besides, an above-ground garage would likely have frustrated Dyche Stadium’s neighbors more than the current parking because of the traffic flow issues and lack of visual appeal. And Russell and other residents already have enough problems with the parking as it is. 

Yvi Russell There was no zoning done for the parking. So see, that’s a problem. And this is something we did not, as a neighborhood, pay attention to. People are very upset about that.

Mack Jones The renovation of Dyche Stadium didn’t do much to fix the parking problem, and while the residents didn’t fight on that issue, there was another one they grasped hold of. 

Henry Bienen We had to go out and raise money for it.

Mack Jones Part of the reason Bienen and Northwestern didn’t have financial issues when renovating the stadium was because of the generous donation from Ryan, and the university wanted to honor him in the same way they did for Dyche 70 years ago.

Henry Bienen I can’t tell you I was aware of everything Mr. Dyche did for Evanston or anything else. I think, you know, you’ve got your name on a building for 40 or 50 years, or 70 or 80. In this case, you know, more than 60, and if somebody else comes along and puts the money up for it or you’ve got to tear it down, I can tell you that’s very common.

Mack Jones In May 1997, Northwestern announced the name change from Dyche Stadium to Ryan Field. 

Henry Bienen I was sort of roasted in the press.

Mack Jones Cox was one of the people writing articles about the situation. 

Brian Cox A lot of people were, you know, a little bit taken aback. They figured this was something that the stadium would always be named. But it seems like in today’s world, you know, if you have enough money, you know, you can have any stadium changed to any name.

Mack Jones Northwestern’s former sports information director George Beres didn’t think that should have been the case. He felt like the university was throwing away tradition by changing the name, and he returned to Evanston to make his feelings known.

Beres stood outside the stadium, plucking petals off a symbolic rose. He chanted, “Northwestern will not return to the Rose Bowl until the name is reinstated.”

Henry Bienen He’s an idiot.

Mack Jones To be fair, Northwestern hasn’t returned to the Rose Bowl after Beres placed his curse, although he did lift it three years later when the Wildcats were in contention for a trip to Pasadena. 

Besides the curse, though, there wasn’t much controversy among the general public. Many people weren’t aware of Dyche’s history as a part of Northwestern and Evanston, and they didn’t react strongly. Morrissey, however, was curious if any of Dyche’s relatives cared. 

Rick Morrissey I tried to get in contact. Try to find anybody in the Dyche Family just to see what they felt about it. And I got a hold of a grand nephew. I think his name is Skyler. And he didn’t really care.

Mack Jones Morrissey was going through the same process Northwestern did. The university attempted to find living relatives, too. Dyche’s legacy mattered to the school, and Northwestern wanted to honor him despite the name change. For example, Bienen offered to put in a plaque acknowledging the stadium’s history. 

Henry Bienen We went to all the living relatives we could find, and I personally spoke to a bunch of them. Everybody was okay with this except for one gentleman.

Mack Jones That gentleman’s name was David Dyche, William’s grandson, and he claimed Northwestern never notified him of the change. There were others, too, that the search had missed. Schubert Dyche, a Chicago resident at the time, was also apparently not included. David Dyche said the university’s attempts were “weak” since they didn’t locate all the living relatives.

Mack Jones David Dyche was the I think grandson that you were talking about who’s against it? Yeah. He said that you guys like weren’t able to find him?

Henry Bienen That’s not true. That’s not my recollection. Isn’t it a while ago? That is not my recollection? We certainly do. I thought we reached out to everyone that we could. I mean, I don’t I wouldn’t want to swear, you know, on a Bible that I’ve got it right, that my memory is perfect. But I thought that everybody has been taught to or tried to talk to him. He was not okay with it. And he complained to the press.

Rick Morrissey My memory is that David Dyche, Williams Dyches’ grandson, somebody had sent him my story. He called me because he was upset. And he said, ‘It’’s not just that they’re changing the name. It’s that I have, I have the minutes of the meeting from 1926 where this is a proclamation from the, you know, the board of trustees that the stadium is going to be called Dyche Stadium in perpetuity whether the stadium is torn down or there’s new one, it has to be called Dyche Stadium. You have on one side, all these people who feel like, you know, history so disposable now, you know, we can just wipe it away with money.

Mack Jones But Dyche’s legacy is not defined by having his name on a stadium. He served as mayor of Evanston for a term and as Northwestern’s business manager in a period that saw the university go from a smaller-scale liberal arts college to one of the best research universities in the nation. His name is no longer on the stadium, but his impact on the school lives on.

The controversy eventually died down, and Northwestern carried on with the plan to honor Ryan as the stadium’s new benefactor. The university rarely struggled to build things with Bienen as president. However, they couldn’t understand some decisions made by the city.

Henry Bienen An argument that the city has made over the years, the city council, was that Northwestern had been taking buildings off the tax roll. Well, honestly, that wasn’t true.

Mack Jones Historically, Northwestern owned much more land and space than the current campus. Part of that was because the university bought cheap farmland and resold it to the city at a profit in the 1850s, but that practice ended years ago, and Bienen and Northwestern released land back onto the tax roll since then. 

Henry Bienen So, right across the street from the Roycemore school was a culinary school. And they were leaving, and they wanted me to buy the space. Very close to the university. And it was tempting to buy for expansion, and A, I didn’t want another hassle with the city, and B, I was very sensitive to taking, and by the way this space was already not for profit. I didn’t buy the land. And they put up a lot of housing on that land. So it wound up generating taxes.

Mack Jones Northwestern took the “city growth” idea literally. 

The east side of Sheridan Road is the side closest to Lake Michigan, with only the Northwestern campus and no residential area besides dorms. The university had fewer problems building over there partially because it didn’t use to exist. At one point, the space was all underwater. 

Until Northwestern constructed the lakefill, a large area of land reclaimed from Lake Michigan in the 60s by creating a wall of limestone blocks. 

Talk to expand the campus into the lake had been around for almost forever. The idea first surfaced in the 1890s, returned in the 1930s, and then Northwestern formally announced a plan in 1960.

It took two years to get approval from the City of Evanston, the Illinois State Legislature and even the U.S. Army. When the university completed the project, it almost doubled the size of the campus and became home to distinguished Northwestern buildings such as the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts; the Norris Center, which hosts various student groups; the Kellogg School of Management and numerous sports facilities.

Bienen always considered the city’s interests when making decisions for Northwestern to an extent, but Evanston wasn’t making it easy. 

For example, when there was a disagreement over a zoning law violation on the west side of Sheridan Road, and that disagreement escalated into a much larger problem.

Bienen threatened to take the city to court, which neither party wanted, but that was what it had come to. Bienen, an arbitrator and three city council members entered Bienen’s office in a last-ditch effort to prevent a worst-case scenario from playing out.

Henry Bienen We sat and discussed what we’re going to do. And we shook hands on an agreement. I can’t remember the specifics of the agreement. And then the three of them went to the city council. And two of the three of them voted against the agreement they had agreed to in my office.

Mack Jones Bienen got back in touch with the members, curious about their decision-making. 

Henry Bienen And they said, ‘Well, when we were in your office, we were one thing. When we went to the city council, we were in the city council.’ I said you were in my office because you were the city council. You were not in my office because you were the boys band, or the heritage club or whatever it might be. This is ridiculous that you shake hands with me and then vote against an agreement we shook hands on. And I’ve been around local, state national politicians a lot in my life. I don’t recall that happening before.

Mack Jones It was less about the zoning issue and more about the city going back on its word.

Henry Bienen I can’t tell you precisely what the zoning agreement was. I can’t remember.

Mack Jones But when 1800 Sherman was up for sale, the spurned Bienen jumped at the opportunity to purchase it. And Northwestern did take it off the tax roll. The disagreement turned agreement turned disagreement again and had lasting consequences for the city. 

Henry Bienen I’m happy to put money into the city, but what I won’t do is subsidize your budget.

Mack Jones Bienen didn’t subsidize the city’s budget and instead worked on continuing renovations for buildings around Northwestern’s campus, including the football stadium. 

Night games were another change brought about by the Ryan Field renovation, but it wasn’t always supposed to be that way. At an event announcing the renovation, residents around the stadium asked Athletic Director Rick Taylor if there would be any night games at Ryan Field.

“No, we do not intend to play night games,” he said in response to the question. 

Out of the 31 night games ever held in Ryan Field or Dyche Stadium, 26 were after the renovation, and Russell is well aware of that fact.

Yvi Russell But you see, Northwestern never says we will not and we will promise in writing. They say we have no intention. Dave Davis said in 2019, on council or during the other meeting, said, clearly, ‘We’re not gonna come back and two years from now, and asked this of the stadium.’ And in one of the meetings, I told him, ‘You’re perfectly honest, you didn’t come after two years, you came after three years to ask.’ That’s Northwestern.

Mack Jones One of the worst things for some residents is that they didn’t feel Northwestern or the city heard them out. That was true in the ‘90s and more recently, too. At City Council meetings, Evanston residents get three minutes to voice their opinions on things happening in the city. If there are too many speakers, the council could cut that time in half to 90 seconds. Russell was frustrated by this, and she brought it up to Evanston’s mayor, Daniel Biss.

Yvi Russell He said to me, “Yvi, I don’t think that the council floor should be a place for public comment.

Daniel Biss My name is Daniel Biss. We may be involved in a game of telephone.

Mack Jones City Council meetings are long, often extending over three hours, but there are also committee meetings and sections behind closed doors where the council must be present. If 90 people speak at public comment and all get the full minute and a half, that time cuts into the city’s ability to make rational decisions before 1 a.m.

Daniel Biss I think the meetings need to be managed in a way that respects everybody. But I’m going to stand by my position there. I think if we were to change the rules to allow public comment to go longer, there would be a very clear downside, both in terms of the work product of the city council, which is like ultimately the most important thing, but also, frankly, the public not only has the right to give a comment, but also to watch the city council meeting.

Mack Jones If meetings are going into the early morning after a Monday night, that limits who can watch the council and understand the changes coming to Evanston.

Daniel Biss Just because the state law obligates us to have public comment doesn’t mean that’s the best way for a member of the public to have their voice be heard. If you want to say a thing on the public record on YouTube into a microphone at city council because you think it’ll have a particular effect to do it that way. No harm, no foul. That’s great. The state law told us do that. But don’t think that just because a state law entitles you to do that, that’s the best way to get your point across. For people who want an hour long meeting with me with back and forth. That’s awesome. Send me an email, and I’ll schedule it. But public comment isn’t the place for that.

Mack Jones The mayor and other members of the City Council, to their credit, have been very open to discussing Ryan Field with anyone who reaches out. To Russell, that’s not enough. 

Yvi Russell The people involved in this were people like me who are not afraid to speak up and be aggressive in their speech. In other words, they don’t mince words. I discovered in 2019, people want to be polite. You can’t be polite to somebody who spits in your face. What are you gonna say? Oh, I’m sorry. It’s sort of wet.

Mack Jones There was one time when residents spat back. It was January 1996, and Northwestern applied to amend an Evanston zoning ordinance to host a professional tennis tournament in Welsh-Ryan, the Ameritech Cup.

The tournament was WTA-affiliated and played on indoor carpet courts at the UIC Pavilion, now Credit Union 1 Arena. The event was held every year from 1971 to 1997 in Chicago and featured iconic players like Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and Margaret Court.

Some residents believed that if the university was allowed to host professional tennis, it was a slippery slope to higher-capacity events such as a concert in Ryan Field. 

In 1977, Northwestern attempted to host another tennis event, a World TeamTennis match. The tournament usually took place during the summer months, but that August was when the City Council was going to decide if it could take place in Evanston at all.

The Zoning Board of Appeals recommended that the council allow the match. But Evanston denied variation of the zoning ordinance, saying that the change would detract from the essential character of the surrounding neighborhood, depreciate property values and increase the danger of fire and public safety.

Many Evanston residents and businesses wanted the same outcome with the Ameritech Cup.

Yvi Russell Northwestern didn’t see us coming.

Mack Jones Russell went door to door with a petition against the tournament and collected signatures from around 90% of businesses in the Sixth and Seventh Wards along the Central St. corridor. 

Yvi Russell Northwestern wanted their professional tennis, and we opposed it. And we won against Northwestern.

Mack Jones The City Council, influenced by Russell’s petition, denied Northwestern’s request to amend the zoning law. Evanston didn’t host professional tennis, and the tournament ceased to exist a year later.

Henry Bienen I was actually both surprised and frankly, quite annoyed because you were not going to have 40,000 people. You would have had a few thousand people. And at the same time, they wanted to have craft shows there to use it. And after that we dissalowed a craft show. As I recall, it was a nuisance for us when we did it from time to time to be accommodating. But you know, you can’t have it both ways. I’m a tennis player. I was startled by it. I recall it very well. I found honestly the city very unpredictable.

Mack Jones The stadium’s neighbors couldn’t replicate the result of the tennis tournament with the stadium renovation. There was no final push, and the university continued with its plans like a freight train, unshakable.

Yvi Russell We were exhausted. I mean, we had this fight, which took us months and months to fight. And when you fight it hard, you’re exhausted. I don’t think that we put up a great fight for the renovation.

Mack Jones The only difficulty Northwestern found was making sure it opened on time. 

Northwestern officially completed the Ryan Field renovation in the fall of 1997, and the first game in the renamed stadium was against Duke on Sept. 13. There were new and slightly expanded seating spaces, a widened concourse, a return to natural grass, a new press box and a lot more, costing $22 million total. Since then, the field has fallen into disrepair, but it was a sight to behold right after the renovation.

Henry Bienen The university got stronger. Better, is what makes me proud. We preserved strength where we had it. And we found new strength, you know, we built on things, and I think it’s just recognized as one of America’s greatest research universities, but it’s preserved teaching. So I think I did my job.

Mack Jones Northwestern thought so too, and the university wanted to honor Bienen for his hard work as president. The music school needed a new name, and it’s one of the best in the country. It would have been a great tribute. Bienen retired from his position, and in 2008, Northwestern introduced the world to the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music. 

Henry Bienen I’m very proud that the trustees named the music school for my wife, and for me, I mean, probably the single greatest pleasure for us is that there’s a school named in our honor.

Mack Jones Bienen and Northwestern had everything. They often took advantage of the city’s leeway, and who could blame them? The council spurned them at times, too. It frustrated some residents, but it was a give-and-take. Win some, lose some. 

For Northwestern fans, going to the stadium has always been a lose-lose. That’s next time on the Field of Broken Dreams.


Mack Jones The Field of Broken Dreams is a podcast from The Evanstonian, the student newspaper at Evanston Township High School. It’s advised by John Phillips with executive editors Jilian Denlow, Clara Gustafson and Sophia Sherman. The Field of Broken Dreams is reported and produced by me, Mack Jones, with help from Isaac Suarez Flint. Our theme music is by Sam Persell. 

The final mix of this episode was done by me. 

We have seven more episodes coming. You’ll be able to find them all on our website,, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can find more stories about Northwestern and other events pertaining to Evanston there, too. Again, it’s 

Special thanks to everyone interviewed, Northwestern University and the Evanston City Council.

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Mack Jones
Mack Jones, Opinion Editor, Digital Content Editor
Hi! My name is Mack Jones, and I’m the Opinion and Co-Digital Editor on The Evanstonian. This is my second year on staff; last year, I was a staff writer, primarily for News. Outside of the paper, I play tennis, guitar and piano and referee for AYSO.
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