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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 7: The Events

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 All there are are parking lots. 

As far as the eye could see, it was a hellish landscape on a warm fall day in Houston. It’s not exactly news; Texas was hot enough before climate change. So maybe hellish is a bad way to describe it. Really, the most interesting thing was the lot’s emptiness. Sure, there were lines on the ground marking spaces and the occasional light fixture that looked ripped from a nearby highway, but other than that, it was as desolate and barren as the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night.

There’s a stadium, but it’s easy to miss. The dome’s the same color as the asphalt surrounding it, and it looks more like a walled-off prison than anything else. It’s the Astrodome: a State Antiquities Landmark and the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” It had the benefit of being the first air-conditioned indoor stadium on opening in 1965, but in the end, that did it more of a disservice than anything else. 

The Astrodome started becoming obsolete less than 30 years after its construction due to a lack of successful investment into the stadium’s improvement and the creation of other, better, domed arenas. During the stadium’s heyday, it housed the NFL, the MLB and the NBA all under one roof, a scheduling nightmare; by the turn of the century, there were only some scattered special events and no permanent residents.

In 2008, the fire department declared the Astrodome non-compliant with fire codes, killing whatever remained of the stadium’s viability as a venue. Since then, Houston’s used it for almost nothing. They can’t tear it down since it’s on the National Register of Historic Places and has a state historical designation, but they can’t use it either. Voters turned down a $213 million referendum to renovate it into a convention center in 2013. A judge threw out the possibility of turning it into more parking in 2019. It’s a waste of space now, but it was special in its prime.

The wavy lines from heat drifted off the ground, refracting the light like a campfire on a cold night. In 1973, those lines came from the bright flashing of cameras not wanting to miss a moment of the event inside the Astrodome.

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


Mack Jones Parking wasn’t a problem, even for one of the most attended tennis matches of all time – the Battle of the Sexes, King vs. Riggs, a tennis match where the stakes were higher than just a trophy.

King was in her prime in ‘73, coming off three grand slams the prior year and a Wimbledon triple-crown to start the second half of the current one.

That didn’t mean she got respect. The women’s rights movement in the U.S. had progressed significantly throughout the early 70s with Title IX’s passing and the Roe v. Wade decision, but the wage gap was at its largest ever recorded, and Title IX proved almost impossible to enforce.

King’s competitor, Bobby Riggs, had had a solid career. He played in the 30s and 40s, obtaining a World No. 1 ranking in amateur and professional play. He won the U.S. Open and Wimbledon and made the finals of the French. But the man hadn’t played at a high level in 20 years. Now, he was a self-described hustler and male chauvinist who despised women’s tennis.

So he challenged King to a match, claiming women were so bad that even he, a 55-year-old out-of-shape former player, could win against the best in the game. King initially declined, not wanting to give a platform to Riggs, but King’s rival, Margaret Court, accepted. 

She got smoked in straight sets. The final score was 6-2, 6-1, in what became known as the “Mother’s Day Massacre.”

And King could no longer shrug off Riggs’ challenge. She later explained that at the time, she thought if she didn’t walk away with a win, it would set women back 50 years, ruin the tour and affect all women’s self-esteem.

Howard Cosell What a scene it is, the Houston Astrodome where up till now they’ve played almost every sport in the world except tennis. And tonight it’s tennis. Not Wimbledon variety, not Forest Hills variety, but in this panoramic scene happening a wild scene almost reminiscent of college football with the celebrities present, with the big band here, with dancing cheerleaders and all of the rest. That’s the way it is for the Battle of the Sexes, Billie Jean King against Bobby Riggs.

Mack Jones Riggs came onto the court in a rickshaw, wearing a warm-up jacket with the words “Sugar Daddy” adorning the back. He kept it on in the first three games – a sign of his scorn for the women’s game. 

John Newcombe I think Bobby must start as the favorite of the match. He’s got a little bit too much control of the ball and know-how for the girls. Billie Jean’ll put up a fine match, I think it’ll be a good a good contest, but I think Bobby to win in three or four sets.

Mack Jones ABC broadcasted the event to an estimated audience of over 90 million, a tennis record that still stands and more than that year’s Super Bowl.

Howard Cosell If Billie Jean can keep Bobby running, and so far, she’s been able to do it on her service, I think she could wear him down.

Gene Scott It’s a long match Howard, three out of five sets.

Rosie Casals She definitely has an advantage, I think she hits through the ball. She certainly hits a lot more than Margaret. Margaret really couldn’t hit through Bobby, and Billie Jean has the ability to hit right through him.

Howard Cosell We’re at game point here.

Rosie Casals She has the ability to ace also.

Howard Cosell As she just did, and it’s two games to one Billie Jean King already.

Mack Jones King won the first set 6-4 after mostly ignoring Riggs’ antics, and she took the second 6-3, playing patiently and running Riggs around the court.

Riggs had barely been able to get his first serve in all day, and down 5-3 in the third set, he hit a double fault on deuce.

Riggs missed his first serve again.

Gene Scott Third match point for Billie Jean King.

Mack Jones His second went to King’s forehand, and he rushed the net, employing a serve-and-volley strategy. It was a good play, and King’s chipped return should have been an easy winner off a high backhand volley with King in no man’s land.

Howard Cosell It is over!

Mack Jones Riggs’ last shot went into the net, and King took the match in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Following the final point, Riggs went to the net and reportedly whispered, “I underestimated you,” to her.

King hoisted the trophy in the air in front of five tiers of almost sold-out seats, earning the winner-takes-all $100,000 prize.

From there, King continued her legendary tennis career after being instrumental in the creation of the WTA earlier in June and then threatening to boycott the U.S. Open to get equal prize money in July. Beating Riggs capped off a year where she may not have won the most slams but still had one of the most successful seasons to date.

Soon after the match, King helped to create World TeamTennis, a mixed-gender professional league held during the summer. She began by securing pro players for the untraditional tournament, one she would compete in herself.

And while World TeamTennis wasn’t as successful as many had hoped, it hung around in the back as casual entertainment for starved tennis fans.

In January 2019, more than 40 years after its creation, the tournament approached Northwestern. 

The league had just bumped up its prize money and was looking for a place to play for an expansion team, the Chicago Smash. World TeamTennis wanted Welsh-Ryan Arena, and they made their proposal to the university.

But with the City of Evanston’s zoning laws, Northwestern couldn’t accept the offer, and they never held the event. The Smash instead played their home matches in Credit Union 1 Arena, previously known as the UIC Pavillion.

To Northwestern, it was a missed opportunity that sparked a much larger movement. Galvanized by the proposal, they wanted to change Evanston’s zoning laws. 

They wanted for-profit events.

To do that was going to take an immense amount of effort. Evanston, unlike Houston, actually has zoning laws, and they aren’t easy to change.

But Evanston architect Mike Hauser deals with the restrictions daily and has learned to love them.

Mike Hauser Zoning is in place for a reason. You and your parents, if you want to put an addition on the back of your house, there are many, many steps if zoning does not allow for it.

Mack Jones It’s an intense process. Residents must come up with the correct legal jargon for the application, submit it and then pray the city council doesn’t vote it down. 

Mike Hauser I mean, this is just a sacred tenet of civilization. They can’t put an airport in the middle of a city because of zoning. They can’t put a tannery or a farm next to a school. They can’t put a steel factory next to a hospital. That’s why our city works well. Because of zoning.

Mack Jones It’s a slow, methodical process that requires an astronomical amount of meetings and energy. But zoning can create an environment where everyone thrives, despite disagreements here and there over porch lights and fence heights.

Of course, there’s a large difference between a lamp and a stadium floodlight, with the level of disagreement scaling accordingly.

Frustrations compound, especially when many Northwestern officials don’t understand Evanston’s motivations with zoning.

The city council has had its reasons. It’s their job to be a conduit for residents, and for Second Ward Alderperson Krissie Harris, a lot of the confusion on Northwestern’s behalf came from that.

Krissie Harris Town-gown situations are hard. It’s not unique to Evanston and Northwestern. We just keep navigating that as it comes along. What can we provide Northwestern, whether that’s things, resources, support? And when I say we, again, it’s not just the city, it’s the residents. 

But at the same time, Northwestern, what can you provide? Sometimes I get two slices, and you only get one, sometimes you get two, and I only get one. We’re in this together.

Mack Jones Harris has experienced city politics as a resident and an alderperson; she’s only held the position for around a year but has lived in the Second Ward for 23.

Krissie Harris A town-gown situation is always tricky for any institution to be good neighbors and neighbors to be good to the institution. That’s a very thin line anywhere you go. And I think sports, entertainment, all of that is just an added plus to.

Mack Jones Cooperation is a common theme among city council members. 

Sure, special events like concerts are cool, but there needs to be a balance between what the city wants, what the university wants and what the people want.

Eighth Ward Alderperson Devon Reid, formerly the City Clerk, grew up in Evanston and has seen past city councils work on striking that balance.

Devon Reid Northwestern has truly added to the fabric of this community. But also, this community has been a major part of Northwestern’s success as well. I think we need to just continue that relationship, that symbiotic relationship and ensure that we’re both getting what we need out of it.

Mack Jones After months of labor by Northwestern, they finally felt ready to reveal the for-profit plans to the community. Evanston and Wilmette residents gathered inside Welsh-Ryan Arena’s Wilson Club on July 23, 2019, to hear about a proposed amendment to Evanston’s Permitted Uses Ordinance. Northwestern formally stated that it wanted to host professional and commercial events in the U2 district.

Around 90 community members attended the meeting, and nearly all were against the events proposal. Dave Davis, executive director of neighborhood and community relations for Northwestern, had to sit through a third of the residents present publicly address the event organizers through increasingly irritated statements.

So, in an attempt to cool residents down, Davis and Northwestern removed Ryan Field from the proposal, limiting the changes to only Welsh-Ryan Arena. The strategy didn’t work very well.

Laurie McFarlane Whatever they get, they will always want more. One of my favorite clips from two years ago is the Northwestern spokesperson, standing before the city council and saying that Northwestern had no plan to ever hold concerts.

Mack Jones Laurie McFarlane is a neighbor of the U2 district on the Evanston side, but the plans frustrated many Wilmette residents too. The arena borders the village but isn’t in it, meaning Wilmette doesn’t directly benefit from games or events in the district. Davis said he planned to meet with community members from the area and village officials but didn’t offer anything concrete. 

The proposal allowed seven events per calendar year at Welsh-Ryan Arena in a two-year pilot program, but residents were concerned about what it could turn into. They believed Northwestern’s pilot could quickly become permanent, especially if the city granted an extension off the back of a successful first two years.

Brian Cox They start asking, I think for 10 special events a year, but, you know, five years that could be 120. When we look at the size of that stadium, and you know how nice it is, I mean, they could be having some real ace, a star X in there, some really big X in there. 

That’s millions of millions of dollars a year that can be generated for Northwestern, and in all they’re doing is paying a few $100 for a special event permit or something like that.

Mack Jones Chicago Tribune writer Brian Cox has been around Evanston politics since the 90s when he was part of the Evanston City Hall beat, and, despite the zoning laws, there have been dozens of concerts at Welsh-Ryan Arena since then.

They’re one of the things that nearby neighbor David DeCarlo worried most about in his comments to Fox-32.

David DeCarlo Our view is, what’s really at stake here is the community gets to decide what our future looks like here in Evanston instead of a billionaire donor that’s trying to put his name on a shiny new stadium.

Mack Jones Fiona McCarthy, another Evanston resident, can see the stadium from her front door.

Fiona McCarthy My concern is that Northwestern is looking to expand the use of the property to operate as a commercial business. They are not a for-profit entity. They’re supposed to be a university and nonprofit.

Mack Jones On Oct. 28, 2019, months after the ordinance first came up, Evanston officially reopened the discussion about for-profit events at Welsh-Ryan Arena, and residents weren’t happy.

They flocked to the public comment section, hoping to kill the text amendment before it could even get off the ground. All that was going to be voted on that day was the introduction of the item, but that was enough for 18 of the 23 Evanston residents who commented at the meeting to have spoken against it.

There were many familiar faces. Yvi Russell, who initially spoke against a renovation of McCulloch Park.

Yvi Russell There also is suspicion among us that such a figure is being floated to possibly modify the stadium neighborhood, perpetuate the false impression of neighborhood privilege and showcase this part for the U2 crowds.

Mack Jones McFarlane.

Laurie McFarlane It’s not just the danger that Northwestern to take the engine and go for a mile, when it comes back it actually has to do with all of you facing demands from organizations in your wards who will say to you, ‘Northwestern is a private, non-profit, theoretically, entity. If they have facilities and you let them commercialize and monetize those facilities, we want to do the same thing.’ You’re opening up zoning into more of a wild west thing when you’re not looking at the standards that apply to that kind of use.

Mack Jones Mike Vasilko, Ken Proskie, Mary Rosinski. It was a who’s who of Evanston residents who hated living by the stadium.

Laurie McFarlane They could be concerts, they could be rallies, they could be horse shows.

Mack Jones That was McFarlane, although not at the meeting, and the university did attempt to hold a horse show at the stadium in 1976, but the Illinois Circuit Court shut that down after a six-day trial.

Laurie McFarlane Our experience in the past has been that if we change the ordinance to allow other stuff, that tends to get out of hand. It becomes very difficult to control. Northwestern can actually raise an argument that if we’ve let them do one small set of things, that implicitly allows them to do other things. And so it’s very hard to figure out where to draw a line other than just keep it at just keep it not-for-profit.

Mack Jones Due to Hauser’s experience with zoning laws, he knows better than most the effects of amending them.

Mike Hauser What’s the endgame here, to remove as many zoning restrictions as possible, so that this thing can become a full-time entertainment venue that is a money machine for Northwestern?

Mack Jones Evanston neighbors began to take action by spreading awareness in the community. That was all they really could do besides speak at council meetings. 

For example, Judy Berg wrote a guest essay in the Evanston RoundTable shouting at residents to shout at their alderperson to “Say no to NU” on behalf of six different groups: North Evanston Watch, a group Berg was president of, Asbury Northwestern Neighbors, Evanston Neighbors Against Pro Sports, Evanston Economists for Growth, Northwestern and Spotlight on Evanston.

It was published in the middle of October 2019, in preparation for a crucial city council meeting a few weeks later.

At most of those council meetings, special committees meet in sessions before the main event. At the Oct. 28 meeting, the Planning and Development Committee met to discuss, among other things, Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan application. Third Ward Alderperson Melissa Wynne was on the committee that night.

Melissa Wynne The burden of proof is on the applicant to demonstrate that every element is met. I don’t hear anything from Northwestern that that has been met. Simply saying that the Welsh-Ryan Arena was designed to be soundproof and designed for these events does not tell me how that is compatible with the comprehensive general plan. Northwestern has not presented evidence to that effect.

Mack Jones After a thorough, five-hour discussion within the committee, Ordinance 135-O-19 finally surfaced in the consent agenda from the regular meeting three hours in.

Robin Rue Simmons The Plan Commission recommends approval of a text amendment to the zoning ordinance to revise language regarding permitted uses in the U2 university athletic facilities district for introduction.

Steve Hagerty Alright, Ordinance 135-O-19 passes for introduction, the Evanston City Council on a 6-3 vote.

Mack Jones Northwestern now just needed to wait a couple more weeks for the item to return to the agenda, and then they would know the result of their near-year-long saga.

The few residents who remained remained displeased with the decision.

A crucial externality that baffled them was noise levels, but the council didn’t discuss them. Actually, the council didn’t discuss anything related to Welsh-Ryan when the ordinance came up. 

At least noise levels aren’t bad during games because not many people show up. Welsh-Ryan neighbor Emily Levin used to live by Ravinia and had to deal with getting frequent free concerts.

Emily Levin When games let out, I hear people yelling and stuff, but it’s not like people having an argument, t’s just people excited. So usually, it doesn’t bother me, and it’s only really with big games. I knew there was a stadium when I moved here. It’s really not that disruptive, and if it’s ever loud when I’m trying to sleep I can just play white noise or something.

Mack Jones Most people around the stadium live with the noise, including Russell.

Yvi Russell When there was that, there was an event in Evanston. Several weeks ago, on a weekend. It was an event celebrating some sort of ethnic group. And they had music.

Mack Jones The event Russell mentioned is the Umbrella Arts Festival, held around two miles from the stadium at Fountain Square in downtown Evanston from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event celebrates Asian, South Asian and Pacific Island Americans, and this year took place on Saturday, May 13.

Yvi Russell I could hear the music in my backyard. My husband thought it was neighbors putting on the radio. That was the same day that their dog died. He said, ‘That’s weird that they would put music up and celebrate when the dog is dying in the yard.’ It wasn’t them. So this concert noise is going to penetrate far more than just my house. It’s going to go penetrate a much larger area.

Mack Jones “Free” isn’t the right word to describe the concerts residents could get from the U2 district. In many ways, it’s more of a tax.

Yvi Russell So let’s say that you are in my living room, and you put on Pink Floyd, I happen to like Pink Floyd, I will greatly enjoy it. I may not enjoy it at 11 o’clock at night because I like to sleep, but if you have Pink Floyd four blocks away in a building, it won’t come out as nice as in your living room. It’s gonna be distorted. But secondly, why do I have to digest music that maybe this generation likes or music that a certain group of people likes? And I might not?

Mike Hauser This is not even a serious proposal. This is a business school project that is pie in the sky of how can we make the university the most money imaginable with no concern whatsoever for the impact on the community? It’s an amateur proposal, and somehow PR people are spinning it in a way that is incredibly dubious and actually very successful.

Mack Jones Hauser’s lived close to the stadium for 20 years. If the football games really bothered him that much, he’d just move, so the issue is primarily the special events.

Fortunately, Welsh-Ryan Arena is enclosed, so the noise argument didn’t play a critical factor when the city council discussed holding events in the basketball arena. Conversations from that period mainly revolved around traffic congestion and unwanted behavior.

At a council meeting, Seventh Ward Alderperson Eleanor Revelle proposed three amendments to address some of those concerns. 

The first amendment passed unanimously and required sponsors of a temporary event to provide written notice to residents living within 500 feet of the event site at the same time they applied for the event. 

Another amendment restricted activities related to the events. None could occur between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. from Sunday evening to Friday morning or between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. from Friday evening to Sunday morning. 

The third amendment added a sentence at the end of the proposal stipulating that it would not create a precedent for future users in the U-2 District. But the fear of that still exists.


Mack Jones Students packed the Norris Center at Northwestern University. Lines extended from the information desk in the modernist building and onto the Lakefill. Most Northwestern students were familiar with the center since it housed most of the school’s student groups, but those rarely attracted that kind of attention.

The vines creeping up the center’s exterior could have kept track of time. Architect Edward Dart designed the structure in 1971, and in the four years since then, greenery took hold of the boxy design.

It was nature’s way of reclaiming the environment. The building and students stood in what used to be all Lake Michigan, but since Northwestern created a seawall of limestone to block off the water, it was all solid ground.

Students swarmed the place. The line at Norris moved along, and people filed at the information desk to get tickets. At what once was a beach, staff now sold admission to a Beach Boys concert for Friday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. 

The band was enjoying a 60s nostalgia-fueled renaissance. Their joint tour with Chicago sold out six nights at the old Chicago Stadium, and after the combined run of concerts concluded, the Beach Boys made their way to Evanston. 

Activities and Organizations Productions, A&O for short, planned the event. Blood, Sweat and Tears played the first concert set up by A&O in McGaw Hall in 1970, and in the future, massive acts ranging from Bob Dylan to Ye went to NU’s campus. 

Tickets for the Beach Boys were $6.50, but students got a dollar off. At the time, A&O was still relatively small, and unforeseen circumstances forced the organization to postpone the show to Nov. 15, with two concerts instead of one. 

The day of, a line formed from McGaw Hall to Central Street. People snaked along the west side of the then-called Dyche Stadium, past the parking lot next to the archways on Ashland.

The smell of Mustard’s Last Stand wafted to those waiting for the first show at 4 p.m. The line to get in was even longer than the one to get tickets, and some people had been there for almost forever.

A gentle breeze made waiting more bearable. It was the perfect fall day, a little warm for November, but it reminded students of the summer. Besides, it was the Beach Boys, a band that wrote songs about everything vacation. It’s tough to find a group that represents the season better.

Almost all conditions on the day were perfect, but fans became impatient. They waited for the tickets, had the show postponed, and now they had to wait even more on the day of the actual concert. 

Residents had to deal with the worst of it. Some had to chase people out of bushes. Others had to stop patrons from defecating in corners. Any cries for help went ignored by Northwestern and Evanston, as reports at the NU president’s weekly staff meeting claimed the event went off with no arrests and very little damage.

It was the first time the band got around to performing in Evanston, 2,000 miles from their California home, but there wasn’t much special when compared to their shows in Chicago.

The concert wasn’t entirely in keeping with the clean image of the band throughout the sixties, but it succeeded in bringing waves of nostalgia to those in attendance.

People left the venue for the parking lot to drive back home, unaware of the unwanted behavior experienced by those living around the arena. McGaw Hall didn’t sell alcohol, but some patrons still found ways to act drunk. 

And everyone had to do it again for the 9:30 show.

There was the same line outside the stadium for the late show – the same behavioral problems. And it was later at night, so the sound caused more of a disturbance to neighbors trying to sleep. 

At an Evanston Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, residents described the show as, “disregarding the people and a danger to public health and safety.” But only three years later, there was another, larger concert: Bruce Springsteen and the original E Street Band.


Mack Jones There have consistently been events held in McGaw Hall, now known as Welsh-Ryan Arena, but almost all of them have come with a consequence.

In late May 1972, Northwestern hosted the second annual “Spring Thing” carnival and music festival on campus. There was a disagreement between two individuals at the event, and it escalated. A large group began throwing rocks and bottles at each other, and 25 people were injured.

Northwestern canceled the event in response to the violence.

A year later, a group of self-described hippies held the first-ever Dillo Day, a spring music festival that has hosted massive artists like Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and Playboi Carti. 

Northwestern students and Evanston residents generally recognize Dillo Day as a beloved tradition, but there can sometimes be too much of a good thing. 

Yvi Russell I talked to a young man who liked the concerts. And I said to him, ‘Where do you live?’ And he says, ‘I live in the First Ward.’ I said to him, ‘Would you like to have Dillo Day 60 days a year?’

Mack Jones It’s worth mentioning that Russell lives in the Seventh Ward and hasn’t experienced drunken behavior from Dillo Day.

Yvi Russell And so he said, ‘No, but that’s not what Northwestern is asking at all. He wouldn’t believe me. He just won’t believe me. He thinks, ‘Oh, it’s never gonna come to that.’ They’re just asking for a lot, and they’re not gonna do much.

Mack Jones Revelle’s amendments attempted to lessen Northwestern’s request, so with those approved, the final discussion for concerts at Welsh-Ryan Arena began on Nov. 11, 2019. Evanston residents again came out in large numbers to express displeasure with the plans.

Andy Berman Hi, I’m Andy Berman and since this is Evanston and there are a minimum of five or six lawyers per block, we’ve arranged a few of them to speak to you.

Mack Jones Berman and some other Evanston residents had gotten a bunch of their lawyer friends to speak in the public comment section in addition to the ever-present resident voices.

Andy Berman More disturbing to us than the actions of Northwestern, which historically just tries to monetize their property every so often, is how the elected officials and staff of the City of Evanston have denied hundreds of taxpaying, voting citizens any semblance of due process.

Mack Jones According to Berman, the city’s decision that the proposal was a text amendment rather than a map amendment to the zoning code was legally erroneous.

Andy Berman No one on the planning commission or the council has questioned or addressed the staff’s determination. Once this became a fait accompli, the proposal was on a fast track to approval.

Mack Jones Because of its status as a text amendment, notice requirements were minimal, and it only needed a simple majority for approval rather than a three-fourths vote if it were otherwise.

Andy Berman At every step of this process, the opponents of this proposal were denied due process. As Alderman Wynne so eloquently stated at the meeting two weeks ago, “Northwestern was never held to their burden of proof, was never required to bring forth actual evidence that the proposal would not violate the standards of the code.

Mack Jones That was the bell going off to notify Berman that his time at the podium was running out.

Andy Berman The citizens were severely limited in the time they were allowed to present evidence and arguments creating a farcical scene where speakers had to speed-read statements about a very complex and impactful proposal and our expert witnesses were unable to fully testify. We sincerely wish that this proposal had gone through a process in a fair and deliberate manner but fitting of an issue [with] potentially damaging effects on our neighborhoods. Since we feel strongly that we have not been afforded an adequate opportunity to be heard, it appears that our only may be to have a court in the Daley Center, give us that opportunity. Thank you.

Mack Jones But the public comment has limited power compared to those they speak to, and not much came of the court threat. First Ward Alderperson Judy Fiske was one of the first of the council to speak when the issue eventually came up later in the meeting.

Judy Fiske It’s our job to sort of untangle the web of comments that have been made, some of which are perfectly on point and some of which are outside of our review on this application. But I just wanted to make it clear, not only did I watch live the Plan Commission meeting, being the liaison to the Plan Commission, but also twice more and that was almost a five-hour meeting because I was concerned about some of the comments from people about not having process, not having an opportunity to speak and about how the Commission handled its review of the standards. Whether or not there was any reference to, for example, a traffic analysis or other questions. There was. It may not be exactly what you wanted, and it was very brief, but the Commission made decisions based on individual standard and talked about them.

Mack Jones Johanna Leonard, the Community Development Director, was also present at the meeting.

Judy Fiske Director Leonard, I would just like to confirm with you in the zoning ordinance under 6 – 3 – 4 – 6 the procedure for review and decision of proposed amendments which talks about the petition to amend the text of the zoning ordinance whether that was followed.

Johanna Leonard Yes it was. Confirmed.

Mack Jones The City had done everything right up to that point. That didn’t stop Revelle from criticizing them.

Eleanor Revelle I’m going to monopolize the microphone for a little while. To go back to my big concerns about the text amendment, our city code sets forth standards for approval of amendments to the zoning code, and it charges the city council very expressly with considering these factors in determining quote whether to adopt or deny or to adopt some modification of the plan commission’s recommendation. 

So thinking back to the plan commission’s meeting, they had a very only a very cursory discussion of the standards, and Northwestern has not even attempted to demonstrate that its proposed amendment is quote compatible with the overall character of existing development in the immediate vicinity of the subject property end quote.

So we’ve had a huge outcry from the neighbors of the U2 district, and I believe they need a response. And I don’t think we’ve had one, certainly from Northwestern.

In 1977, as just one example, the city council denied Northwestern’s petition for a variation to permit professional tennis matches, finding that the proposed variation quote would alter the essential character of the locality by increasing the intensity of the use so as to detract from the essential character of the surrounding residential neighborhood. 

So, I ask my colleagues, by what standards, and with what justification can we now say that professional sports events and commercial entertainment events won’t alter the essential character of the surrounding residential neighborhoods? By what standards and with what justification can we now say that this change in zoning is consistent with our comprehensive general plan? I don’t believe that we should approve the text amendment.


Devon Reid Alderman Revelle? 

Eleanor Revelle No. 

Devon Reid Alderman Rainey? 

Ann Rainey Aye. 

Devon Reid Alderman Fleming? 

Cicely Fleming No. 

Devon Reid Alderman Fiske? 

Judy Fiske Aye. 

Devon Reid Alderman Braithwaite? 

Peter Braithwaite Aye. 

Devon Reid Alderman Wynne? 

Melissa Wynne No. 

Devon Reid Alderman Wilson? 

Donald Wilson Aye. 

Devon Reid Alderman Rue Simmons? 

Robin Rue Simmons Aye. 

Devon Reid Alderman Suffredin? 

Thomas Suffredin No. 

Mack Jones The city passed the amendment by a 5-4 vote, allowing the university to host a limited number of for-profit events in Welsh-Ryan Arena. 

Northwestern got part of what they wanted. But the attempt to include Ryan Field in the 2019 proposal failed spectacularly. 

So they tried again.

Around a year after the largest gift in school history, NU released renderings for an $800 million renovation of the stadium. Everyone hated the state of Ryan Field, and it would cost a lot to fix it.

So, to ensure financial viability, the university included a limited number of for-profit events, specifically concerts. The estimated number of those per year varied from 12 to 10 to whatever the school could get. 

The proposal caused a backlash in the community significantly greater than in 2019, mainly among the stadium’s neighbors who bought houses in the area expecting only the eight or so scheduled home football games a year. 

But there have been special events in the past. 

There was a Rod Stewart concert, a concert by The Grateful Dead, a professional football game between the Bears and the Eagles and a lot more.

Poor behavior by people at those events was a common theme. Residents like Russell are concerned the same story would happen at every for-profit event held by Northwestern.

Yvi Russell I keep the peace when people are coming out of those concerts and start being rowdy in our park on the park on central street. Or, you know, on people’s lawns.

Mack Jones One of the best ways to check if concerts at Ryan Field would have been successful would have been to look at those held in Welsh-Ryan. But that’s impossible.

The COVID-19 Pandemic prevented any special events from happening in the arena. Northwestern held zero events in Welsh-Ryan and failed when applying for an extension of the pilot program in 2021. 

One of the school’s arguments for extending the program was precedent. The council approved the pilot, but the university couldn’t host any events. Northwestern thought an extension would only be natural.

Many of the arguments against the pilot program and against for-profit events at Ryan Field involved precedent, too. They were what-ifs.

What if it gets too loud? 

What if Northwestern wanted to make the area an entertainment district? 

What if the university wants more?

But if precedent mattered as much as some people think it does, Northwestern would already have everything it wants.

The university has been able to renovate the stadium in the past. The school has already sold alcohol in the U2 district. There have been concerts in Welsh-Ryan. The city even approved them only a few years ago.

But residents still hate the stadium and, sometimes, each other. 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 three 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, ABC, Fox-32, the Beach Boys 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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