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The Field of Broken Dreams | Episode 9: The End

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, 2023.

(Car door opening and closing)


(Indistinct chatter)

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


Daniel Biss Good evening, the Nov. 20 special meeting of the Evanston City Council will come to order with the clerk please take the role.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Kelly?

Clare Kelly Here.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Harris?

Krissie Harris Present.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Wynne?

Melissa Wynne Here.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Nieuwsma?

Jonathan Nieuwsma Here.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Burns? He’s not on line yet.

Councilmember Suffredin?

Tom Suffredin Here.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Revelle?

Eleanor Revelle Here.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Reid?

Devon Reid Here.

Stephanie Mendoza Mayor Biss?

Daniel Biss Here.

We have a quorum present and are prepared to do our work for the evening. The first item on the agenda is public comment. This evening we have somewhat in excess of 60 individuals who have requested to give public comment, so everyone will be given 45 seconds.

The next speaker is David DeCarlo, who will be followed by Ken Proskie.

David DeCarlo Members of the city council. Tonight isn’t about a stadium or concerts. Tonight is about whether this is the kind of city that follows its own laws, that recognizes two protest petitions that were duly filed by residents, that adheres to its own voting requirements and that listens to its experts on the Land Use Commission and in the community.

You, our elected officials, are effectively giving up our ability to change the zoning, and you’re setting a precedent that any billionaire or powerful institution can divide the city council. That’s more than selling zoning, that’s mortgaging our future.

Daniel Biss Thank you very much. The next speaker is Ken Proskie.

Ken Proskie I served on the stadium working group for nearly a year. Northwestern requested input from neighbors and expressed hope that our group could improve community trust. I formally surveyed nearly 100 households on the east side of the stadium, and I shared the results. The highest priority was to build a collegiate football stadium, not a commercial entertainment facility. Six months later, Northwestern announced their plans. Basically, they ignored our input, and they’re doing what they wanted anyway.

Looking back, it reminds me of the Land Use Commission decision which denied approval of the zoning amendment because it didn’t meet the approval standards. Despite the best efforts at citizen participation in a democratic process, a few individuals and a wealthy institution can undermine the process and ignore input and government standards. From my perspective, so much for building trust in our government institutions.

Daniel Biss Thank you very much.

Judy Berg Hello, my name is Judy Berg. I’m a resident within 500 feet of Ryan Field. I, too, like Ken Proskie, served on the working committee. We were used in the press. Northwestern said, ‘We’re working with the neighbors.’ That was us, that was the working group. We were not represented and often lied to. My point here is that once you change a zoning law, a precedent is set. A foot is in the door, and all of the wards are going to have to contend with this. Please, vote no to rezoning.

Daniel Biss The next speaker is Fiona McCarthy.

Fiona McCarthy If you have any questions as to NU’s plans, all you need to do is look at the construction vehicles currently lined up in their parking lot. It has been two days since their final football game. NU wants to start this project immediately. If you think that by separating the financial benefits from the zoning, NU will walk away, you are wrong. If you think that waiting to approve the zoning change until after the stadium is built so that the sound systems can be tested to determine the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods will make NU walk away, you are wrong. Why are you so anxious to approve a permanent zoning change that the Land Use Commission and residents overwhelmingly disapprove of? Why would you consider it a win to approve of an insufficient benefits package that expires when the zoning change is permanent?

Daniel Biss The next speaker is Andy Berman.

Andy Berman Good evening. This being blue Evanston, I’m sure most people here were outraged, as I was when the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade. 50 years of precedent, well-reasoned. Well, it occurred to me that city councils here have for 50 years, more than 50 years, every time Northwestern’s come in here and tried to monetize their tax-exempt piece of property sitting in the middle of a residential neighborhood, every city council has stopped them from doing it. You folks are about to overturn more than 50 years of precedent. I think the analogy fits. Think carefully what you’re doing. Thank you.

Yvi Russell Yvi Russell. I will use my time for a moment of silence to commemorate the death of our neighborhood at the hands of the Evanston City Council who failed to protect it.


Daniel Biss Councilmember Kelly.

Clare Kelly I did submit an amendment to require indemnification, which I will send to everybody now. I’d like to ask that we add that Northwestern shall indemnify, defend and hold harmless the city, its agents, officers and employees against all liabilities, losses, judgments, costs, settlements and expenses including attorney’s fees for claims against the city arising out of or related to this memorandum of understanding.

Daniel Biss Councilmember Burns.

Bobby Burns Even though Evanston will permit certain activities, it does not then transfer liability unto the city for actions of businesses. For example, even though the city provides liquor licenses, we’re not liable for over-service by a restaurant or a DUI by someone who was over-served.

Okay, so with that being in mind, I think in order to support the amendment, can you provide a scenario where what was just provided would not address it? That’s what I would want to know.

Clare Kelly So you know, when you enter into a contract, the idea is that you want to avoid legal proceedings, so why we would leave ourselves open, even if again, even if we were to win or go to court, the point is it’s not going to be free. So I think we should have everything that I’ve listed there, for example, if the sound exceeds limits or there’s damage to the neighborhoods because right now, have you seen, have you actually read the event insurance?

Has anybody here read through the event insurance?

Bobby Burns So I think we’re…

Clare Kelly So because that’s what we’re relying on…

Bobby Burns What would be helpful from our…

Clare Kelly I’m just asking you a question, have you read…?

Daniel Biss Well, well well, if both of you could. I just wanted to say that. Councilmember Burns has the floor, he asked you a question, but if whenever he wants to reclaim the floor?

Bobby Burns What would be helpful to me is if you could one-by-one say scenarios that you think are not covered and then my question to our council, both in-house and outside, is do they believe it’s covered, and if it’s not, to me that’s the strongest argument for what you’re trying to do, and I can get behind it.

Clare Kelly There are a myriad, I’m not going to begin.

Bobby Burns Could you do a few?

Clare Kelly I’m sorry.

Bobby Burns Could you do the main three?

Clare Kelly On the point of order, I will simply say that I that I think…

Daniel Biss Councilmember Burns does have the floor, you’re in line to speak again.

Bobby Burns If Council Kelly is unwilling to answer it, I’ll go to Councilmember Revelle.

Clare Kelly I’m sure the folks in this room could probably give me a thousand things that could come up.

Bobby Burns But we’ve reviewed most of those because we’ve for those emails…

Clare Kelly No, we’re relying on the insurance for the special event, I mean I’m asking if anybody here has even read the special event insurance yet.

Daniel Biss Councilmember Burns has the floor.

Bobby Burns All I’m saying is Councilmember Revelle, because you seconded, or Councilmember Kelly, if you could provide a specific scenario, even just the top two or three, and then…

Clare Kelly Okay, that we’ve violated our own code. Here. In these procedures that we’ve violated our code that this in fact does turn out to be, for example, a map amendment, which I think it is, based on being a sole district and based on substantially changing the U2 District as defined, the use and everything else, for example, we could be taken to court for lack of due process.

Tom Suffredin They’ll line up to pound us but have we quantified the potential pounding? I mean, I would imagine that Wilmette, for example, will be in line to sue us. I imagine there’ll be a bunch of close-by neighbors. Without getting into the validity of their cases, like do we have a budget set aside for defending those lawsuits and where is that money gonna come from?

Alexandra Ruggie So, Councilmember Suffredin, so the City of Evanston in general has an insurance fund. So we have an insurance fund where we pay outside legal fees, where we pay any settlement of litigation, and that comes out of it, so there is a budgeted amount for litigation that comes in.

Tom Suffredin Well, but…

Daniel Biss I’m going to call the vote at this time. Will the clerk please call the role, and the motion before us is on Ordinance 107-O-23 as has been amended a few times this evening.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Kelly?

Clare Kelly So, in principle, it should be a boost, it shouldn’t be a huge, you know, it should be a financial support for our city in a much bigger way than it is, I think, I think what we also need to acknowledge is that for Northwestern for its employees, for its faculty, and mostly for its students, maintaining the stability of this town, and the charm of this town is important, be very easy to turn it into sort of a strict law city, you know, closer champagne or something like that, it’s very easy to do that.

I do care deeply about the city. I think it has an amazing population. It’s amazing itself because of Northwestern that’s part of what makes it so fabulous, but it’s also on the lake and next to Chicago. So, you know, I think Evanston should we should remain a place that’s accessible to middle income people to lower income people and not be compensated that’s just, you know, rarified, for the wealthy with strip malls, and maybe a few pockets of, you know, just sort of institutionalized places for low income.

I think all the concerns are completely legitimate. No one else has done this. I mean, there was one in Inglewood, California, but it was way out removed in an area that needed development. They built that huge entertainment complex was in an area where there wasn’t any where it was somewhat, I guess desolate. And then it started to create development. And that’s not the case here. If Northwestern wants to do this, truly, I mean, maybe it should have considered its own campus. Right now, it’s a big ask.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Kelly?

Clare Kelly No.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Harris?

Krissie Harris It was innovative, I thought it was really neat that they could find a benefactor to pay for that. Most times that comes on the backs of the cities. But I knew that it was going to have to come to the Council for discussion, and that the residents were really gonna have to weigh in. And I was kind of nervous about what does that mean? Like, this is a big, this is big in the city. You know, we’re we’re very vocal, which I think is good with our opinions. So I knew this was going to be an interesting discussion between the city and Northwestern.

I think people just their way of life, what does that mean for them? What is traffic? Are they going to be able to get to and from? Is it going to damage the infrastructure? Is it going to be loud to get one other day they have young kids and they’re worried about the increase in traffic and what that might mean for the students or their kids as far as being safe.

I’m excited for whatever comes of this, and then how do we move forward? I think, you know, whatever, whatever we decide to do, how we move forward, and make it successful for everybody. Sometimes people, when they don’t get what they want, then they want to demolish what the other person has, and I hope either way if Northwestern doesn’t fully get what they want, they don’t try to destroy the city, and that the city and residents if they get what they don’t, if they don’t get what they want that they don’t get bash Northwestern, I just think we figure it out. And we move collectively together to be successful.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Harris?

Krissie Harris Yes.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Wynne?

Melissa Wynne I’d like to make a statement. The serious concern about the idea that we would be selling zoning. So in that sense, I did not participate in negotiations, but when we have gotten some questions over the last week, I also relay those to Council Ruggie and relayed answers back, but I can’t support the SP3, and my concerns are twofold. First is procedural and the other is substantive, and I think as we’ve been discussing tonight here, we are touching on some of these issues.

The procedural issue, this is approximately a $160 million deal and any deal of that magnitude would take months and months to negotiate and that has not happened here. This has been rushed on the part of Evanston. We have not had enough time for our corporation council and and our outside council to really provide guidance in this short time. You can see it’s happening during this meeting. That should have happened already. Because we haven’t done that, we’ve already had some of the issues that are in this agreement that are potential landmines pointed out to us, and those things are going to be there and cause us problems in the years to come, and what we should have had is enough time to come to a real mutual agreement on these things and iron all of these things out.

But, from a substantive point of view, I also am troubled by this. As we’ve heard, this $160 million is not new money. Some of it’s been detailed to us about what is new money, but it’s not as much money as has been in all of the headlines, but the most important issue here is that we are entering into this obligation in perpetuity, and Northwestern is only providing us with 15 years of this ‘new’ money.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Wynne?

Melissa Wynne No.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Nieuwsma?

Jonathan Nieuwsma This is an opportunity for them to catch up. And, you know, do the right thing and Evanston and, you know, allow us to move forward and in a partnership that is really going to be best for everybody. Because at some level what’s good for Northwestern is good for Evanston. And in what’s good Evanston has been for Northwestern. And so I want to focus on ways that we can kind of leverage our synergies if I don’t want to sound too consultancy in those terms, but look for look for ways to ask Northwestern to spend their money that benefits both the community and the university.

The question, if there is a controversy, it’s on first, should any concerts be allowed? And it’s gonna you live in the Third Ward, you’re in the Fourth Ward, is there going to be a direct impact on the residents of the Fourth Ward, not really, some Fourth Ward residents are, are just among those Evanstonians, who feel that Northwestern has mistreated and disrespectfully dealt with the city for decades, and are opposed to concerts on that basis. Some folks in the Fourth Ward are very supportive of concerts and think it will bring economic development and increased vitality to the entire community. If not the Fourth Ward directly, at least the neighborhoods, but I also represent businesses, both in both in downtown and on Main Street. And in general, the business community is supportive, not unanimously so, but the especially downtown, we need to do whatever we can to, to help reinvent ourselves in a post COVID economy and bringing more people into downtown. 

Northwestern is part of Evanston like and Evanston is part of Northwestern. So you we can’t, we can’t separate the two like Evanston wouldn’t be wouldn’t be who we are without Northwestern. And frankly, they were here first, as they, you know, some people like to point out from time to time. And so they’re like we’re inextricably linked. We are bound together in this partnership that has had its ebbs and flows over the years. And I think we have the opportunity in front of us to forge a new future in a really mutually respectful, collaborative and positive partnership. Because we do have so much to offer each other.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Nieuwsma?

Jonathan Nieuwsma Aye.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Burns?

Bobby Burns I don’t think, even the people who oppose this, truly will want this council and elected body to become a rubber stamp from any unelected body in the City of Evanston. In fact, that’s consistent with what I hear in every other issue that comes up, is how we don’t want unelected members of this organization to be making decisions that the council is bound by, but again, when it comes to something that people don’t agree with, all of a sudden the game changes. This is a perfect example of that.

I’m going to remain consistent and say I do not want any committee, commission, unelected, that we become a rubber stamp for that committee or commission. We certainly should be informed by it, but we should not be bound by any of those decisions, and I truly believe that is what most community members, if not even the people who oppose this, if they were to deeply reflect on that question and set aside their own points of view on this particular matter, they would agree with that.

The Land Use Commission has provided some conditions, and this council has made a lot of effort with being informed by public input to make sure we have adequate conditions to make sure that that standard is met in terms of whether the proposed amendment is compatible with the overall character of existing development in the immediate vicinity of the subject property.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Burns?

Bobby Burns Aye.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Suffredin?

Tom Suffredin Their non-conference schedule is usually kind of bogus. And then when you get to the big 10 schedule, like, depending on the opponents, like, you know, that that’s, that’s really what dictates the, like, vibe in the stadium. And I think that’s one of the things they’re trying to, like counteract by having a reduced capacity. Some of the things they’re doing. And that’s really like the big thing with this proposal, man. It’s like, everything they’re doing is in their direct best interest. They’re trying to sell it as if they’re doing us a favor by doing it.

Like if you guys want to renovate your stadium, like go right on. The issue comes when they try and use that as an opportunity to extract more benefits from the city. Like, I use this example, but if I want to renovate my kitchen, and I go to apply for permits, I said, ‘But you know what the thing is, in order to make this renovation happen, I need to be able to run a restaurant out of here,’ the city would say no. But like, like Northwestern, and they’re like, hey, in order to do this, we have to have ten concerts. So we’re gonna try and pull that shit. Any resident of the city of Evanston will try and pull that shit.

I’ve seen like, references to a primary document, you know, like in 1926, when they like, named it Dyche Stadium, the proclamation from the university was like this will always and forever be. So it’s just like an example. I mean, it’s minor, but just like, they’re full of shit. They’ve been full of shit since the start. And I’m personal friends with Dave Davis, like I in my life. He’s like, one of my 10 favorite people. But, you know, there’s a video of him two years ago, at a council meeting saying that Northwestern wasn’t going to come back looking to do concerts at Ryan field. They’re not to be trusted.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Suffredin?

Tom Suffredin No.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Revelle?

Eleanor Revelle I worked closely with the neighbors because Northwestern needed a zoning text amendment to be able to have the concerts at Walsh Ryan, and the neighbors were very much opposed. During that time, I learned a lot about basically, the whole history of multiple attempts by to have commercial activities at the stadium area and the neighbors opposition and the cities. The city declined all the way up until 2019. Suddenly, there were it was, I think it was it was a close like five to four vote on the city council. But nonetheless, the council did finally agree to a pilot project of two years of concerts. Up until then the council had always rejected Northwestern’s attempts.

I have not seen a really realistic plan for how the traffic and the crowds are going to be managed for, for the concerts. Okay, you’ve got the stage, and it’s not all 35,000. But you know, how many? Well, how many of those 28,500 people are going to come in shuttle buses? So how many shuttle buses are there going to be? Are they going to be polluting diesel powered buses? Are they going to be electric buses? What’s going to be the impact of just getting all those people to the stadium? And then when the concert is over? Are they all going to try to leave at the same time?

They are a nonprofit. They are an educational institution, and yet now they’re going to be engaging in commercial activities, totally unrelated to their educational mission, and that’s another reason that this is not a good idea.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Revelle?

Eleanor Revelle No.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Reid?

Devon Reid Central Street just is not that area will never be Wrigleyville. It’s not cool enough. That area will not be Wrigleyville. Particularly because, you know, just simply the, you know, there aren’t a ton of businesses directly adjacent to the field, it just doesn’t have the the infrastructure and the bones to, you know, become a Wrigleyville. And so I think that’s something that folks don’t have to worry about. But also, what does it mean to be a Wrigleyville? Wrigleyville is a very financially productive, active, vibrant community. To me, that’s, that doesn’t sound like the worst thing in the world.

Specifically with impacts in the Eighth Ward, my hope is that, twofold, more folks in my community are able to access employment opportunities from both the construction and wanted to construct it, the operation of the new field. Two, I’m envisioning a day where, you know, folks feel comfortable taking the train, the CTA, or metra or CTA, from Central Street, up to Howard Street and enjoying the business district there. And so I would hope that, you know, in the in the future that more folks make that trek from North Evanston to South Evanston to frequent the businesses there.

Folks are are wanting to see the stadium utilized. We’ve had the northwestern folks come to a ward meeting, we had Dave Davis, who’s the community outreach director, community development director. And again, nothing, again nothing specific. But generally folks on this end of town are quite far from the stadium and are quite supportive of and quite interested in the project.

Stephanie Mendoza Councilmember Reid?

Devon Reid Aye.

Daniel Biss With four voting in favor and four voting against, there is a tie.

I’m gonna be resistant to landing in a spot right now because I don’t feel like I have the information to do that. And I just think that would be irresponsible. I’m trying to learn as much as I can.

If all you are is the restaurant that wants more tourists in town, how about 1000 concerts? All you are is a neighbor who doesn’t want noise. How about zero concerts? All those points of view are legitimate, People aren’t making stuff up. They’ve got legitimate preferences based on their own set of priorities, and our job as elected officials is to try to balance all of that to get to the best, broader community that we can.

I understand there’s some people, if your take on this is, this is just terrible period, then you’re kind of annoyed the city isn’t just saying no. If your take on this is this is just great period, then you’re kind of annoyed instead of just saying yes. And so that’s what we’re doing, and I understand it’s not going to make everybody happy, but I think that’s the right way to get to a responsible, thoughtful decision that is the best for the largest number of people.

(Northwestern | Ryan Field Announcement)

Daniel Biss As mayor, I break the tie by voting yes with five voting in favor and four voting against. The motion carries, and Ordinance 107-O-23 as amended is passed.

Mack Jones Ryan Field will host concerts. 


Mack Jones The Field of Broken Dreams is a podcast from The Evanstonian, the student newspaper at Evanston Township High School, 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 maybe have one more episode coming. You’ll be able to find it 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, the Evanston City Council and Northwestern University.

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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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