According to a recent poll by President Biden’s pollster, John Anzalone, nearly 70% of Evanston residents support having 10 concerts at Ryan Field.
We agree with the majority that the new plans for Ryan Field, including a reasonable number of concerts and other non-athletic events, will create an economically stronger Evanston that is more vibrant, beautiful and fun.
We believe city officials should gauge what’s best for the entire community, especially those who cannot afford to stay in their homes due to tax hikes and those who need access to good-paying jobs and a career path in the trades.
The Ryan Field project can help solve both problems. There must be a collaboration that is driven by what is best for all, not what is best for a few.
Our concern is that the voices in opposition seem much louder than the thousands who support this sensible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For that reason, we have launched a grassroots group – Field of Opportunities – comprised of neighbors, business owners, former elected officials, faith leaders and other residents to advocate for this project. We invite you to join over 100 founding supporters who want their voice heard on this project.
As a group, we live in Evanston, in part, because it’s home to a world-class university that enriches Evanston economically, socially and culturally. We believe the relationship between Northwestern and Evanston is symbiotic. When one of us thrives, both of us thrive. When one of us suffers, both of us suffer.
We care about the environment and don’t want to see the university spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a stadium that they only use for six or seven football games a year; that’s a waste.
We want to see the new, remarkable, LEED Gold-certified, ADA-accessible facility used year-round for a reasonable number of non-athletic events, including concerts. We support the rezoning of Ryan Field and Welsh-Ryan Arena to allow for music, other events and responsible alcohol use.
We expect Northwestern to be transparent and honest with their intentions, responsive to legitimate neighbor concerns and committed to the city’s long-term viability.
This means an increased and extended financial commitment to the city, as well as subcontracting 35% or more of the construction project to local, minority- and women-owned businesses and providing preferential consideration to similar Evanston-based businesses for the ongoing operations of the stadium. We intend to hold Northwestern accountable to its promises.
We trust that our city manager and mayor will do their best to negotiate terms that are in the best interest of our city.
In the end, the question is: Can we have a new Ryan Field that creates opportunities for residents, families, local businesses, student-athletes, taxpayers, music lovers, minority and women-owned businesses, those with functional needs and our city and university, while addressing legitimate issues, such as parking, raised by some nearby neighbors? We believe we can.
Please join us in supporting this once-in-a-lifetime project. Together, we can create opportunities for many in Evanston.
Field of Opportunities supporters
Hon. Omar Brown
Rev. Monte Dillard
Dr. Raju Ghate
Hon. Jane Grover
Hon. Steve Hagerty
Hon. Jay Lytle
Dr. Eric Witherspoon
Interesting that the City Council voted several years ago not to proceed with Jennifer Pritzker’s initial RFP response for a boutique hotel at the HarleyClarke mansion, because of the neighbors’ concern about increased congestion and parking problems. Their was no attempt at negotiation. Those potential problems were miniscule compared to the noise, congestion and parking issues that would result from the new stadium.
Another thought: over the last 30 years, Northwestern sold most of the commercial properties it had owned in the Chicago area that were not for university purposes, bringing a great deal of tax revenue to Cook County and other taxing bodies. Perhaps the concert and entertainment portion of the new complex could be owned by some NU entity that would be taxable, or they could donate to the City and School Districts as they did when they bought the 1800 Sherman building in the early 2000s.
And finally, poor Soldier Field will sit lonely and sad after the Bears make their final move to Arlington Heights.
Just some thoughts from a long-time resident…..
Contrary to the simplistic statements made in the February 17, 2023 letter to the Community, opposition to Northwestern’s zoning amendments is not just about parking. It is not about building a new stadium – a new stadium would be nice. Bringing revenue to Evanston and employing Evanstonians are of course laudable goals. But, make no mistake, a healthy Evanston economy hardly is the motivating factor for Northwestern. In fact, in its proposed zoning amendment, Northwestern admits that this is a for profit endeavor. That should give the City of Evanston pause.
Regardless of Northwestern’s motivations, the proposed zoning changes will change the character of the neighborhood. The new stadium will accommodate 35,000 people in the stadium and 7,000 in the arena. Compare this to large venues like the United Center with a capacity of 23,500 or Wrigley Field with a capacity of 41,000. If Northwestern was asking to accommodate this large amount for just for 6 football games a year, we would be engaged in a much different conversation.
Northwestern has requested unlimited indoor and outdoor events for up to 10,000 people and to hold 10 public concerts that would accommodate 35,000 people in the stadium and 7,000 in the arena.
Before the city agrees to these for-profit events, it must conduct its due diligence. It is absolutely irresponsible to turn Northeast Evanston into Wrigleyville without considering the wishes of the neighborhood and conducting an independent study that addresses the issues that will impact the neighborhood. Can the area of Central Street and Ashland Avenue handle foot and vehicle traffic for unlimited events of 10,000, plus 10 concerts a year, plus football and basketball games? Where will the attendees, workers, neighbors, and Central Street shoppers park? How will emergency vehicles get to and from NorthShore Hospital? What impact will the new construction have on the environment and utilities? Can public transportation accommodate these large numbers of people in an unlimited capacity? How will the police – already stretched to the limit on game days – control the crowds? Keep in mind that the unlimited events Northwestern seeks to host will not be limited to university events – they could include political events. Can Evanston Police handle large and possibly disruptive crowds?
I urge the City of Evanston to stop, take a breath, and consider the implications of Northwestern’s proposed changes on the health of our community.
Ten years from now, whether or not NW’s Ryan Sports and Entertainment Complex is built, Evanstonians will still be dealing with the same problems that face us now– affordable housing, safety, provision of health services for the needy, education, viable small businesses, transportation, an aging infrastrucure, and so forth. Unless NW pays its share of property taxes to Evanston on a project that is clearly outside the rules governing property tax exemption, I don’t see how the City of Evanston is going to benefit from simple contractual obligations for NW to throw us a bone every now and then. For NW, that would be chump change. A “shiny new object” like NW’s proposed Ryan Complex is seductive, but it’s only a short term dividend that will not support the long term needs of our City.
NU legally has to build an ADA compliant stadium because they’re tearing down the old one. I’m not sure why they’re bragging about follow building codes & laws. It also seems very disingenuous to brag about a building wheelchair accessible stadium when they don’t have enough parking period, which means there will not be enough handicapped spaces for those who need them.
I also encourage everyone impressed by LEED Gold Certification to look into the LEED certification and decide for yourselves it’s worth bragging about. In my opinion it’s just greenwashing.
Where can questions about the poll be addressed? The methodological disclosure is not adequate to assess the quality of the data. The American Association for Public Opinion Research has standards to help evaluate poll reports: https://aapor.org/standards-and-ethics/disclosure-standards/
Northwestern engaged Impact Research for their polling. Impact has conducted polling for Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, six current and former U.S. Senators, four Governors, and nineteen current members of the U.S. Congress, the DCCC, the Democratic Governors Association, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign, the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the ACLU and The Ford Foundation, among many others. It would appear that Impact Research understands how to collect and interpret data. Still, they may be interested in your feedback.
Dear Susan, thank you for your reply.
I understand that the polling organization is experienced. I hope that you can help me get information on how they conducted this study. It is incumbent on organizations that release poll results to the public that they are transparent about their methods. As the AAPOR standards indicate, consumers of the information need to know a variety of things, including the definition of the population under study (who was considered eligible to respond); the exact question wording and interviewer instructions; the sampling frame (the source of information from which sampled households were selected); the sampling method (e.g. simple random sample, stratified, cluster, single or multistage) the mode of data collection (in this case, telephone was used, but it is not clear if letters were sent to households to recruit participants first); the response rate calculation (the portion of sampled households that participated in the study); the weights applied to the achieved sample to correct for unequal probabilities of selection, response rate, and other factors. In the case of this survey, the organization should release the demographic and geographic breakdown of the entire sample, weighted and unweighted, and the weighted and unweighted cross-tabulations calculated for the report, particularly those comparing the views of households at different distances from the stadium. The tests of significance for differences between sample subgroups should be reported. To be fully transparent, the firm would release a de-identified copy of the raw data and the computer code employed in analysis, so that the published analyses can be independently replicated.
This list of information seems long, but is important to understand the strengths and limitations of a study that could have potentially large effect on a significant public policy decision. If it is not convenient for you to track this down, I could engage directly with Impact Research or with the sponsoring office at Northwestern to get this information, if you can send contact information. Again, I appreciate your kind reply to my initial question. Peter
Why won’t they reléase the full report? Their excuse seems disingenuous, or worse, and seems to hide results they don’t like.
Dear Susan, The RoundTable does not offer opinions on the stories it is reporting, we leave that to columnists and commentators. So, my post here should not be interpreted in any way as a response to Northwestern’s stadium plans.
But we do have strong opinions on polling, and your answer doesn’t really say what you think it does. First, I suspect Impact Research is interested in Peter’s feedback as well as yours as that is why they have been hired. And yes, I could leave it there. But my intent is not snark, but clarity on how the RoundTable will be evaluating any survey.
I caution anyone that just because a firm has represented big names (who are also the entities that pay big money) does not mean that a particular survey has been done according to best practices. As Impact says on its website: “We provide actionable guidance for our clients that helps them achieve their desired outcomes.” That is not the same as reflecting accurately the opinion of a population. Because, as you well put it, “Impact Research understands how to collect and interpret data.”
I have seen many dubious political surveys from both parties and from big name candidates and organizations. They were produced to answer a particular question at a particular moment in time and promote the candidate or the cause and “to achieve their desired outcomes.”
Still, I am neither suggesting that all political polls are poorly done, nor that there is anything untoward about Impact’s work. I am suggesting that we evaluate any information via critical thinking. Survey is a science but it is also evolving. The accuracy of any survey is not found in the name of the firm, but in the design of the particular survey you are reading. And at this moment in time, the whole survey world is still iterating to fit the disruption nature of the internet and mobile phones. Indeed, the highly respected Pew Research Center, a nonprofit and nonpartisan research firm which looks at societal trends, wrote in 2020: “Survey methodology is undergoing a period of creative ferment.” But best practices still point to judging surveys by their science as in the specific mathematic samplings practices, rather than by the survey size. Which means that surveys rely on people to call in and self report via the web or surveys where individuals are paid to talk to respondents on the street, all have built in bias — you have reason to question the outcomes. At the RoundTable, I can promise you that is how we will be evaluating any survey that comes our way, no matter who produces it. Thank you for your comment. Susy Schultz, editor
Fortunately, Impact Research is easily found on the web, along with contact information, so you may direct your questions to them.
Thank you for your response. Please know I do not expect the Roundtable to do any work beyond the fine work you already do. Nor did I ask that you report on the Impact survey.
Impact Research conducted a poll among Evanston residents measuring their acceptance of statements made by Northwestern regarding the proposed benefits for the Ryan Field rebuild. The majority of Evanston respondents agreed with those statements. I may just be cynical, but can’t help but think if the majority of residents disagreed with the stated Northwestern benefits, there would be less skepticism about the poll. But, that may just be me.
Hope that you both enjoy your weekend.
Thanks for your help. I will contact Impact Research and share any information I receive.
Many thanks for your thoughts.
The Field of Opportunities folks are thoughtful and sincere, but I fear are naïve or gullible. They reference NU’s recent poll showing “nearly 70% of Evanston residents support having 10 concerts at Ryan Field” as if the poll was anything other than a laughable setup, which anyone involved in the public relations field can see right through. (Alas NU’s transparency ended right there, as they have refused to release the whole poll or its methodology, just as they’ve refused to release the underlying CSL study.) They also call on “Northwestern to be transparent and honest with their intentions, responsive to legitimate neighbor concerns and committed to the city’s long-term viability.” Amen! Problem is, NU has been neither transparent nor honest. So do please join Most Livable City Association (MCLA) in demanding that very transparency, which has been totally absent since the university launched its shock and awe PR and marketing blitz.
Everyone I know associated with MLCA wholeheartedly agrees with the call for city officials to gauge what’s best for the entire community, “especially those who cannot afford to stay in their homes due to tax hikes and those who need access to good-paying jobs and a career path in the trades,” and that “there must be a collaboration that is driven by what is best for all, not what is best for a few.” Amen! Amen! Does that mean giving NU carte blanche to have its way with zoning, and to transform a balanced, appealing, successful part of the city to live and do business into something grandiose and out of scale with its environment? Does that mean allowing NU to fly in the face of the Evanston Thrives Retail District Action Plan? It should not!
MCLA and Field of Opportunities, we’re not all that far apart. Just seems one group is demanding transparency and accountability, while the other is not.
There are few reasons to continuously fear that those of us who advocate the new arena are “naive and gullible”. Please stop with this rhetorical overkill. We are neither naive nor gullible. We disagree with you. It’s that simple. We see opportunities and you see threats. You imagine conspiracies and lies, but that’s not fair to us who disagree. It’s time to build this arena and enable it to succeed and contribute both to the financial wellbeing of Evanston, but also to the cultural vibrancy of Evanston. Build the arena and enable it’s success!
Evanston residents are being asked to trust Northwestern University as it seeks to get into the big-concert business.
But the asking is often being done by Northwestern consultants and others with financial ties to the university.
It makes sense that local residents are examining the motivations and potential conflicts among those urging us to back this expansion.
Profits from big construction projects often seem to trickle upward, instead of down to those who need it most. And then local residents are left worse off than before, dealing with traffic, noise, trash and a sense that the seat has been pulled out from under them once again.
I think that what we are learning today in our culture is that the status quo is not working for the majority of us. There are some who see this project as progress. They understand that we have legitimate needs in the most disenfranchised and undeserved in our community, but offer incremental band aid solutions. When asked to address our most pressing community issues in this type of transformative way they launch a litany of excuses of why it can’t be done. They are an affirmation that those who are comfortable and furthest away from our most pressing issues have no solutions. They would rather ignore these problems and be entertained. That’s what is really being said here.
More must be done. And more dollars must be liberated for the undeserved in our community before building billion dollar entertainment complexes.
Where is your shame?
It’s an honor to read something by so many “honorables.” But for those of us without titles, it’s a head-scratcher how allowing NU to run a massive, for-profit concert business free from property taxes is “what’s best for the entire community.” This piece references “those who cannot afford to stay in their homes due to tax hikes.” An obvious way to lessen their burden would be to levy property taxes on NU’s proposed entertainment business, which has nothing to do with its educational mission.
Property taxes fund our public schools. Making NU contribute would truly benefit all of Evanston, as the authors know.
Let’s talk about the term, “grassroots.”
: the basic level of society or of an organization especially as viewed in relation to higher or more centralized positions of power
So…folks on this letter are part of the grassroots? Is your plan to question the position of power of this institution, Northwestern? Who carries the financial and public leadership stronghold here to push their message out? Who has paid high school students to go out with i-Pads to get signatures in support?
Yeah, I’d ask you to defer from using the term “grassroots.”
I can only speak for myself, Trisha. As one of the 209 individuals who have signed on to Field of Opportunities (a more than 100% increase in supporters in a single day since its announcement), I feel neither uninformed or coerced.
With no more power than that of a single citizen, I believe that the largest single investment ever made in Evanston using no public dollars has immediate and lasting benefits to the city, and these benefits should be considered in the debate.
I also believe that city representatives, who are elected and designated fiduciaries, should lead the negotiations with Northwestern. It’s my view that other than our elected representatives, no group is appointed to represent all of Evanston. You feel differently and should pursue alternatives. But in a democracy, aren’t we all entitled to respectfully advance our views in alliance with other like minded constituents?
Regarding the paid surveyors collecting signatures, do you imply those resident opinions should not count? No one is coerced to sign. Why the
concern that a broad cross section of Evanston is reached on this issue?
I encourage people who feel differently than I to show up and speak out. Just respect the rights of those of us who see this issue differently to do the same.
My comment is directed to those that signed off on this letter.
The “Field of Opportunities” folks leave us with a few questions. If Northwestern, which not only has a $14 billion endowment, but a $100 million operating surplus last year, is so concerned with creating “opportunities” for Evanston residents, why not commit to meaningful, sustained direct investment in local government, businesses, schools, and nonprofits? If NU is so certain of the economic bounty that will flow from turning Evanston into the Allstate arena, why not put it in writing with a Community Benefits Agreement? Why should a “nonprofit” reap the benefits of a commercial venture without paying taxes on it? And why should it be granted a major zoning change that goes against the principles of the Evanston Comprehensive Plan? Until they get back to us, we at the Community Alliance for Better Government, Most Livable City Association, Central Street Neighbors, Students Organizing for Labor Rights, and Northwestern University Graduate Workers invite you to join us this Sunday 2/19, 3 pm at Fleetwood- Jourdain (and on Zoom at https://bit.ly/RyanFieldTownHall) for a Town Hall to discuss these questions. Send us your questions at email@example.com.
Northwestern University has an endowment of about $16 billion, making it one of the world’s richest universities, and as a non-profit institution it pays no property taxes. Its athletics complex, Ryan Field and Welsh/Ryan Arena, is situated in an area completely unsuited for professional sports, concerts and similar events. Yet, in an effort to make more money, Northwestern wants to turn north Evanston and south Wilmette into Wrigleyville.
Northwestern is rushing to win approval of plans to turn its athletics facilities into a professional entertainment complex larger than the Allstate Arena or the United Center, including massive concerts with liquor sales. Northwestern’s plans have been shrouded in secrecy with minimal community input and were hatched with virtually no opportunity for meaningful public comment or independent review. The city has fast-tracked the approval process even though serious questions about security, parking, vital access to the nearby hospital and fire station, and potential strains on Evanston’s infrastructure, have never been publicly addressed.
The neighborhood around Ryan Field is a congested community of residences and small businesses, served by single-lane roads. There are more than 500 homes within a mile of Ryan Field, and at least six elementary and middle schools are located nearby. All these residents – including many young children – and institutions would be subjected to frequent disruption by traffic and crowds from Northwestern’s events, including noise and pollution from hundreds of cars idling in parking lots and on congested streets, and among other issues. These problems would affect residents well beyond the immediate vicinity of the stadium.
The current zoning for the area protects the surrounding homes and businesses, saying that university facilities need to be utilized in a manner compatible with the community. But NU’s proposed amendment would remove these protections. The changes would allow 10 for-profit mega-concerts of up to 35,000 attendees in the open-air stadium and an unlimited number of commercial entertainment events for up to 10,000 attendees every year. This would change the very nature of the property’s purpose from college athletics and university-related events to a huge commercial entertainment district – all to benefit an institution that pays no taxes to its home city.
If the university has a burning desire to make yet more money, and has donors willing to hand over hundreds of millions of dollars for athletics facilities, the school could certainly afford to build a new stadium elsewhere, away from crowded residential communities and with ample parking, as is the case at most Big Ten and similar universities. And if Evanston needs more revenue, perhaps it could ask this very wealthy, tax-exempt university to increase its contributions to help support its host city, which many of its faculty and staff call home.
I believe the optimistic view expressed here misses the point. While some residents may support this new project, all residents believe that NU is using it’s non-profit status to benefit from a commercial enterprise. I believe that the new Ryan Field should be taxed accordingly.
You can support the new Ryan Field stadium but use legitimate reasons/ arguments. Stating that this project “will help those who need access to good paying jobs and a career in the trades” are being disingenuous. It simply won’t. This is how you become a union electrician? It is not. And the promise that they will sub contract the construction jobs to minority and women owned businesses here in Evanston well that looks good on paper but it’s not the real world of construction projects
Exactly. Please reference the minority contractor agreement for the Crown Center construction and see how that worked out. Shame on NU for exploiting minority unemployment to promote their political interests. These assurances did not result in an abundance of employed Black and brown residents with RC . Years of skilled training and a union card are necessary for the construction jobs. Is And NU really going to brag about providing CONCESSION STAND jobs for Black and Brown Evanstonians?