The Field of Opportunities supporters’ Feb. 17 letter brought up a number of points that are important to examine in detail:
“…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.”
This is crucial to all of Evanston, but Northwestern University cannot be counted on to help solve this problem. Northwestern’s track record in this area is very poor, a point that was made clear by Kevin Brown at the recent Town Hall meeting. He gave specific examples of promises from NU that were not fulfilled. Making sure that we consider information from people with experience dealing with NU, like Kevin Brown, will help us all make a better decision.
- Have those jobs ever been offered for any of the past or current events at the stadium?
- What kind of ongoing jobs are actually being offered?
- Are they promised to Evanston residents, or will NU students be offered jobs?
If those jobs are being counted on and are considered a positive factor of this project, they need to be part of a legally binding document before anything is decided.
“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.”
This statement makes it obvious that this is not a good investment of hundred of millions of dollars – it would be better spent on a facility on campus, which is more accessible to students, instead of making a portion of tax-paying Evanston unlivable.
“...used year-round for a reasonable number of non-athletic events, including concerts.”
“ …the rezoning of Ryan Field and Welsh-Ryan Arena to allow for music, other events and responsible alcohol use.”
“…70% of Evanston residents support having 10 concerts at Ryan Field”
NU is proposing unlimited events of up to 10,000 by NU, not just 10 concerts.
Amplified music and band practice would be allowed 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on holidays and weekends, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays.
What is a reasonable number of events? If you live nearby and already experience the extreme noise, traffic, plus litter and other negative impacts of events, an unlimited number of events is not reasonable. NU has stated that the noise from a concert would not be much more than a football game, and this is clearly not accurate.
“When one of us thrives, both of us thrive. When one of us suffers, both of us suffer.”
With unlimited events of up to 10,000, that section of tax-paying residential Evanston will definitely suffer in all respects, making it unlivable, so statements about doing what’s best for the city need to take this into consideration.
“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 has not always been the case in the past, so these results are not to be expected.
A look at past NU stadium projects and proposals will be worth examining. A good place to start is by asking people like Dave Ellis, David DeCarlo and Kevin Brown about their experiences – they all spoke at the recent town meeting and had very valuable advice, including being wary of NU’s attempt at pitting Evanston residents against each other.
Another important perspective is from the NU students themselves, many of whom are against the project. They were also represented at the meeting, and they made their mistrust of university officials clear.
“…legitimate issues, such as parking …”
Parking and traffic are both extremely difficult problems in a neighborhood with two-lane streets and relatively small NU parking lots with only two access points. Add into this alcohol sales in the middle of an extended neighborhood filled with children.
Would anyone want these kinds of changes to their neighborhood?
That really is the main question – of the people supporting the proposal, would they be willing to have this in their neighborhood, given that there is no concrete promise of benefit to all of Evanston, or is it OK because they won’t be subject to the overwhelmingly negative impact of the proposed changes?
NU has been planning the rebuilding of the Ryan Field rebuild for a while. It was disingenuous for NU to tell the public it was “considering” hosting a limited number of concerts each year, then, just weeks later say it MUST offer these concerts for their new stadium to be viable. Then, just weeks later submit its application for a zoning amendment that contains not only concerts of up to “maximum capacity”, but also unlimited events including musical performances of up to 10,000, which is 3,000 more than Welsh-Ryan Arena holds. They also added in their application the right to let vehicles be permitted to idle throughout. Current zoning protects us from this. That would mean huge trucks and equipment used for bringing in, setting up, and taking down concert stages would run for hours on end, polluting the air, pollution that will be ongoing all summer since there would be new concerts at least every week with many performers bringing in their own stages and sound equipment. This is why NU cannot be trusted to be forthcoming and honest with the public. It is not unwise to look at the past and see how NU has historically misled the public regarding its intentions with its athletic property. It has continued to mislead.
Thank you for sharing your views, Lisa. I would add the following:
1. It’s false that without changing the zoning code, Ryan Field will sit unused except for six to seven football games per year. Setting aside that the number of home games will soon increase with the size of the Big 10, the existing zoning code permits all kinds of other events, including the following: elementary, high school, and amateur sporting events and non-profit community and cultural events. Also, how could more frequent use be better for the environment?
2. If the Field of Opportunities group “expect[s] Northwestern to be transparent and honest with their intentions,” why isn’t it pushing NU to make public the CSL materials that Tripp Umbach relied on? What about a full report of the questions and responses from NU’s opinion poll? Why not post the redline of the proposed zoning changes to their website, which illustrates the protections NU is seeking to scrap?
Thank you, Ms. Taylor – excellent points on the many serious problems posed by Northwestern’s plan. A proposal of this magnitude – one that would upend life in a sizable portion of the city and create significant economic, noise, environmental and traffic problems, possibly beyond Evanston’s borders – requires genuine community engagement, transparency, and thoughtful study, not a hurried plan hatched in secrecy. And institutions with $16 billion endowments that don’t pay property taxes should not get carte blanche to rewrite our zoning laws.
To answer your question Lisa: I live 2 blocks south of the stadium and welcome a limited number of events and concerts. I don’t believe they will negatively impact our neighborhood ; I think they add vitality to our city and grow our businesses. I also have faith in in our mayor and city manager to negotiate and collaborate with NU so that all voices are heard before any decisions are finalized.
Thank you for taking thr time to respond. Please note that it is not a limited number of concerts – NU is asking for unlimited concerts for up to 10,000 people. That will result in a very heavy and continual load on the neighborhood.
We live on Eastwood Ave., which borders the West Lot of the stadium. We’ve been here for eight years and have always appreciated and enjoyed the lively atmosphere of football game days. We hear the PA, the cheers, the fireworks and all-day tailgating, and have never found it annoying or disruptive. People returning to their cars after games appear sober. We’ve not experienced violence or theft on gamedays.
We understand concerns about re-zoning and recognize the fairness issue around not paying taxes on revenue-generating property. And we have to solve for gridlock traffic in the hours before and after events. But we believe it’s doable. There has to be a way forward that is mutually beneficial and not reliant on promises, since university leadership changes over time.
Ultimately we believe that a rising tide floats all boats, so we want to see NU be as prominent, successful and sought-after as possible. We believe that with collective positive intent and a focus on mutual benefit, we’ll continue to love the neighborhood we live in for many years to come.
I’m wondering why anyone would ask folks who have only lived in the neighborhood for 3 years about past stadium projects. I’ve lived 2 blocks from the stadium for 19 years and I support this project. Are there some kinks to work out? Sure – but I wouldn’t trust those who are new to the neighborhood to be the experts on the subject.
Thank you for taking thr time to respond. Please note that I am a thirty-year resident of this neighborhood, so my opinion is based on decades of experience here. If you extend the problems with current stadium events to daily experiences, it becomes even more of a problem, which goes beyond a few kinks to solve.
I agree with your points, and I don’t live near the stadium neighborhood. But if I did, I too would be concerned about traffic, concerts, alcohol availability, litter, and noise beyond football games. All resident opinion surveys should be restricted to those living in the stadium neighborhood, not realtors, businesses, or Evanston residents not immediately affected.
What is so striking about this opinion piece is its view of the past. It cites examples of the University’s failures to honor agreements. It mentions the names of people who have experienced this in the past and who project forward from their own personal experience, casting a darkness onto the University and bringing forward past grievances.
What is lacking is a spirit of cooperation and partnership with the University that will move all of Evanston forward. Why choose to harp on past failures when a future of opportunities is right in front of you?
Without the new stadium, do those old-timers believe they will finally win the day? That would be unlikely.
It’s time to start anew with fresh voices, new ideas and possibilities, and a focus on the future, not the past. Cooperation and partnership is the way towards a win-win relationship.
Thank you for taking the time to respond. There is always a need for cooperation between a large university and the hosting city, but NU has historically taken advantage of this city. Your response is a good sentiment, but it needs more than good will and misplaced trust to make it work.
The idea that our neighborhood is unlivable on game days is a ridiculous scare tactic. Your broad statements that imply all neighbors are opposed to this is a gross misconception .
I live in the neighborhood near Ryan Field. I will likely be inconvenienced from time to time yet I support this redevelopment, including concerts, because of the overall benefits it will offer to ALL of Evanston.
This not in my backyard attitude is not helpful. It’s okay to have fun in Evanston. A possible Christmas market is not the end of the world. These community events actually will add to the experience!
Dr. Ghate, not everyone in the neighborhood has large double lots and ample parking so it’s possible that your experience does not adequately reflect the average stadium neighbor. Noone is questioning a winter market – that is something NU can do under current zoning. But 10 mega concerts and unlimited inside and outside events at 10,000 people is a major change to the neighborhood. Diminishing residents’ real concerns about traffic, parking, and hospital accessibility is unneighborly at best.