Editor’s note: This story has updated to correct its descriptions of neighborhood meetings and Northwestern’s claims about the economic impact of a new stadium.

Northwestern University’s proposed $800 million reconstruction of Ryan Field has been making headlines for months. The university seeks a special use permit and a zoning change to allow as many as 10 outdoor concerts a year and an unlimited number of events for up to 10,000 people at the rebuilt stadium.

Architect’s rendering of proposed new Ryan Field, to replace Northwestern University’s current stadium. Credit: Northwestern University

But there has been a pause as the City of Evanston prepares to fund its own economic impact study in the wake of the rosy NU-funded report released in late 2022.

Even if you’ve been following Ryan Field news closely – but especially if you haven’t – it might be hard to keep track of all the moving pieces. Here’s a synopsis, drawn from the RoundTable’s archives, on where Northwestern’s proposal stands now, who’s for and against it, and where things could go next.

What are the specifics of the project?

Northwestern provided details of its plan to rebuild and downsize Ryan Field in late September 2022, about a year after first announcing its intentions. The plans called for a new facility with 35,000 seats, about 12,000 fewer than the current stadium, encircled by outdoor plazas and green space. Pat and Shirley Ryan, for whom Dyche Stadium was renamed in 1997 when they funded an earlier renovation, gave $480 million to the university. The gift was Northwestern’s largest single donation, to fund the stadium project as well as university research and educational efforts.

The September 2022 news release from Northwestern said the university plans for the new Ryan Field to host “a limited number of concerts each year” to “ensure the financial viability of the new stadium.” Northwestern initially proposed up to 12 concerts or full-capacity events annually, but more recently has lowered that ask to 10 such events. Those concerts have been particularly controversial with some residents who live near the stadium.

Northwestern has been meeting with a Seventh Ward working group that has included Council Member Eleanor Revelle, Northwestern Senior Project Manager Steven Himes and residents from the neighborhoods surrounding Ryan Field. Neighborhood meetings have covered topics like the concerts, potential alcohol sales, traffic, game day management and how the demolition and construction would proceed.

What has been the reaction?

While Northwestern has portrayed neighbors as mostly supportive – and in January released the results of a poll showing that 56% of residents citywide support the project, with 29% against – Revelle has told the RoundTable opinions in her ward are considerably more mixed.

Northwestern says it will attempt to reduce traffic around the stadium through such initiatives as a complimentary bike valet program and potential scheduling coordination with Metra, CTA and ride-sharing services. Landscaping and a canopy will reduce noise and light from the stadium, the university has said, and an underground loading dock will minimize truck noise. Northwestern also has pledged to provide at least 35% of subcontracted spending to local, minority-owned and women-owned businesses, prioritizing those based in Evanston.

In late January, the university officially filed a zoning change request to allow the new Ryan Field to host unlimited indoor and outdoor lectures, speakers, performances and other events for up to 10,000 people, as well as public concerts 10 times per year that could go until 10 p.m. from Sunday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and evenings preceding national and legal school holidays.

The Community Alliance for Better Government, one of the groups skeptical of the plan, convened a town hall with like-minded organizations in early February to discuss a campaign to seek a community benefits agreement from Northwestern in exchange for the zoning change being approved. CABG President Lesley Williams said the City of Evanston granting such a significant zoning change without asking for something significant in return would set “a very bad precedent” that could result in similarly large zoning changes “in any ward in the city.”

Lesley Williams, president of the Community Association for Better Government, addresses a crowd Feb. 19 at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center in support of a community benefits agreement between the city and Northwestern. Credit: Rich Cahan

The alliance wants a document modeled on the Woodlawn Housing Preservation Ordinance passed by the Chicago City Council related to the Obama Presidential Center, Williams said. The agreement could include promises in writing related to jobs for Evanston residents, including people of color, as well as a limit on the number of concerts, programs and other events. The Northwestern University Graduate Workers Union wants to see a commitment to using organized labor, as well.

“We are now at a time where they do have a reason to negotiate,” said David Ellis, former co-chair of the Fair Share Action committee of Evanston. “We need to talk to the alderman and the mayor and express your views of what you think. I’m not saying the stadium is a good idea or a bad idea. All I’m saying is that Northwestern needs to pay its fair share, period.”

In early March, for the first time, Northwestern officials responded to these entreaties and did not rule out the possibility of cutting such a deal. Dave Davis, the university’s executive director of neighborhood and community relations, said Northwestern already pays about $7 million in taxes and fees annually, including reimbursements for Evanston Police and Fire Department services.

Council Member Clare Kelly (1st Ward) has proposed a payment in lieu of taxes task force, an idea which received unanimous support from the city’s Finance and Budget Committee in August and heads to the full City Council next. “My hope is that NU will embrace and officially support this opportunity as it moves forward,” she said, in response to a RoundTable survey of council members on the topic. “The university should … care deeply about the full impacts to the city and about businesses’ and residents’ needs and balance that with the existing zoning and their interests for a stadium with commercial use.”

The city’s Economic Development Committee has asked staff to issue requests for proposals to conduct the city’s economic impact study and lead a community engagement process to gather input on the university’s proposals. Paul Zalmezak, Evanston economic development manager, said the city wants a critical analysis of the Northwestern study; an examination of the economic, fiscal and employment impacts; a regional market analysis related to concerts and events; and an in-depth look at event attendee preferences with regard to transportation.

CABG President Lesley Williams (center, in white) suggested that Northwestern make a donation to the city's reparations initiative.
Activists hold up signs at a March 2 meeting, demanding payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) from Northwestern to the city. Credit: Duncan Agnew

“I think that it’s important for our community to have somebody that actually understands how concerts work,” he said. “What is the likely attendance and type of concert events these two facilities will serve? … Of utmost importance is understanding the feasibility of the proposed transportation mobility options presented by the Northwestern University plan.”

Council members weighed in: Kelly expressed concerns about the city’s ability to maintain its small businesses and overall identity, Bobby Burns (5th Ward) said the revenue generated seemed like a key point, and Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th Ward) noted that concert industry knowledge was a key to an accurate assessment of the revenue potential.

Who is in favor and who’s opposed?

Northwestern has advanced the arguments that the new “architecturally compelling” Ryan Field will be not only a “world-class home” for its football team and athletics overall but a “year-round asset for the community.”

The economic impact report commissioned by Northwestern, undertaken by strategic consulting firm Tripp Umbach, asserted the renovation will create nearly 3,000 jobs while it’s underway, generate more than $11 million in direct fees to the City of Evanston, and have an overall economic impact of $65 million a year by 2031. In addition, concerts and special events could bring $35 million in annual economic impact to the city in the first decade of operation. And Northwestern said the firm’s research suggested increased property values in the immediate surrounding area.

The Downtown Evanston group, which represents more than 300 businesses, property owners and managers, nonprofit organizations and other institutions, has come out in favor of the project. Mike Smylie, chair of the group, wrote a letter to the editor published in the RoundTable that noted how damaging the COVID-19 pandemic has been to businesses – and how beneficial the stadium project could prove to be.

“With the concerts and sporting events that will augment the Big Ten football schedule, more people will come downtown for dinner or shopping, and some will stay in an Evanston hotel,” Smylie wrote. “We ask the City of Evanston to work with Northwestern and the Ryan Field neighborhood to fashion a plan that minimizes the externalities of the added events on neighbors while taking advantage of this incredible opportunity to welcome more visitors to our community. These are challenges we can solve.”

The newly formed Most Livable City Association announced a “Field of Schemes” campaign to raise awareness of the university’s plans, expressing concerns about issues like noise and light pollution, nuisance behavior from intoxicated fans, public safety issues due to drivers under the influence, parking and traffic issues, and the possibility that local patrons would avoid Central Street shops on event days.

“I would be so disappointed if progressive Evanston cannot reach a better agreement than what has been offered,” said David DeCarlo, co-founder of the Most Livable City Association. Credit: Richard Cahan

“We don’t want to become Wrigleyville – some of us have lived there, done that,” some members of the association wrote in a letter to the editor. “Northwestern has an opportunity to show it is a good neighbor. The university should heed the community’s long-standing concerns about large-scale commercial events and alcohol sales at those events. … Our goal is to enter a meaningful neighborhood partnership with Northwestern that aligns with the university’s educational mission and with maintaining quality of life throughout Evanston and Wilmette.”

Seventh Ward resident Ken Proskie wrote the RoundTable on behalf of the Most Livable City Association, in reaction to the Tripp Umbach report. Proskie said that, according to studies by more than 130 economists, stadium projects produce little economic benefit and occasionally are a net negative.

“Independent economists warn that everyone should cast a gimlet eye toward numbers put forth by self-funded studies,” wrote Proskie, who has also been critical of NU as one of the neighborhood representatives on the Stadium Project Working Group.

The Central Street Neighbors Association also expressed a number of concerns in a letter to the editor that underscored its work to preserve the viability, human scale, livability, sustainability and overall character of the neighborhood, goals that members believe the Northwestern project would undermine.

While the CSNA does not oppose a new stadium, a zoning change leading to regular concerts and festivals at a venue larger than Allstate Arena or the United Center “would turn what the neighborhood currently tolerates on game days – clogged traffic, disappeared parking for shoppers and residents, noise pollution, and intoxicated attendees leaving by both foot and car – from an occasional nuisance to a constant problem,” members wrote.

On the other hand, the Rev. Michael C.R. Nabors, pastor at Second Baptist Church and president of the local NAACP chapter, gave his personal support to the project in a letter to the editor of the RoundTable.

“The project is an incredible opportunity for the Evanston community, and Black and brown people in Evanston, to partner and collaborate with the university. Such a partnership must include access to revenue from contracting with the construction and becoming permanent partners in the future for games and events,” he wrote. “A $1 billion project has the potential to help build generational wealth for Black and brown families in Evanston. As Northwestern has pledged and promises to work with marginal groups in our town, I will support this ‘once in a generation opportunity.’ ”

Northwestern President Michael Schill, left, talks with the Rev. Michael Nabors, pastor of Second Baptist Church and president of the NAACP Evanston branch, at a Dec. 19 forum. Credit: Heidi Randhava

At a meeting in late February at which Northwestern officials discussed construction plans, former Council Member and community activist Delores Holmes asked those concerned about added traffic or noise from the stadium to make sacrifices for the good of the city, as she said the Fifth Ward has done for decades.

The newly formed Field of Opportunities group, which includes former Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty, retired District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon and others, weighed in to strongly support the plans and encouraged leaders to focus on what’s best for the whole city, including those being pushed out of their homes due to property tax hikes and those who need well-paying jobs and career paths in the trades.

“Our concern is that the voices in opposition seem much louder than the thousands who support this sensible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” they wrote in a letter to the editor. “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. … We trust that our city manager and mayor will do their best to negotiate terms that are in the best interest of our city.”

Where does the City Council stand?

At a Feb. 23 virtual ward meeting, Fifth Ward Council Member Burns said the community needs to be prepared to take advantage of the 35% set-aside for minority-, women- and Evanston-owned businesses.

“We have to build an infrastructure of people, organizations and partners to make sure that we can not only meet the goal of 35% but exceed it, if possible,” he said. “There’s an effort to make sure we can deliver around the M/W/EBE goals, with an emphasis on EBE.”

Council Member Tom Suffredin (6th Ward) wrote a letter to constituents on March 6 in which he expressed incredulity at what he sees as the incompleteness of Northwestern’s proposal. “I have a message for Northwestern: Come back when you’re serious,” he wrote. “The current Ryan Field proposal is deficient. It asks too much of Evanstonians and leaves too many questions unanswered. Frankly, I’m incredulous that Northwestern officials think this proposal is adequate and have presented it as a take it or leave it proposition.”

Most on the council were noncommittal when the RoundTable surveyed members and challengers seeking the Second and Ninth ward seats. Their views were posted March 21.

Seventh Ward Council Member Eleanor Revelle addresses residents gathered in the Council chambers Tuesday night.
Seventh Ward Council Member Eleanor Revelle addresses constituents gathered in the council chambers for a Jan. 31 meeting about the Ryan Field redevelopment proposal. Credit: Duncan Agnew

Devon Reid (8th Ward) said he was “generally supportive” of full-capacity concerts at the stadium and “supportive” of the proposals for a community benefits agreement. Ninth Ward Council Member Juan Geracaris, a Northwestern employee, said he plans to recuse himself from votes. Mayor Daniel Biss said he is “committed to working through the many questions that the university’s proposal raises to ensure that we reach the best possible outcome for the Evanston community.”

“I am waiting for more complete information about the stadium project and the concerts,” Revelle said. “I need the results of the City’s independent economic impact analysis as well as our own evaluation of the likely impacts of concert noise and of the university’s transportation management plan.”

What has been said at community meetings?

During a Seventh Ward meeting held in December, residents expressed concerns about the ramifications of the project on their lives and their neighborhood, in particular the impact of concerts and alcohol sales.

“My biggest concern is, how much is this gonna jazz up my normal life?” asked resident Alex Burke, whose family already has to plan ahead where to park its car during football games. “I’m excited about the prospect of concerts, but I don’t want to have to walk three blocks to my house with my groceries.”

Northwestern’s Davis said the university would work with the City of Evanston around parking solutions during game and concert days. Luke Figora, NU vice president for operations, said the university recognizes the challenges area residents will face and hopes the stadium also can host large-scale community events they would enjoy.

Northwestern’s VP of Operations Luke Figora (left) and Executive Director of Neighborhood and Community Relations Dave Davis hosted a Dec. 6 session on the university’s Ryan Field plans. Credit: RoundTable file photo

In part due to the university’s exemption from paying property tax, attendees at the meeting asked about other ways the university might share revenue with the rest of the city. “What about a payment in lieu of property taxes based on revenue from the stadium?” asked resident Eric Herman. “That seems like a reasonable way to contribute to equitable education in Evanston, and to benefit the entire city.”

Davis said it seemed like a concept worth considering.

At a subsequent Seventh Ward meeting held after the zoning change request in late January, more than 150 residents came out, most of them opposed to the idea, dozens of whom spoke against it. “We signed up for six football games a year. We did not sign up for the rest of this,” said Fiona McCarthy, who lives near the stadium and is part of the Most Livable City Association.

Revelle expressed the concerns of many when she said, “I really question just, how are all those people going to get to the stadium? And then, particularly when the concert’s over, how are they all going to get out of the neighborhood?”

At a forum in December at Second Baptist Church hosted by the Evanston branch of the NAACP, Northwestern President Michael Schill underscored the university’s commitment to spending 35% of contracts with minority- and women-owned businesses while bringing more than 2,000 new jobs to Evanston.

Peter Braithwaite, the former Second Ward alderman who’s now director of procurement diversity and community at Northwestern, said that such contracts haven’t been signed yet and that the university is talking with organizations that could help train Evanston residents to get them job ready.

Resident Paul Mark Wallace expressed hope that the university will do more for the city, its school districts, its nonprofit organizations and the Fifth Ward in particular.

“Sometimes, we feel like we’re on two different planets,” he said. “We know it’s a great town, but we need a little bit more pure money to the Evanston community.”

During a meeting in the Second Ward in January, Trisha Connolly, acting secretary for nonprofit Feeding the Village and a former District 65 librarian, expressed the concern that “there has been no community focus meeting around our thoughts about this program,” and she echoed concerns that Northwestern does not pay property taxes. Davis responded that the university does pay a number of local, state and federal taxes and added that the redeveloped stadium would result in more taxes paid through concert revenues and alcohol sales.

Northwestern officials (from left to right) Alex Darragh, Dave Davis and Peter Braithwaite listen to public comments during the Northwestern University-City Committee meeting on Thursday, March 2.
Northwestern officials Alex Darragh (from left), Dave Davis and Peter Braithwaite listen to public comments during the Northwestern University-City Committee meeting on March 2. Credit: Duncan Agnew

Recently appointed Council Member Krissie Harris (2nd Ward) expressed neutrality toward the idea, citing her newly minted status. “It’s important that both sides of this issue are heard and heard clearly,” she said.

A subsequent meeting in early February at the Family Focus Building in the Fifth Ward underscored the support for the project among some leaders in the Black community, due to the promise of subcontracted spending with Evanston-based, women- and minority-owned businesses.

“I also am in great expectation, as I have stated in private, about the components of the project that are going to ensure that Black individuals have access to contribute significantly to the building of this project,” said Senior Pastor Monté Dillard of the First Church of God.

Northwestern says the new Ryan Field will set a new standard for inclusivity and accessibility. Credit: Northwestern University

Jim Young, a 23-year resident of Evanston who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease three years ago, also said he was excited about plans for the new stadium to exceed Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. “One part of [the project] that is especially attractive to me is the commitment by the Ryan family themselves to disability,” he said.

What are the latest developments?

Last week, Northwestern announced it has selected a partnership of two companies to serve as the construction manager for the Ryan Field redevelopment.

The university intends to submit its planned development application to the city in April, “with hearings at the Land Use Commission and City Council over the coming months,” Northwestern said in a news release.

At its April 24 meeting, City Council plans to consider the proposals from consultants interested in conducting the city’s economic impact study and leading a community engagement process. The study would take place in May and June, and community engagement meetings would be held in July.

On a parallel track, Northwestern’s announced timeline is to pursue a liquor license this spring, finish entitlements/permitting and schematics design in the summer, and start the mobilization and demolition this fall, after the football season. The university expects the construction project to last more than two years and envisions games returning to Ryan Field in 2026.

Ed Finkel is a freelance writer who lives in the Sixth Ward, graduated from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism in 1989 (and worked there from 1998 to 2002).

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  1. Attempts to define NU’s proposal for the new Ryan Stadium bring to mind the Indian parable of the blind men and the elephant. Each interest group defines Ryan Stadium according to a short term “What’s in it for me?” approach. Minority communities see construction and service jobs, but the former will end and the latter are menial, dead end propositions. Business owners see more customers, but aren’t most of them going to be in-and-out at Ryan Stadium, while keeping regular customers away? Evanstonians who don’t live in the 7th Ward see a new shiny object to enhance the reputation of Evanston and a vague promise of some taxes flowing into the City’s coffers. And so on.

    In order to really foresee the negative consequences of Ryan Stadium, however, Evanstonians should look at the entire beast, set aside self-interest considerations of various groups, and focus on what’s best for the future of Evanston as a whole. What’s best for Evanston as a whole is not to reshape it into “Enuton “ (NU-ton), as has gradually been happening at least since I first moved here 35 years ago.

    Many Evanstonians are justifiably concerned about noise, rowdiness (if not outright crime), pollution, trash, traffic, and all the other ills to which urban settings are heir, ills which it will become the job of Evanston police, fire, sanitation, and other departments to address, unless specifically delegated to NU by contractual agreement. One thing I haven’t heard being addressed is the impact that game and concert day traffic will have on emergency vehicles trying to reach Evanston Hospital.

    The BARE MINIMUM that Evanston must negotiate with NU for approval of the requested rezoning is fair compensation by NU for this project that would clearly be a mega-lucrative commercial cash cow. I was surprised and disappointed when, at the 4th Ward meeting with NU on March 7 (which, by the way was not mentioned in the Roundtable article), my question about this exact issue was given short shrift with a dismissive, disingenuous, “NU is a tax-exempt non profit organization.” They could at least have acknowledged the calls for PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) in recognition of good faith negotiations. Instead, the answer veered off into feel-good, irrelevant talk of needing to reestablish “trust” between Evanston and NU. Okay, NU, run down for us the evidence that makes you trustworthy.

  2. Agree with all comments. Let Northwestern get their brilliant Kellogg and legal minds and prepare an agreement granting Evanston a perpetual 10% equity stake in all net proceeds from all activities at Ryan Field, including the income from the new Big Ten broadcast deal that stands to bring the Northwestern team anywhere from $5M to $8M ANNUALLY on top of profits from concession sales, tshirt and paraphenalia sales, and on top of the Ryan donations to build the stadium. Unless they are willing to make this official and legal then they can’t be trusted to deliver on ANY of their promises, and oh yes, they need to fund policing and garbage pick up after every event not 1/4 mile from the field but for at least a mile all around. I, too, lived in Wrigley. It has become untenable to live there anymore, especially since the Ricketts took over and now basically run the whole ward. Our property values will decline, not increase, and we hardly need job creation at such a low unemployment rate. Northwestern has made it very clear they will say anything to get what they want, and will not deliver on their promises.

  3. When you say Northwestern plans to “downsize” you mean reduce the number of seats to 35,000, which is almost 60% more than United Center and 80% more than Allstate Arena. Setting that aside, what will be the final total footprint size compared to the current total footprint? What will be the new cubic feet vs the old? My impression is that the new Ryan Field will be considerably larger than the current one, with room for restaurants and concessions inside. So people will eat there not at local restaurants. In a max capacity crowd you will have at least 15,000 vehicles converging on Ryan Field. Very few people want to take public transportation at 11 pm at night. These will be primarily “drive to” events. I am told they want the money to fund private dining and dorm facilities for football players and to fund a full time on site medical clinic for the players. When are they going to get specific on exactly how when where and who will be receiving “35%” of the spend? they are very vague on that. The economic benefits will definitely accrue to Northwestern, not so much to Evanston. I would like to see proof of their claim they give $7M a year to Evanston. They have been publishing very misleading information to date and I don’t trust your representation of Northwesterns vague and unsupported claims. THe whole city will be impacted every single summer weekend with these concerts, when you have 35,000 people (half the population of Evanston) converging on Ryan Field in at least 15,000 vehicles, down 3 miles of two lane streets through the Central Street shopping area. No one who is in favor of this is visualizing what this will look like. The guy doesn’t want to walk home 3 blocks from his house? He won’t be able to park within a mile of his house on concert days. He will have to plan his shopping for other days.

  4. To the RoundTable and Mr. Finkel, Although I appreciate your effort to provide info on the stadium project to folks, I’m dismayed not only by the errors in this piece, but also with the unavoidable sense that those errors are geared toward painting the project in rosier colors than it deserves. For instance, why in the world would your description of the NU/neighbor working group include only a link to the optimistic article published when the group was first formed, instead of linking to the recent one-year anniversary summary that concludes that the group accomplished almost nothing except giving NU “cover”? (https://evanstonroundtable.com/2023/03/25/guest-essay-neighborhood-representatives-on-ryan-field-stadium-working-group/) And you are incorrect that the working group discussed the plans for concerts, alcohol sales, etc.–those were separate “community” dog-and-pony shows by NU that were part of its PR rollout. NU never even told the working group that it planned to host large concerts in the new stadium.

    There are those who doubt the journalistic integrity of the RoundTable writers because NU has a heavy presence on the RT’s board. Inaccurate or biased articles only feed that perception.

  5. Because many citizens are going to be inconvenienced by traffic, night noise, and trash on the streets, the city ought to at least be paid. Translation: NU should pay 10% of everything — especially broadcast rights to football games — to the city. That means 10% of ticket sales, 10% of concessions, parking, and everything else. This is in addition to normal sales tax revenue.

    In addition to the cash, NU should be required to clean up the neighborhood — say a 1/4 mile diameter — after every event.

  6. Northwestern University is great! World class! One of the two most richly endowed schools in the Midwest. I enjoy strolling through NU’s beautiful campus built along Lake Michigan, about the most valuable real estate in the Midwest. Given I pay high property taxes on my modest property a mile from the lake I’m jealous of their tax-skirting skill. Their Business School is consistently ranked in the top handful in the country.

    Many Evanston residents have viewed NU’s Stadium projects skeptically. Have any USA stadium projects ever delivered the estimated economic benefits to those in the impacted municipalities and neighborhoods? No.

    It would be wonderful if local minority community members would be paid 35% of the project costs. How often are such promises kept?

    Given the billions of dollars in NU’s endowments, NU could actually follow Jim S’s suggestion: “If NU believes concerts will bring in an annual $35 million in tax revenue, perhaps the university should guarantee that amount rather than have the city depend on a projection”.

  7. Ex Wrigleyville resident chiming in here. Game days produced excess traffic, basically preventing movement by car to any venue within a mile. Plus the rowdy crowds roving the neighborhood, beer bottles and cans left on sidewalks, plus food remainders and food wrappers. And parking? Oh hah! Of course the bar and restaurant owners liked the business. The residents? NOT! Plus, access to major roads is also blocked. Lake Shore Drive, Ashland Avenue, Irving Park Road, Addison Avenue, Belmont Avenue…all tied up. Rein NU in!

    1. Please listen to the voice of experience. Richard Katz has been through this and the picture is not pretty.

  8. While I appreciate the RoundTable’s continued reporting on this topic, this article contains a number of mistakes and mischaracterizations.

    For instance, the Tripp Umbach report does not project that concerts will generate $35 million in annual tax revenue over ten years. Direct and indirect tax revenues from ALL activity at the stadium (football, events, liqueur, parking, vendors, etc.) is projected at a little over $5 million annually. The amount attributable to opening up the stadium to for-profit commercial events, including ten stadium-capacity concerts, is a fraction of that. The report—which assumes an unspecified number of 10,000-person events (a number Northwestern refuses to disclose)—is available here: https://rebuildryanfield.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/TU_Northwestern-University_Ryan-Field-v4.pdf. The Tripp Umbach report relies on data and assumptions generated by CSL, an arm of Northwestern’s business parter Legends, but Northwestern has denied requests to share that information.

    The Tripp Umbach report also does not say property values will increase. Northwestern’s zoning change application says that Tripp Umbach told it, “Stadium facilities have been shown to increase property values relative to their distance to the stadium.” This is irrelevant for two reasons. First, it rests on research involving professional stadiums built in blighted areas. Second, we already have a stadium and the issue here is what effect the expanded uses would have.

    The article fails to acknowledge that concerts and other community events—including outdoor concerts—are permitted under the current zoning code. They’re capped in number and attendance (10,000) and subject to other restrictions, but it’s irresponsible to frame the issue as concerts versus no concerts when it’s really about the number, size, and other changes (like removing the requirements that they be “of a nonprofit nature” and “intended primarily for residents of the City”).

    Finally, community members have been asking Northwestern for months to back up its claim that the zoning changes are needed to make the stadium “financially viable,” and it hasn’t done so. There is every reason to believe Northwestern will move forward with the rebuild regardless of the City’s zoning and liquor decisions.

  9. Hopefully, the proposed independent economic impact study will give NU’s financial projections needed scrutiny. For instance, Evanston’s unemployment is currently ~3.5%. Unless unemployment increases dramatically, NU will be challenged to fulfill it promise to bring 2,000 new jobs to Evanston. Also, how many of those jobs will remain once the stadium is built? Furthermore, if unemployment remains low, what impact will this have on NU’s wage projections? Also, if NU believes concerts will bring in an annual $35 million in tax revenue, perhaps the university should guarantee that amount rather than have the city depend on a projection.

    1. Great points, Jim. I just posted about this separately, and hopefully the RoundTable corrects the error, but the $35 million figure is wrong. Northwestern’s consultant projects direct and indirect tax revenues from ALL activity at the stadium (football, events, liqueur, parking, vendors, etc.) at a little over $5 million annually. The amount attributable to opening up the stadium to for-profit commercial events, including ten stadium-capacity concerts, is a fraction of that, and Northwestern won’t say how many 10,000-person ticketed events that figure assumes.

      1. Thanks Meredith. Evanston’s City Budget for 2023 is $397,207,050. Just to put this in perspective, NU will only be contributing roughly 1.2% of this – and that’s a best scenario projection.

  10. This fine article unfortunately omits one key fact: Northwestern University has devoted tremendous resources to the appearance of acting in good faith, when it demonstrably has used misinformation and deception to advance its plan. It began several years ago when NU exec Dave Davis stood before the plan commission and promised “on the record” that the university returning in several years to push for a zoning change is “not going to happen.” It happened.

    Then, Northwestern has steadfastly refused not only to cooperate with the city in determining the impact of its plan, but also refuses to reveal the data and business assumptions for its so-called economic report. Its touted opinion survey is similarly disingenuous; it wouldn’t pass muster with one credible polling professional.

    Northwestern chose the path of obfuscation and believes it will get what it wants through lack of cooperation and an attendant blitz of blaze and bluster. It is hitting the wall of people who demand honest assessment.

    I implore the RoundTable to hold the feet to the fire of truth of all parties as it continues its coverage of this issue.