Advanced Search

Evanston RoundTable | Evanston, IL
The Weather Network
Evanston Symphony Orchestra

home : opinion
November 19, 2019

10/25/2019 2:04:00 PM
Guest Essay: Open Letter to Morton Schapiro, President, Northwestern University

We are Evanston residents who own and reside in properties within very close proximity to Northwestern’s athletic complex, the area which contains Ryan Field, Welsh Ryan Arena, Rocky Miller Park, athletic practice facilities and some large parking lots.  For zoning purposes, the City has labeled this area the U2 district.  Most of us have lived in our houses for decades.

As you have been at Northwestern for 10 years, you are no doubt aware that the relationship between the University and the City of Evanston has historically been fraught with issues and tensions.  One of those issues which has been a source of conflict between NU and the Evanston (and Wilmette) residents living near the NU athletic complex is NU’s periodic attempts to change city zoning to allow commercial events in the U2 district.  In 1971, after a 1970 staging of a professional football game at then Dyche Stadium, lawsuits and a zoning ordinance resulted in the current prohibition against professional sports and commercial events in the U2 district.  In 1975 and again in 1976 NU unsuccessfully sued the City of Evanston to allow professional events.  Three more times between 1978 and 1984 the City blocked NU’s efforts to stage pro sports or concert events.  Finally, in 1996, after a protracted dispute between NU and the area neighbors, the City Council voted to deny NU’s request to change the zoning to allow a professional tennis tournament.

After 23 years we felt secure in our belief that Northwestern had finally put to rest the idea of monetizing its athletic facilities to the detriment of our neighborhood.  We have no problem with amateur NCAA events, graduations and other University related uses (of which there are hundreds a year). We also appreciate the dialogue that has existed in recent years, which, among other things, resulted in NU’s agreeing to honor neighbors’ requests when renovating the west parking lot.  We were therefore disappointed and outraged when we became aware of the University’s latest attempt to change the zoning in the U2 district.

We hope you realize the level of outrage and anger this proposal has aroused among your neighbors.  Only two other Big Ten schools have any single family residences within 1000 feet of their athletic facilities, and those schools have only 31 and 79 residences compared to over 500 within that distance of NU’s facilities.  We have learned to live with the inconvenience of the various amateur events, but when NU, a property tax-exempt institution with an over 11 billion dollar endowment, wishes to add a few more dollars to its coffers at taxpaying homeowners expense, we say enough is enough!  The traffic, noise, safety issues and adverse effect on our property values are very real to us, and are not things we can tolerate.

Two neighborhood meetings were held this summer, led by two representatives from the NU Athletic Department.  Upon questioning by neighbors, we were told they projected a total net profit of $400-600,000 from six concert events (assuming a best case scenario of sellouts at $100 a ticket),  and a multi-day tennis tournament.  This amount would merely be about 0.5% of the revenue generated annually by NU athletics (which we were told is about 95 million a year).

We do not know where in the University the idea to request an amendment to the zoning ordinance originated, but suspect it was with the athletic department, based on the sloppiness of the filing (documents were filed with errors), the mistaken information presented by NU’s athletic department representatives (the amount of ticket tax revenue projected for the City was overstated by a factor of about three, as they did not realize the City amusement tax is only 4%, unlike the 12% athletic ticket tax), and the timing of an expensive Welsh-Ryan Arena renovation being recently completed.  Adding to this suspicion, we were told that the Athletic Department has a separate budget, and cannot access NU’s endowment for its expenses, which would be a reason for them to look for other revenue sources.We sincerely hope that you could intervene to stop what will only result in the highest level of antagonism between NU and its neighbors that has ever existed.  Please ask yourself if a relatively insignificant amount of revenue to the athletic department is worth causing years of bad feelings and conflict with your neighbors, as well as massive amounts of negative publicity.

Nearly 900 residents and businesses have signed a petition asking to deny the proposed zoning amendment.  Listed below are some of the organizations and individuals who oppose the zoning amendment.

Very truly yours,Northwestern –

Andrew Berman / Mary Rosinski / Christina Brandt,

Spotlight on Evanston - Yvi Russell,

Asbury Northwestern Neighbors – Ken Proskie

Evanston Neighbors Against Pro Sports – Al Williams

North Evanston Watch – Laurie McFarlane / Judy Berg

Evanston Economists for Growth – John Nader / Joe Hill

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, October 28, 2019
Comment by: Kimberly Kurrus

It is important to value and take seriously the input folks who care about this area around the NU sports complex at Ryan Field. They are what make the neighborhood safe and clean, and the main reason it holds such a great attractiveness to young families. Consider if NU had its way, what impact that would have on the family homes, and how in the long run the value and safety of the area would diminish. I pick up trash after every event as it is now. Purple cups, beer cans and bottles, broken glass, food scraps, and plastic and paper left over from the crowds on our streets and alleys. That can only increase, not decrease with NU's proposal. If NU activities increase, then many negative aspects of large events like noise and trash, parking and traffic problems, and opportunities for drunken violence and theft increase too...not decrease. All that will reach a tipping point, and the area will not be the safe wonderful place it is now. We are all trying to hang on to our homes with taxes increasing at an alarming rate as it is. Eventually a combination of things...a perfect storm...can and will drive families from this area. The City Government needs to tread carefully, and keep an eye on what obvious outcomes lie ahead if NU gets it's foot in the door on these events, and then can ask for more. Its not all about money. It is about the neighborhood. It is about families.This town needs to remember that it is families that make make Evanston strong. Family concerns should come first, not NU's desires to make more money. They can find another way to do that. They can hold extra events on the land that they own by the lake, and not in our neighborhood.

Posted: Saturday, October 26, 2019
Comment by: Richard Miller

Bravo and Amen!
Well said!
Richard Miller

Article Comment Submission Form

The RoundTable will try to post comments within a few hours, but there may be a longer delay at times. Comments containing mean-spirited, libelous or ad hominem attacks will not be posted.

Note: Your full name is required. Your telephone number and e-mail will not be posted. You may type your comments in the space below, or you may type them in a word document and cut and paste them in the space below.

Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Last Name:
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.

Click to View Upcoming Events
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Submit Event

HomeVideosCommunity PostsObituariesClassifiedsAdvertiseAbout UsContact UsLinksLife
Dreamtown Corp

Copyright 2008-19 - Evanston RoundTable LLC, Evanston, IL 60202, 847-864-7741, All Rights Reserved

Software © 1998-2019 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved