A rendering of the planned new Ryan Field.

City staff will ask Evanston City Council Monday night to spend $98K to hire a consultant to do an independent study of the economic impact on the city’s economy of a planned new Ryan Field.

The staff is recommending that the city hire Chicago-based Hunden Strategic Partners for the project, saying the firm has extensive experience providing independent reports on stadium development projects to municipal clients.

Hunden’s projects include work for the Village of Arlington Heights in studying the impact of a proposed new stadium for the Chicago Bears, for the City of Tempe, Arizona, to study plans for a new NHL arena and for the City of Dallas, Texas, to study plans for a new major-league baseball stadium there.

The Administration and Public Works Committee tabled staff’s recommendation to hire Hunden on Jan. 23, asking that it consider other firms and expand the scope of the study to separately evaluate the impact of adding concerts at the new stadium and of the impact of what Northwestern University claims will be an “enhanced fan experience” in increasing football game revenue.

After considering proposals from two other firms, Civic Economics and AECOM, Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development manager, said, that although Hunden presented the most expensive proposal, it also was by far the best qualified to do the work.

Update 3:50 p.m.: A coalition of groups opposed to the stadium project issued a news release Sunday afternoon opposing awarding the contract to Hunden, claiming the firm is biased in favor of stadium development projects.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. I don’t see why the city should pay for this as, at least so far, the project seems to mostly benefit Northwestern. Let Northwestern volunteer payment to the city and the city to contract for the study. Perhaps an independent study will show why this project will benefit Evanston.

  2. If the city’s consultant doesn’t find that the economic impact of the new stadium is great enough for the City of Evanston, will that mean they don’t let Northwestern spend their own $850 billion on the project? Will Northwestern no longer need a new stadium? Let’s save us taxpayers $100k and enjoy the new resource we are being offered for free. This city council is way too comfortable spending our money.

    1. Please understand that we are not being offered the new “resource” for free. NU hasn’t committed to paying additional city services, it hasn’t substantiated claims of economic boon and no negative impact on the neighborhood or city infrastructure.
      There is a lot to unpack in what will actually occur during building and post construction, and although it’s easy to believe all the hype…it’s our responsibility to complete due diligence to insure that something that sounds too good to be true isn’t in fact exactly that.

  3. Does anyone else feel as if Evanston is trying to be on Saturday Night Live? We should hire a consultant to see how much of our budget is spent on consulting

  4. The proposal includes throwing out the zoning laws that exist, and rewriting them to allow for major regional concert events. At 35,000 seats, the stadium would be bigger than the United Center or the Allstate Arena. A study like this is due diligence, and because the request to change its existing zoning laws came from Northwestern University, the cost of the study should be billed to the University.

  5. Northwestern already paid for an economic impact study. Now, is the request that NU pay for a second study in the hopes of some that the first study is wrong?

  6. One reason community members asked APW and the City Council to reject Hunden’s no-bid contract three weeks ago is that it seemed scoped to only look at benefits, not costs. Now the proposal leaves no doubt—“Hunden will not report on impacts related to noise levels, in-depth traffic impacts, street and infrastructure deterioration, etc.”—but the price has gone up $30,000 (more than the other two firms’ proposals combined)! This would be an unacceptable waste of taxpayer money. And, to anyone hoping the City would at least look at the potential costs of NU’s plan to commercialize the U2 district, the message would be clear: the fix is in.

  7. It seems to me that Evanston spends googobs of money on consultant reports that ultimately are not all that enlightening, and that may be slanted at the outset. My long experience with N.U.’s relationship to the city is that for the most part, N.U. Gets what it wants, period.
    If they need a new stadium, which is possible, and they pay for it, I say fine, go ahead and build it. What I have problems with is this multiple huge commercial concert dates they want to have there, that will bring in tons of traffic and seriously affect the Central St business district.
    How do the business owners feel about it? Perhaps they see it as advantageous because it can bring in new customers to their restaurants and coffee shops…
    In any case, spending almost $100,000 to have a consulting firm tell Evanston what N.U. Wants it to hear is a most unfortunate expenditure, in my opinion.

    1. Nancy, did it ever occur to you that some Evanstonians might enjoy having a concert venue they can go to that is close by? Is seeing a known band that is closeby a negative for all? NO. When you say “huge, commercial..” you make it seem like a industrial cement mixer is being installed. It is a concert….a music concert…presented by artists…that by nature many people INCLUDING Evanstonians would actually love to see. As would younger people who will eventually buy the homes that the many elderly folks who view this as a nuisance will one day be selling. Big picture people.

      1. It’s sad but true, NU’s Tripp-Umbach “study” was nothing more than a PR snow job, as was its “public opinion” study. NU refuses to share the underlying CSL study on which the Tripp report is based, and refuses to share its full opinion survey results. First things first, demand transparency from NU. It’s amazing how many people in this smart town don’t see through the marketing blitz, and demand NU’s full data. Evanston has to pay for a consultant in large part because NU refuses to share its data and assumptions. Don’t be rubes!

      2. I agree with Stefanie – 100%

        A more complete position paper to follow

        PS – See elsewhere in ENow! about the empty mansion on the lake

        I’ll be publishing much more about why virtually every proposal before the CC is doomed to fail

      3. The rebuilt Ryan Field will have a capacity of 35,000—that’s 1.5x the capacity of the United Center. I’d call that “huge.” It’s “commercial” because NU wants to strike “non-profit” from the zoning ordinance.

        These won’t be like the concerts at Ravinia (15,000) or Out of Space (2,500).

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