A city consultant’s report says the costs of having a new Ryan Field in Evanston “pale in comparison to the benefits received.”

The city Friday released the report from Johnson Consulting on the potential economic impact of Northwestern University’s plan to rebuild the nearly century old football stadium.

The executive summary of the study says a new stadium is rarely offered, as Northwestern is proposing, “with virtually no cost to the host community.”

The study projects somewhat lower economic benefits from the stadium and the concerts the school wants to host than did the university’s economic analysis from the Tripp Umbach firm issued last November.

Football fans in the concession area at Ryan Field last Saturday.

But it concludes that the annual economic impact of the stadium would increase, with the rebuild, from $51.6 million in 2018 to $82.8 million with the addition of six concerts.

It sees the direct tax revenue to the city and state rising from $5.0 million per year to $6.6 million. The city’s share of that revenue, the study says, would rise from $2.3 million to $2.5 million

The Johnson Consulting study says the project can address one of the city’s major weaknesses, “that there is not enough critical mass to attract people to the city.”

A large concert, the study asserts “has almost equal economic value to the market as a football game,” adding that, “It is reasonable for Northwestern to attempt to get some additional demand to cover costs.”

However, the report suggests that more work needs to be done to develop a feasible plan for handling traffic to and from concerts.

It says that while “the choreography required” to accommodate 147 bus trips from the stadium to off-site parking garages during the peak post-concert hour is “possible theoretically,” it “would require extraordinary staffing and marshalling” to implement.

The Land Use Commission is scheduled to have a second hearing on the stadium project on Sept. 27, with a recommendation to the City Council expected at a third meeting Oct. 11.

Update 3:45 p.m.:

Eleanor Revelle.

At a meeting this afternoon at The Mather to discuss the Ryan Field plans, Ald. Eleanor Revelle, whose 7th Ward includes the stadium property, said she’d just had an opportunity to skim the Johnson Consulting report.

She said, “They did come up with some nice figures of what Evanston could take in in tax revenue if we have concerts.”

But she added that the study indicates the university “will need to come up with a plan” to get people back to their cars after a concert.

Residents at the meeting appeared split — with some claiming the school needs to provide more financial support for the city, while others said the stadium product is sorely needed.

Revelle said she believes the council vote on whether to approve concerts at the new stadium “will be very close.”

In a statement Friday afternoon, David DeCarlo, of the Most Livable City Association, said the report confirms that the school’s “transportation and parking plan is not grounded in reality.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Looks like the City has 88 million reasons per year to put up with traffic concerns for less than 20 days per year. If one wants to be more pessimistic, there’s 6 million reasons to ask a small % of homeowners to sacrifice for the greater good. How about giving all homes within a half mile comp tickets to the concerts? We need the money. Capital projects abound. D65 schools, Civic Center, a multitude of public parks are all in disrepair. Let’s not let a minority of NIMBY homeowners wreck this opportunity for the good of the many.

  2. The executive summary of the executive summary. “Don’t look an 800 million dollar gift horse in the mouth!” Curious how the those opposed to this FREE generational project that will benefit so many will rationalize their opposition now. I can’t think of 30 million reasons, can you? Or maybe the new consultants got it wrong and we should spend taxpayer dollars on more consultants.

    1. The same people complaining about NU stadium are those that complained about the new and AMAZING Robert Crown complex. STFU NIMBYs

      1. Sorry Ryan that you felt you had to demean your neighbors “stfu”, so disappointing. Please look at the City of Evanston budget, we are paying big time for Robert Crown!

    2. Did we read the same report? It projects an additional $200,000 per year for the city. It finds NU’s traffic and parking plan totally inadequate. It refers to “Central Avenue” as “blighted.” Do you agree with those findings?

      The fluffy verbiage in the executive summary does not match what’s actually in it. Let me know if you decide to read it.

      1. I’ve only made it to slide 10 so far, but the “the proposed stadium will remove blight on central street” in the opening paragraph of the executive summary is just mind blowing! 😀

        Apparently it’s not all rich privileged folks with fancy stores as all the build the mega stadium for the poor proponents have touted. It’s a blighted area in need of investment! Omg. Too funny!

        How about these geniuses at Johnson look at the recent history of central east of Green Bay. There has been and continues to be business and real estate investment that is bringing increased tax dollars to Evanston. And these same shops will suffer when their regular customers can’t reach them just as they already suffer on games days. No concert goers are going to get their hair done, join an art class, or stop in for a while jujitsu lesson!

        1. We are talking about 12 total event days, right?

          And those businesses you claim are harmed by football (a whopping six days out of 365) are still in business in spite of football? Interesting they haven’t failed after 97 years.

          Oh, how have they managed to survive closing on all those secular holidays! How, indeed.

          Are they really intending to stay open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day?
          Jujitsu and ballet classes at 8 p.m. Saturday, really? An updo at 9 p.m. on a Friday? Can’t it wait? For six nights in the summer, can’t take some time off? Really? They’ll go out of business because they can’t service their regular customers 24/7/365? Do they serve them on Thanksgiving? Christmas? July 4th? Don’t they ever take a night off??

          I’ll wait while you provide a list of the businesses harmed by six concerts. Also share total employment at those businesses. I’ll reply with the total number of employees working at Evanston hotels who will lose their jobs because of David DeCarlo and his delusions about livable cities. Stop with the lies. Saying no the new stadium is saying you do not care about the future of our downtown. Saying no to the stadium to protect elite Central Street residents at the expense of the entire city is cruel and destructive. Show me your plan for a “Most Livable City” that takes into account a dying downtown.

          1. Wow. Speaking of delusional. Do we have businesses there for 97 years? Please show me on. I’m waiting…..

            In the meanwhile, What does Christmas have to do with it? Thanksgiving? You’re really grasping at straws.

            Check the actual zoning changes being requested and you’ll realize it’s not just at 8pm. And I ’s not just weekdays. Though they are demanding to be able to have concerts up to 10pm on weekdays and school nights and 11pm on the weekends which is a whole other matter!!! And yeah, juijitsu, hair dressers and art classes do in fact go late on both weeknights and weekends! So now who’s lying?

            If you really care about downtown and hotel workers you’d demand the city council stop doing everything but busing in all of Cook County’s homeless and mentally unwell that have completely ruined our once great downtown. And you’d demand they stop being so anti-business with non-stop new taxes and regulations. They are so anti-business they shutter local businesses, and drive any prospective new businesses to Skokie and Wilmette.

            And for anyone that wants to converse in facts and not fantasy…. Can you please clarify if these 6 ‘events’ are multi-day affairs? I do recall NU has on more than one occasion referred to 2-3 day festivals and not just a single day 3 hour event. If that’s the case, well, all these ‘18 hours of disruption over 6 days’ arguments would obviously need to be revised.

  3. There are 29k times 6 reasons to still be in opposition. The study clearly called out the lack of an feasible plan for parking and traffic which is by far the biggest concern raised by those in opposition to the current plan! Stadium supporters keep acting like folks in opposition are just nimbys, but this shows they have very legitimate concerns. If folks want this to happen, they should be pushing NU to address these real problems. They should also be pushing to get these benefits to be guaranteed and not the ‘take my word’ from NU who has a long history of reneging on their agreements.

    Let’s also not forget the 100’s of millions of reasons in lost tax revenue that we carry the burden of. We should demand more from NU than some trickle down economic theory from the old right that stinks of long debunked economic theories that benefit the already filthy rich (NU) and create massive inequality! The folks losing in this the most are the working middle class who take all the burden with the same, or likely even less gain as the taxes get redistributed.

  4. I’m an economist in the 7th Ward. I’ve read the economic literature on economic impacts of stadiums and events and spoken with several authors of these studies: when you account for all impacts, both negative and positive, these peer-rebiewed studies are crystal clear: stadiums and events generate little or NEGATIVE economic gains to a community.
    Johnson largely ignored the large negative effects of concerts: substitution/replacement effects, congestion/crowding-out effects, and spending leakage outside of Evanston.
    I spoke with the Johnson study team: they don’t have any economists on staff and don’t account for all of these adverse economic effects.
    Stadiums and events, both football games and concerts, are losers for the city. They do not and will not produce large economic benefits.

    1. Well, there’s already a stadium there. And the new stadium would be entirely privately funded. So are you suggesting what should happen is there should be no stadium, period? I think there are legitimate concerns about transportation — but I have no doubt those can be addressed. But when the “we need more studies” crowd immediately dismisses the results of the study they asked for, it does suggest there’s not really any open-mindedness to a solution and that the opposition to the stadium is just about people’s various grievances with things that have nothing to do with whether this particular project makes economic sense.

  5. Let’s acknowledge that there is a group of people who oppose the stadium who will continue to oppose it no matter what evidence is presented, how much money NU gives or how beautifully the traffic plans are crafted. A stadium neighbor who is for the project asked a neighbor who is it against it how he felt about the proposed Community Benefits Agreement. He said he was still against it. She asked if their was any benefits agreement that would get his support. He said yes, if they paid for my property taxes. So in this case he’s concerned that the benefits don’t directly come into his household. The “opposed” people have different reasons for being opposed, but the “pro” group pretty much has the same reason: Evanston needs more revenue and more jobs so that we remain a vital city for all, and 18 hours of concerts is not, even with some traffic congestion, a reason to turn our backs on such an amazing opportunity for our city. If one of the opposed has a no-cost way to create 200 new jobs and $30 million in annual economic benefits let’s do that too! (The economic data is on page 30 of the report; the $200,000 is additional tax revenue alone.) If traffic and parking are the issues the opposed side is fighting about, let’s focus our efforts on how to solve this problem rather than pushing claims that the immediate neighbors are going to have heart attacks and their children will have brain damage if a concert ever plays at Ryan Field. Let’s work together to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity and minimize the negative impacts on the neighbors, if indeed that is the objective. On the other hand some people just don’t want anything to change in their neighborhoods no matter how many other people will benefit.

  6. Here’s a small sampling from the lengthy economic literature on impacts of stadiums and events:
    “. . . The local economic impact of sports teams and facilities is far smaller than proponents allege; in some cases, it is negative.” (Noll & Zimbalist, 1997, “Sports, Jobs, and Taxes.”)

    “This literature contains near-universal consensus evidence that sports venues do not generate large positive effects.” (Bradbury et al, 2022, “The Impact of Professional Sports Franchises and Venues on Local Economies”)

    “Sports stadiums are economic losers.” (Sanderson, 1996, “Government and Football, the Illegal Use of Taxpayers’ Wallets”.)

    “Sports-related activity does not produce additional, broader economic value in the community: economic activity in and around sports facilities on game day represents a transfer from other local commercial activity and comes at the expense of existing local businesses.” (Bradbury et al, 2022)

    “New stadiums, arenas and franchises, as well as mega-events, appear to be as likely to reduce taxable sales as increase them.” (Baade et al, 2008, “Selling the Game: Estimating the Economic Impact of Professional Sports through Taxable Sales.”)

    1. So NW should do what, exactly, with the already existing stadium? Your arguments & cited studies center around the construction of stadiums that weren’t already there. These are all red herrings. There is a stadium, has been a stadium, & will likely remain a stadium at the site. The current stadium is old & in need of replacement. Disagree? Take a look at every other B1G stadium. NW’s current stadium is a running joke & there are many high schools with better stadiums. Take a look at IMG academy in Bradenton if you’d like an example. The study that the city paid a lot of money for disagrees with your argument. It’s amazing that the opponents quickly dismiss the findings that disagree with their preferences. Nimby, Nimby, Nimby.

      1. No argument about the new stadium. But no where did you make any case for changing 100 year old zoning rules to allow for NU to hold for profit concerts because they want a nicer stadium they they can afford!

        Nor has anyone ever justified, and it seems too often doesn’t even pause to think about, why NU can’t stay within a budget for a new stadium they can afford! Despite NU’s insistence it’s the mega stadium and entertainment on Plex or bust, there clearly is a third option where they cut the cost to say $700M, and use the remainder to pay for 75 years of maintenance!

    2. None of these studies reflect two important differences present in the Ryan Field proposal. First, and most importantly, the Ryan Field rebuild does not rely upon any public financing. The studies you cite, as well as other I’ve read, appropriately consider the opportunity cost of allocating significant public dollars to subsidize stadium as opposed to the benefits from long term investments in community needs such as infrastructure, education and housing. Fortunately, as the Johnson report points out, we are faced with the rare choice to be offered a stadium with no request for public financing.
      Secondly, new stadiums are often built on the cheapest available land, which is typically further from city centers. Not only due these projects require standing up a stadium, but building new access roads, extending infrastructure and encouraging new private investment in lodging and dining. These additional public costs aren’t relevant in this case. NU isn’t proposing a new stadium on an undeveloped site, it’s replacing one on an existing site. It represents a huge cost differential.
      Have you found studies relevant to our choice? I have not.

    3. Curious if any of the experts who criticized stadium economics actually were made aware of the fact that our situation is very different from, say, the US Bank stadium, built in partnership with private funds, city funds, and state funds? In our case, 100% of the investment in the Rebuilt Ryan Field is being donated, and the city and state are contributing zero dollars. That makes the $30,000,000 in annual benefits to the city of Evanston an infinite rate of return.

      Just curious.

  7. This study claims a net gain of $200k for Evanston. The jobs will be created for construction and the remainder hardly support generational wealth; they support hours concession jobs and security jobs.

    Having attended the June 27 meeting for the 7th ward and the first Land Use Commission meeting in early September, I can assure you that Northwestern has no plan to provide parking, and intends to piecemeal a parking plan to consume 80% of all available spots IN DOWNTOWN EVANSTON thereby creating a disincentive for people to go out to dinner, to the new Northlight Theatre, the movie theatre, etc.

    Central Street (not town) is hardly blighted. What city was this study for? No economists worked on the study.

    As a resident of the 7th ward, the “plan” to have 20,000 people walk to the the el on a skinny sidewalk past our home in the dark (while intoxicated, stoned, vaping, etc) creates a hazard for all parties involved.

    Dillo Days caused an overflow of the Evanston hospital emergency room. Perhaps that is the economic benefit to which this report subtly refers..

  8. Fixing typos from phone…

    Nor has anyone ever justified, and it seems too often doesn’t even pause to think about, why NU can’t stay within a budget for a new stadium that they can afford! Despite NU’s insistence it’s the mega stadium and entertainment complex or bust, there clearly is a third option where they cut the cost to say $700M, and use the remainder to pay for 75 years of maintenance!

  9. The studies I cited analyze new stadiums, rebuilt stadiums, and the use of these stadiums for games or events. Mr. Johnson obviously hasn’t read these studies. The economic evidence is very clear: stadium events don’t bring net economic gains to the City. This has nothing to do with nimby.

    Also, why is it Evanston’s problem to make money for Northwestern? They can rebuild their stadium and they can take the enormous amount of money that they don’t give Evanston in lieu of property taxes or a Community Benefit Agreement, and use that money to operate their new stnimbly. Many or most other large, private universities do make payments to cities. Not Northwestern.

    Again, stadiums and stadium events are economic losers. Why is it Evanston’s responsibility to make money for Northwestern?

    1. Gee, I guess it’s open season on the hunt for objections to the new stadium.

      Don’t like the consultants the city hired? Don’t build the stadium.

      Parking problems have yet to be resolved? Don’t build the stadium.

      The University has never paid property taxes and never will? Don’t build the stadium.

      People who live near airports suffer hearing damage? Don’t build the stadium.

      A fan peed on my lawn following a football game in 1984? Don’t build the stadium.

      Northwestern is uber wealthy? Don’t build the stadium.

      I won’t be able to grill in my backyard every single night during the summer? Don’t build the stadium.

      I could go on, but my point is that the insidious game of whack-a-mole played by opponents (basketball traffic is unmanageable, concerts will last for days, the roads will collapse, football is a dangerous sport, etc.) just prove that the “no because” people will continually spin from one reason to another, and will never, ever, ever get to a yes. Prove me wrong.

      The “no until” objectors with their decades long attempts at extortion and prayers for tax relief through direct transfer payments are akin to proposing welfare for the wealthy. And if they do get a CBA or PILOT, they are still allies of the “no because” people, meaning even succeeding with extortion leaves them a no. Or will they just throw their other allies (Wilmette residents, graduate students, hair salons) under the bus? Nope, still gonna be a no forever.

      I’m a “yes and” person, totally in favor of the new stadium for economic reasons. And let’s get to work solving every real problem (parking) so we can enjoy a city with a vibrant downtown.

      1. I don’t agree with most of the above. It’s factually inaccurate, an extreme parody of legitimate concerns by Evanston families (that deserve more than to be mocked with such demeaning statements), it dodges any legitimate attempt to argue against their point of view in good faith, and we clearly have different opinions on who/why this only benefits the extremely wealthy (NU and the billionaire donors…. Damn the hard working middle class folks nearby!)

        But I will agree with the last part. If proponents of the stadium can focus their energy to making NU even pretend to try and solve for the parking and traffic issues that will sprawl across most of Evanston, then it would go a LONG way to winning my vote!

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