Evanston’s City Council voted Monday night to approve Northwestern University’s plans to rebuild Ryan Field and permit six concerts with an attendance of up to 28,000 people.

The council made several minor amendments before adopting the memorandum of understanding with the university regarding in public benefits and a zoning change to permit the concerts on 5-4 votes, with Mayor Daniel Biss breaking the tie.

Council members Kelly, Wynne, Suffredin and Revelle were on the losing side of those votes.

The planned development ordinance to approve construction of the stadium passed on a 6-2 vote with just Kelly and Suffredin voting no.

The council debate lasted for more than six hours, starting with comments from dozens of residents — most of whom opposed the stadium project.

The stadium project is expected to cost the university $800 million to build and the school has promised an estimated $157 million in public benefits to the city spread over a period of 17 years.

Daniel Biss.

After the votes Mayor Biss said that a town the size of Evanston doesn’t see an investment opportunity the size of the stadium come along very often.

“Concerts,” he added, “are a good thing, if done right — music can bring people together.”

“The community benefits agreement, Biss said, amounts to “a historic transformation” of the city’s relationship with Northwestern.

“It’s completely different than what we’ve had over the past 150 years,” the mayor said. “That’s really important. It sets a foundation for a new spirit of collaboration going forward.”

Some reactions to the decision …

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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