As Evanston’s City Council prepares to review Northwestern University’s plans for Ryan Field Monday night a university official says the school is open to some changes in the plans — but not others.
Dave Davis, the school’s senior executive director for neighborhood and community relations, tells Evanston Now that a Land Use Commission suggestion that the school explore building a parking garage on either of the existing parking lots at the stadium is a nonstarter.
With parking decks costing upwards of $30,000 per space, adding — for example — a 1,000 car garage — would likely add more than $30 million to the cost of the project. And having more spectators drive to the stadium — rather than take shuttle buses or mass transit — would likely increase traffic congestion on nearby streets.
Davis also says the school has no interest in putting a dome on the stadium to make it fully enclosed — an approach some have suggested as a possible solution to concerns about noise from stadium events disturbing neighborhood residents.
A dome “is not what people want,” Davis says.
The Land Use Commission voted unanimously to recommend Council approval of the stadium rebuild project, while proposing several conditions.
But it voted 7-2 against the school’s request for a text amendment to allow a half dozen concerts a year at the stadium with a concert capacity of up to 28,000 spectators.
(The football capacity of the new stadium is planned to be 35,000 — down from the 47,000 capacity of the existing, century-old structure.)
LUC Chair Matt Rodgers suggested that the text amendment — rather than specifying an allowed number of concerts and various other details — should leave the event count and a variety of details up to a memorandum of understanding between the school and the city.
That, he suggested, would provide more flexibility to adjust the concert plans — or scale them back — based on actual experience.
Davis said university officials are open to that approach but are waiting to see the final version of the proposed ordinances to be presented at Monday’s council meeting before suggesting specific modifications.
He also said that the university is willing to modify the Community Benefit Agreement that it has already proposed for the project to respond to input from council members.
The stadium proposal will be the only item on Monday’s agenda for a special meeting of the Council that’s scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.
Given the broad interest in the project — from both opponents and supporters — it’s expected to be a long meeting.
The Council is expected to introduce — but not take a final vote on the stadium project Monday. That final vote most likely would come at a Council meeting in November.