In contrast to concerns about traffic and noise raised by folks living closest to Ryan Field, residents at a 5th Ward meeting Thursday night focused on concerns about how many jobs the new stadium would provide for Evanston residents.
“Exactly what are those 2,900 jobs going to be,” Tanya Brown asked, referring to a university claim that rebuilding the stadium would create that many jobs.
University Vice President for Operations Luke Figora said that during the construction of the stadium there will be a variety of jobs on site from laborers to specialty trades.
Once the stadium is in operation, he added there will be additional jobs in stadium operations.
The school has also set a target of 35% for subcontracted spending with local, minority-owned and women-owned businesses for the Ryan Field project.
Brown said she felt that was “sort of a vague answer” and that she was worried about how much of a priority there would be for Evanston residents to get the jobs.
Dave Davis, the university’s executive director of neighborhood and community relations, said that once the university has selected a construction manager for the stadium project, “hopefully in a few weeks” there will be staff “to connect people to the jobs and opportunities.”
Peter Braithwaite, the university’s director of procurement diversity and community engagement, said the Ryan Field website will soon have forms to let businesses that want to become contractors on the project and workers seeking jobs indicate their interest and list their skills.
It will “help serve as an inventory for the construction manager to know what type of skills we have here in our community,” Braithwaite added.
Beyond jobs, some residents were interested in what opportunities the new stadium might provide for youth recreation. Jeff Masters said he “loved the idea” shown in a rendering for the stadium project of having a skating rink on the site that kids could use.
He suggested that the school might get coaches in the athletic department to “do some training stuff” for youths.
“That would be an incredible resource for so many kids in our neighborhood,” Masters added.
Davis said the school already has staffers in athletics that are doing programming at Family Focus and the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center in the 5th Ward. “We can build on that and expand everything with the Ryan Field program,” he added.
Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) said the university plans to conduct meetings about the Ryan Field project for each of the city’s nine wards.
The university needs a variety of city approvals to be able to move forward with its planned rebuild of the century-old stadium.
Do you mean to tell me that with all the construction that Northwestern has done on its campus over the past 20 years that it doesn’t know the capacity of minority contractors to work on the entertainment complex? We’ll all be better off if their assurances are turned into enforceable agreements.
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