Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) tells Evanston Now that if a vote on rebuilding Ryan Field were held today, she would vote “no,” unless revisions are made to Northwestern University’s plans for the $800 million stadium project.
Northwestern wants to tear down the century-old Ryan Field and replace it with a new, privately-financed state-of-the-art facility, with 12,000 fewer seats than the current stadium.
About 30 people attended a meeting of the NU/City Committee that Kelly chairs at the Civic Center Wednesday night. Most of those who spoke, or applauded speakers, opposed NU’s proposal.
Several were members of a coalition of five opposing groups, called the “Northwestern Accountability Alliance.”
Aaron Cohen, who lives in the 7th Ward, which is home to the stadium, accused Northwestern of “continued obfuscation” in its presentations on how much noise would be generated by concerts at the new facility, which is scheduled to open in 2026 if City Council votes “yes.”
Noise and parking have been major issues for those objecting to the facility, largely because in addition to football, Northwestern wants to hold concerts at the new stadium.
“Imagine what would happen to our neighbors with all these concerts week after week,” said one resident at the meeting.
Northwestern is now asking for 10 concerts a year, with some of them indoors at the 7,000 seat Welsh-Ryan Arena, where nighttime events such as basketball games are nothing new.
The new Ryan Field would have 35,000 seats, down from 47,000 in the current facility. And NU says its capacity for concerts would be 28,000.
But adding concerts would mean more days with big crowds in the neighborhood.
And one resident said “you cannot compare concerts to football games,” because concerts are louder.
Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) has scheduled a meeting at 7 p.m. June 27 in the Parasol Room at the Civic Center at which Northwestern officials are to address issues of noise, traffic and concert operations.
Some speakers at the meeting also argued that the tax exempt school should be required to spend big dollars on city issues such as reparations and affordable housing as part of a “community benefits agreement” for the stadium.
The two university representatives on the committee did not attend the meeting.
That angered panel member David Schoenfeld, who said while he “does not necessarily oppose the project altogether,” Northwestern representatives “just not showing up is a new trick.”
One speaker spoke passionately in favor of the stadium project, concerts included.
Kelly Marcelle has lived two-and-a-half blocks from Ryan Field for 24 years, and is a member of the pro-stadium group “Field of Opportunities.”
Marcelle said one of the Northwestern committee members had a long-standing, out of town family commitment, which is why he was not there.
Marcelle also said a lot of stadium opposition has been “hyped up,” adding, “I think the rebuild is going to be fantastic.”
However, critics are skeptical, including one from adjacent Wilmette, who told the committee “We do not trust Northwestern’s promises.”
Despite the negative comments, a survey sponsored by NU found almost 2:1 support for the Ryan Field project (concerts included). Neighbors living within one mile of the stadium also favored the project by a similar margin.
Opponents have questioned the survey’s methodology and results.
Kelly said she will pass along comments from the meeting to the city’s Land Use Commission, which will review the plan and make recommendations to the City Council, which has final say.
The LUC session is tentatively scheduled for early August, with council action in September, but that could change.