A new community group supporting Northwestern University’s plans to rebuild Ryan Field announced its formation today.

Peggy Baxter, a member of the new “Field of Opportunities” group, says she lives right next to the stadium and can see Welch-Ryan Arena out her window.

She said she’s been really excited about the school’s plans for the project, including holding concerts at the stadium and the arena.

“When I listen to neighbors opposed to the project,” Baxter added, “What I hear is objections to the positive impacts it could have on Northwestern. I’ve never been focused on that — that’s almost entirely irrelevant. What matters to me is how the community stands to benefit.”

Baxter said there’s no other development opportunity on the table that promises to be as enduringly beneficial as the new stadium. “It will have benefits way beyond the 7th Ward,” she added.

A graphic from “Field of Opportunities” website.

More than 100 people have already offered their names in support of the group which is also seeking more supporters.

Raju Ghate, an orthopedic surgeon at NorthShore University HealthSystem, says he’s lived a block south of the stadium for almost 18 years.

He says there “are a lot of myths in the neighborhood about what happens on game days.”

“One of those myths that’s always out there is that there are people urinating on people’s lawns,” Ghate said. “We just don’t see that. It’s an idea that’s been exaggerated beyond belief.”

Cheryl Judice, owner of Hecky’s Barbecue in Evanston, says, “Running a business, anything we can do to attract more business to Evanston, particularly coming out of the pandemic, I’m all for it.”

“I’m dismayed when I go downtown at how fragile the business community looks, ” Judice said, “We need to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Kimberly Holmes-Ross, interim executive director of Evanston Cradle to Career, who was born and raised in the 5th Ward and now lives in the 2nd Ward, said she’s “super excited” about all the possibilities that the stadium brings to the city for business and for recreation.

Former Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty, who lives less than a mile east of the stadium, said it would be a lost opportunity for the entire city if the project doesn’t go through, and he urged residents who support the project to contact their council members to show their support.

Hagerty noted that the City Council voted 5-4 while he was mayor to let the university test holding special events at Welch Ryan arena. But after that test was sidetracked by the pandemic, the current council voted 8-1 not to give the university an extension of time for the experiment.

“This can be a great benefit to the city,” Hagerty said, adding that the the concerns about parking and noise can be addressed by the university.

“I don’t want to see this decision drawn out by the city while more businesses are going out of business,” Hagerty added. “We need more economic activity, and this project will provide it.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. More than 1000 Evanston neighbors are opposed to NU hosting mega summer concerts every weekend and jamming 35000 attendees into a residential neighborhood, clearly not equipped to handle such frequent crowds. For context, the United Center holds 21,000. Also, NU is a non-profit with a 16 billion dollar endowment. How do summer concerts, when most students are gone, further an educational mission? If they want to engage in “for profit” activities, should they not pay property taxes? Currently NU pays zero property taxes to the City of Evanston. As the yard signs say, “eNoUgh tax avoidance, mega concerts and profiteering”. Thank you for reading.

    1. Casey-
      If you refer to the Change.org survey, scrub it for duplicate signatures and non Evanston residents. Then tell us how many “neighbors” oppose.
      NU is not proposing concerts every weekend.
      NU is not proposing very event is a capacity 35,000.
      The funds raised support the maintenance of the stadium, a University owned facility.
      NU had already provided an economic impact study. It’s the city that’s dragging it’s feet on a second study.

      1. Ryan, I sense your frustration. You want the zoning changed quickly. Why can’t NU just get it’s way…again. You could be booking mega concerts if it weren’t for those pesky Evanston citizens asking questions like shouldn’t NU pay property taxes if they want to host for profit concerts. Ugh. Maddening.

      2. Believe it or not, there are residents who don’t live in Evanston who directly border the Ryan Field area. Those residents also bear the brunt of the parking problems and bumper-to-bumper traffic Ryan Field generates. The roads also bear the wear and tear of that traffic.

        Even if NWU agrees to pay fees to Evanston, Wilmette will not get a dime of it. Maybe Wilmette should enact strict parking restrictions on event days and put up roadblocks on Isabella. If Evanston wants the new stadium, let Evanston have all the congestion and infrastructure issues it causes.

    2. Casey, your fear mongering language “mega” and other exaggerations are old and fake news. If you knew anything about university endowments, they are not slush funds to be spent for operations. They are earnarked for research, scholarships etc. This kind of ignorance is what keeps people in the mode of fear and terror instead of future vision and growth. Really if you want to live in a quaint little village, there are plenty in Illinois. You live in a urban city that borders the 3rd largest city in the US with a Big Ten University- stop pretending it is something it is not.

  2. Just a few comments: There has been a lot of talk about the economic benefits to Evanston from concerts that will be held at the proposed new stadium. To date, has there been an objective, non-NU supported study identifying what those will be or is this merely conjecture? Additionally, has there been an objective source identifying the impact NU’s proposal will have on the 7th Ward – economically, socially, and environmentally?

    1. Jim-
      Ask your alderperson about the hold up on the City’s economic study. It’s not NU that’s confused about what to measure.
      And, we have a government for the entire city, not just the 7th ward.

      1. Dear Anon,

        Then let pick a consultant that is community-centric not a shill for a positive outcome for NU.

      2. So sorry Ryan Field and Kelly M. that you feel the city trying to get an accurate estimate of the proposed economic impact to the city is a cause to ruffle your feathers. The unfortunate fact is that the city has to use tax payer dollars to get a true estimate because NU won’t share the data that went into their model. What are they hiding? Maybe the stadium doesn’t need concerts to be viable and they are just looking to make more money. Thank you city council for doing your job to represent the whole city and make sure we get the most benefit when NU is seeking to majorly impact the city.

        1. What’s wrong with making money? Has that been outlawed in the People’s Republic of North Evanston?

          1. It’s the not paying taxes part that’s the problem. Folks need to wake up and realize this is not the intended use of the non-profit tax codes, and it’s costing Evanstonians every single day because we bear the burden when NU doesn’t pay their fair share.

            It’s also NOT an area designed in any way whatsoever e.g infrastructure, zoning, parking, traffic, businesses, etc…) for hosting such events. It’s going to take the occasional collegiate event neighbors are mostly happy to support, and turn it into an enormous burden that will ruin the neighborhood and local businesses that suffer from local customers not being able to access thier shops. (And for the few that are in the service industry, they now will compete with Levy and NU for said entertainment dollars)

  3. Thank you Ryan Field for the reminder that our government extends beyond the 7th Ward. It’s been so disappointing to hear about the disastrous impact concerts and events will have on some living in this ward. Such catastrophic thinking and so little regard for the Evanston community at large! It’s time to give others a seat at the table.

  4. If Northwestern wants to rebuild their stadium, fine, but evanston should charge them a$1,000,000 fee per event exceeding 10,000 people to make up for the disruption to the residents. On football Saturdays, North evanston is impassable for residents, not to mention the excessive noise and trash. Northwestern has proven to be a bad neighbor.

      1. To everyone saying “The stadium was here before you.”

        The sellout 35,000 person concerts 12x a year (and we all know that will increase) were not here before residents moved in. The alcohol wasn’t either. And let’s all be honest, concerts emit continuous highly amplified sound for 2 hours or more. Unlike football, where you might faintly hear the marching band, an occasional announcement or the roar of the crowd.

        1. You really don’t think people were drinking at football games for the last 100 years?

          Have you ever actually been to a college football game

  5. Assuming this project will be a go, the City needs to do all it can to negotiate the most financially advantageous deal for our City and residents for the long-term. Our demands should be reasonable and attainable considering the parameters of how the new stadium will be operated and managed.

    Unreasonable demands such as hiring quotas for both building the project and hiring of employees may not be able to be fulfilled given our City’s demographics.

    Dwelling on Northwestern’s tax-exempt status is crying over spilled milk.

    There are other financially lucrative angles that our City Council can and should consider. They made need to get some advice due to their inexperience however.

  6. Last night during the 7th ward meeting David Davis asked for suggestions. We happily told him we want a contractual obligation for a Payment in leu of Taxes (PILOT) to the tune of $23 million since that’s the commercial rate equivalent for the property size and they specifically struck the “non-profit” language in the zoning code.

    We said if NU wants to see our support payments to the City and the Schools need to be made. Let’s make that happen – that will benefit the whole city instead of pinning our hopes and dreams on trickle down economics of a billion stadium.

    1. I like your idea. I also think fees, permits, fines etc could be levied on NU to benefit the city and schools. Taxes could be lowered or at a minimum frozen because of the revenue generated by fees, permits fines against NU.

  7. If NU wants to use it as a money maker the city deserves its share of every event. NU has long used its position of no property tax with a token fire truck here and there, and this lifelong Evanstonian is tired of high property taxes. It’s time NU kicks in some bucks.

  8. I like the spirited discussion and the diversity of opinion expressed here. Another perspective is that NU’s athletic campus is why some of us live here in the first place. Of course, proximity to Division 1, Big 10 athletics and other events is not the only reason we moved to Evanston, but it was certainly a factor in our decision. We saw the athletic campus and we said “Yes!” We knew there would be event day choices to make… lock in, leave or join in. Again, we said “Yes, we’re in!” We knew the athletic campus and its use would not remain static and never perceived an unspoken promise that it would. We welcomed all the capital investments over the past two decades that have transformed every other stadium on the campus and beautified our surrounding streetscapes. We look back with fond memories of neighbor-to-neighbor interactions and community fun on NU game days. We know that we could have lived elsewhere where none of this happens but then we remember that we moved here – eyes wide open – and we smile: we made the right decision! Now, we look forward to the future when a beautiful new Ryan Field completes the athletic campus rebuild and is not made to be a 7-game white elephant, but rather its multi-use design welcomes all, builds community and drives economic activity and opportunity.

  9. Finding a way that NU uses profits from the events to contribute to Evanston

    Outside of concerts and game day,I am excited by the additional opportunities a pristine new stadium complex can provide our neighborhood, like a scaled down Gallagher Way by Wrigley. (Ice skating, farmers markets, community events). Focusing on how to make more community access an element, and profit share on for profit events to the city is what I hope our council focuses on.

    NIMBYism and stagnation will not serve us well here!

    I live a half mile from the stadium, and would love it to be an anchor and not a blank albatross in the area.

    1. Well said. The majority of Evanstonians agree with this perspective. Some disagree strongly, but they are not the majority. It is tiring to be yelled at by squeaky wheels who attempt to fear-monger in order to serve their NIMBY agenda.

  10. All those who complain about NU, think about what it would be like if it wasn’t here. We would just be another failed virtue signaling progressive city run by people who have never created opportunity and jobs for anyone. Bring on the update and the concerts.

  11. As a non profit educational institution, NU’s aberrant transformation into a for profit, mega concert promoter would necessitate a repeal of long standing and time tested Evanston zoning laws and protections.

    As such, the City Council should evaluate all issues, including financial benefit to Evanston tax payers, traffic impact, depreciation of home values, NU’s not for profit tax status, etc., independently. Any rush to approve seems imprudent for everyone. Deep breath, slow down, study, study, study, let’s get it right.

    1. These statements that NU is trying to become a for “profit” business are frankly, absurd. Of course NU needs to generate positive cash flow. The University does many things that generate “profit” Look at all the different research performed that in turn is monetized for “profit” What do you think, tuition & the endowment pays for all the activities that happen at a large University?
      All the “profit” generated by many different activities, including at sports facilities, are monies that go back into supporting University operations. It’s a shame some people have zero idea and/or purposefully mischaracterize what is being proposed here as NU looking to become a for profit business. Simply not the case.

  12. We lived near Soldier Field for 12 years and experienced many games and many concerts. We enjoyed the lively environment. Moving to Evanston and living near Ryan Field, people warned us of the traffic and students on game days.
    I like the lively atmosphere the games provide and I welcome the investment in the community that the new stadium will provide.

  13. I’d like to understand why NU doesn’t build a new stadium on the land fill and abandon Ryan Field.
    – More students would attend if on campus
    – Design much more fluid
    -Develop the Ryan Field location and return it to the tax rolls.
    – Sale of the Ryan Field location would probably cover the increase in costs to fill more land and build from scratch
    Seems like a win-win to me.

  14. We have seen one number reported on the economic benefit of the new stadium and concerts, and we asked NU for the details on that number, and it has not been provided.
    I live within 500 feet of the stadium, and people continually urinate in my backyard and alley, and they throw garbage in my backyard and alley. Neither the city nor NU picks up the garbage, but I do. If I don’t, the city sends me letters that they will fine me. Urination and garbage are not exaggerations for many of us extremely close to the stadium. Some of the people in the neighborhood have garages/driveways, so parking on event days is not an issue for them. For those who don’t have a garage, or live in condos or apartments, of which there are many, parking is a nightmare.

    1. Yes. These are the types of legitimate concerns some neighbors have that must be addressed by NU and the City. They seem solvable with a strong commitment by the University to provide cleanup crews and other dedicated services before, during, and after events.

      1. It’s telling that you say the City should have to help solve these problems when it’s NU’s mess. NU already claims to have such “crews” in the neighborhood in connection with games. If the problems persist, why would we expect a different result in the future?

        Related: NU is only offering to have security on its own property for the 10 mega concerts, according to the proposed zoning amendment.

      2. I have lived near the stadium for 39 years, and have addressed these concerns to NU, and nothing happens. If they haven’t addressed them in the past, I don’t hold up much hope for the future. Quite simple, the proposed gain that you people speak of who are in favor of the rezoning, is on the backs of the residents in the area.

  15. What is a mega concert? Is that a concert the size of that giant shark that lived in the ocean in that movie? Casey your words are ridiculous. The stadium will be built in some form some day. If you and your scare tactic friends beat Northwestern this time the next time they could just rebuild the stadium as it stands and make it bigger and uglier. You’ll have no voice. They could build a stadium that holds 100,000!
    This is an opportunity to get something we can all agree on. It’s a negotiation but that requires good faith intentions not wild claims about mega concerts and claims community events like a kindle market or an outdoor ice rink are somehow evil.
    Ideas work! The belief that evanstonians are somehow entitled to Northwestern’s endowment is crazy talk. What’s next, the Catholic Church? They have more money than NU, should we tax them??!! Come up with good ideas and solutions not vitriol. And hey maybe go to a concert and have some fun.

  16. RG, most of the residents around the stadium are okay with the rebuild. They are opposed to the rezoning allowing 10 concerts for 35,000 people and unlimited events for 10,000.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *