“Concerts are a non-starter.”
That’s the message from an organizer a group opposing large, non-football events at a rebuilt Ryan Field at Northwestern University.
NU plans to tear down the current, century-old football stadium and replace it with a smaller (35,000 seats vs. 47,000 now), state-of-the-art, privately financed $800 million facility.
But the university says such a facility “cannot be financially viable on just seven football games” per year.
So the plan also includes up to twelve concerts annually.
David DeCarlo says “not so fast.”
DeCarlo and some of his neighbors who live near the stadium have organized a group called the “Most Livable City Association,” a take-off on the City of Evanston’s stated vision.
Adding concerts, DeCarlo says, with traffic, noise, and a reasonable chance of drunken concert-goers filling the streets, would make the area near Ryan Field anything but livable.
In a news release outlining formation of the group, DeCarlo accuses Northwestern of trying to “turn Ryan Field into a tax-exempt booze-and-entertainment center.”
“Our view,” he tells Evanston Now, “is that those concerts don’t belong at the stadium.”
Fiona McCarthy is another neighbor who has joined the group.
“I can see the stadium from my front door,” she says.
McCarthy adds that she “likes the football games. It’s a collegiate atmosphere.”
But adding concerts, she notes, could turn the Ryan Field neighborhood into another Wrigleyville, the night-life-centric part of Chicago surrounding Wrigley Field.
In 2022, Wrigley Field hosted 81 Cubs home baseball games and five concerts.
McCarthy used to live in Wrigleyville before moving to Evanston.
She says having concerts at Ryan Field could create a risk for neighborhood children.
Her group’s goal, she says, is “continued engagement” with NU and with city officials, “and not just have Northwestern slip something in and getting it OK’d.”
Not everyone who lives near Ryan Field opposes the concerts.
In a recent virtual 7th Ward meeting, one resident said on the chat that “I’m overjoyed. Love the additional functionality and uses envisioned. Can’t come soon enough.”
Northwestern notes the new stadium would have a canopy to minimize noise and light spreading into the nearby community.
And, besides bringing more activities to Evanston, Northwestern says the new stadium will also bring something else … money.
NU says concerts could see more than $35 million in tax revenue for the city in the first decade of stadium operations, not to mention millions of additional dollars from construction.
DeCarlo says, however, with all the money Northwestern gets from the Big Ten television network, “Northwestern can do the stadium for football without the concerts.”
The neighborhood organization calls its lobbying campaign “Field of Schemes,” and hopes to convince Northwestern and the City Council, which has final say on if and how the new stadium can be built, to modify the plan for concerts.
Northwestern’s target schedule has one more football season at the current Ryan Field, then demolition/construction, with the new stadium to open in fall, 2026.