A rendering of the proposed new stadium, looking northeast from the corner of Central Street and Ashland Avenue.

If you think everyone who lives near Ryan Field is against having concerts at the new football stadium which Northwestern University wants to build, think again.

While there was some definite opposition expressed during Thursday night’s virtual 7th Ward stadium meeting, there were also those who live within walking distance of the site who said they’re looking forward to more than just half-a-dozen football games a year, once the new Ryan Field opens in the fall of 2026.

Of course, City Council approval is needed both for the $800 milllion, 35,000-seat replacement for the current century-old football dinosaur, and for Northwestern’s hope to have up to a dozen non-football events inside the new bowl, including concerts.

7th Ward Ald. Eleanor Revelle (lower right) hosted the virtual meeting. 90 people watched. Ryan Field is in Revelle’s ward.

Council would also have to okay NU’s goal of expanding alcohol sales from premium seating such as the Stadium Club to include general admission areas as well.

Typical of those supporting Northwestern’s proposals was Mike O’Connor, whose entry in the chat room said, “As an immediate neighbor … I’m overjoyed by plans for the new Ryan Field. Love the additional functionality and uses envisioned. … Can’t come soon enough for me.”

But another chat neighbor said, “Inviting 35,000 people to our front yards is alarming, and dangerous with drink added.”

Actually, 35,000 is far less than what could show up right now, because the present stadium holds 47,000 (although NU rarely sells out).

Northwestern is billing the new stadium as a “community asset,” with not just sports and special events, but other smaller gatherings as well.

“Think how nice it would be,” said NU vice-president Luke Figora, “to have a world-class facility for fund-raisers and galas.”

Stadium neighbor John Labbe, who said he was a football season ticket holder, took a middle ground.

Labbe said he was not necessarily opposed to concerts, but asked “what type of events do you have in mind, because at some point you cross a line.”

Labbe noted that “a rock concert with 35,000 people is a huge event,” and having such events at the new Ryan Field would make it “one of the biggest concert venues in the country.”

A sold-out concert might not actually be that large, as part of the stadium would be behind the stage and blocked off from ticket sales. However, another neighbor, Fiona McCarthy, said that while more smaller, community events are fine, “large events are really the biggest concern to me.”

Dave Davis, Northwestern’s Director of Neighborhood and Community Relations, told those on the call that the community’s concerns would be taken into consideration as plans move forward for the privately financed facility.

Ald. Revelle is holding a series of meetings about the stadium. The next session is on Nov. 17, and is expected to cover the potential economic impact of the new facility, as well as traffic issues.

Northwestern has still not determined where the football team will play its home games while construction of the new Ryan Field is under way.

If NU’s plans are approved by City Council — and there is a multi-step process for that — demolition of the current stadium would begin after the 2023 football season.

And speaking of demolition, The Ohio State University’s #2-ranked football squad visits Ryan Field this Saturday.

The Buckeyes are a 38-point favorite over the NU Wildcats, according to SI Sportsbook.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Join the Conversation

3 Comments

  1. It’s a great plan!

    I thought this was the last year in the existing stadium – this article point out Cats will play another year there.

    New stadium build starts after 2023 season.

  2. I have no problem with it except it is new revenue for an entity that doesn’t pay property tax in an era where all our taxes are going up. So the win/win here is a revenue share to mitigate the residents’ tax hike. Let’s agree to that and then green light it.

  3. I really hope some of the events include Out of Space. It’s very respectful of neighbors today, so it would be an excellent event partner for a larger venue too (not to mention keeping revenue in the community.)

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 *