How do you convince the public that an seemingly all-but-done-deal is the right thing to do?
That’s apparently what Northwestern University is attempting, by sending political-style flyers to Evanston residents, entitled “The Vision To Rebuild Ryan Field.”
The mailer outlines what NU says will be significant benefits to both the university and to Evanston as a whole, by replacing the century-old stadium.
While no tax dollars will be needed for the new, privately financed, $800 million project, which university trustees have already approved, City Council still needs to say yes.
Plus, in a previously released explanation, NU also said that the new stadium “cannot be financially viable with just seven football games a year,” so the university hopes to have a limited number of concerts once the facility opens in 2026.
The number is yet to be determined. NU has said there would be community and city input first, although in the past, community feedback about possible non-football events been less than favorable.
Actually, community input has already had some impact on the proposed design, and might have more.
University spokesperson Jon Yates tells Evanston Now that public feedback has already come in about how to “solve some of the shortcomings of the current stadium,” with the new design to incorporate improvements in “accessibility, noise, lights, and amenities.”
A “state of the art canopy,” the flyer notes, will “curtail noise and light disruptions.”
It also says the new facility will have “beautiful plazas with significant green space for residents to enjoy year-round.”
Another selling point the mailers highlight is “reduced congestion.”
The new stadium will hold only 35,000 fans. That’s a drop of 12,000 seats.
Northwestern rarely sells out its football games, so a smaller, more intimate facility will make for a much more enjoyable fan experience, not to mention less traffic, which should make the neighbors happy — or perhaps less unhappy.
Still, giving up 12,000 seats for games which do usually sell out, such as Michigan or Ohio State, is, giving up more than $700,000 in ticket sales per full house.
On the other hand, with television revenue outstripping what’s made at the gate anyway, a jam-packed, brand-new 35,000 seat facility will look a lot better on tv than does the current place when it’s not even close to full.
Sportswriter Stewart Mandel, an NU alum with the sports journalism site The Athletic, notes that stadium downsizing has aready taken place at Stanford, TCU, and Baylor, all in the name of “improving the game day experience,” so having a smaller facility makes sense.
“You have to do that these days,” Mandel says, “to convince people to leave the comfort of their couch and their 60-inch televisions.”
The present Ryan Field will see its last football game at the end of next season.
The new stadium, to go on the same site as the current one, will also be named for university benefactors Patrick and Shirley Ryan, whose contributions will pay for much of the upcoming facility.
It’s unknown yet where the Wildcats will play their home games during new stadium construction.
It seems unlikely that concerns, even about those concerts, could derail the project.
Still, NU plans to have “listening events,” hoping to convince any skeptics that the new stadium will be “a community asset where all Evanston residents gather, connect, learn, play, and celebrate together.”
A winning football team would also help.
It’s hard for me to see a downside to the intended stadium changes for the Evanston community.
My guess is that some special interest groups will have complaints. That’s their way of getting something for nothing. Ignore them.
This facility is in the middle of a neighborhood. Within feet of people’s homes and backyards! To build a new stadium for expanded use is completely inappropriate. If NU wants a commercial facility, it needs to be built elsewhere. Perhaps talk to the city about the Soldier Field space and do something there, not in the middle of our residential neighborhood and small business strip.
You chose to buy a house near an aging Big 10 stadium that would clearly eventually need to be rebuilt and probably expanded. The negative factors relating to this stadium were priced into the market-based purchase price of your home and every other neighbor’s home.
Evaluating the public benefits of this stadium proposal requires seeing a site plan for the property.
I personally love every thing about this. A smaller, more intimate stadium without cold, hard, aluminum bench seats. People who complain about this know a stadium has been here for 100 plus years. When I looked to purchase a condo, I took this into consideration. I still live within walking distance, and find 7 games easy to work around. Why not go to the games on gameday? We talk about the huge numbers of visiting fans and how they fill the stadium, those are all out side dollars spent HERE. I see them downtown, enjoying out beautiful city. Occasional events should be welcomed for the same reason. Rules can be made for how late, how often or when events can happen. Downtown hotels like the Orrington have struggled. This could go a long way to help! This will also help recruiting, which means fun times!
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