Northwestern University is seeking permits from the City of Evanston to begin construction of a new facility on the north end of campus next month to provide space for parking, recreation, clinical services and academic programs.

The new facility will have 1,125 parking spaces, new weight and fitness rooms, the School of Communication audiology clinic and space for other academic programs.

The new facility, which will replace an existing surface parking lot, will be connected to the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion/Norris Aquatics Center on the north end of Northwestern’s Evanston campus. As a result, people will be able to go directly from the new facility into the sports center.

Northwestern is seeking the necessary approvals from the Evanston Preservation Commission to proceed with the work. As required by the Evanston preservation ordinance, approval from the Preservation Commission is needed. Northwestern is scheduled to present plans for the facility at a meeting of the Preservation Commission tonight.

North Campus Drive, the road that runs from Lincoln Street south into campus, will be relocated to the west of the new building.

The first floor of the new building will provide space for a new weight room and fitness studios, as well as office space and meeting rooms for fitness and recreation staff. The new building will abut the west side of the current sports and recreation center, and a new entrance to the center will be created on the south side of that building.

“The new facility will provide significantly expanded and improved space for fitness, wellness and other programs for use by the entire Northwestern community,” said Jim Phillips, vice president for athletics and recreation.

The facility is part of a planned major athletics and recreation complex on the north end of Northwestern’s Evanston campus. Other components of the complex include a large multipurpose facility, renovations and additions to the Crown Sports Pavilion and Norris Aquatics Center, and enhancements to the field hockey and lacrosse/soccer fields.

Additional space on the first floor and on the second floor of the new parking structure will be used by Northwestern’s audiology clinic and speech/language/learning clinic, which serve children and adults with hearing and speech health care needs. The new space will provide improved and expanded space for clinical diagnosis and treatment, as well as faculty offices.

Other space on the first and second floors will be used for academic programs for the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The new structure will provide six levels of parking totaling 1,125 spaces, replacing the approximately 400 spaces in the current surface lot at that location and approximately 450 spaces that will be eliminated when construction of a new building for the Kellogg School of Management begins later this year.

The additional spaces created by the new building will make parking more plentiful in the north campus area while providing capacity for future campus development, said Ron Nayler, associate vice president for facilities management.

Construction of the parking garage portion of the new building is slated to be completed early in 2014, with development of the recreational and office spaces occurring later that year. The first phase of the project is estimated to cost more than $40 million.

When construction begins, the existing lot will be closed. The parking lot east of Kemper Hall, located just to the north, will remain open, as will the lot east of the sports and aquatics center and the lot east of Frances Searle and Cook halls.

“We anticipate that there will be some disruption in traffic and parking patterns during construction, but when the new structure is complete, we will have additional parking, improved recreational facilities, and new space for academic and clinical programs,” Nayler said.

Top: A rendering of the new fitness center and parking garage.

Join the Conversation


  1. LA Fitness/EAC are done

    You will never see another student in any of those gyms once Northwestern's gym is done. If I were Evanston city council, I would block that proposal and let them only put together a facility with capabilities that do not overlap with existing business. Not sure if that can even be done. Taxes will be going up again!

    1. Limiting choices bad for consumers

      I hope you are not serious.   It is not the role of government to prevent new places because old business can't deal with the competition, nor should the city be telling NU what to put in the middle of their privately owned land.   

      This new building looks fabulous.  I hope it helps attract more top students and athletes to Northwestern. Go Cats!


      1. Privately owned land

        "It is not the role of government to prevent new places because old business can't deal with the competition, nor should the city be telling NU what to put in the middle of their privately owned land."

        True…but you should question why a "non-profit" , non-taxed entity such as Northwestern University is engaging in the business of running a health club.

        I am opposed to the NIMBYs who always complain about Northwestern not paying taxes.   I don't think that they should.  But nonprofits need to limit their activities to the scope of their not-for-profit status. 

        Norhtwestern University should not just be a tax-free country club.  The same is true for religious institutions and hospitals.

        1. SPAC is for students

          I paid my way through Northwestern teaching group fitness classes. I worked at the current Northwestern facility, called SPAC. I also taught classes at EAC and the YMCA.  

          I can tell you that SPAC serves mainly students and faculty. Yes, a few people from town go to school.  However, it's expensive for non-alumni and in order to park in front of the facility, you have to pay for around $400 yearly for a parking pass to park from 9-4pm most days, because the City of Evanston has special rights to collect taxes from the parking around NU. SPAC is not a health club, and doesn't cater to the population of EAC, nor the YMCA. 

          Every major university campus in the country has fitness facilities for their students.  Currently, the students go to SPAC to work out, and the student-athletes train by the football stadium. These new renovations will move everyone to the area by the lake, which will unite the entire campus. As an alumni, I think it's a fabulous idea that will improve student life for all students.

          As a townie, I agree that taxes in Evanston are high.  But the reality we all knew that Northwestern was here when we bought homes.  Complaining about NU is akin to someone buying a home across from the football stadium, and then complaining to the city that it's hard to find parking during game days.   There are other cost-saving measures that the city can and should do to keep taxes low- but restricting the ability of the university to improve their campus, on their own currently owned land, should not be one of them.

    2. Once again, bravo NU

      Rubbish, if EAC & LA fitness close because of this than they simply deserve to close for reasons of their own incompetence.  They can either fold up or step up and bring value and service that customers will desire.

      NU has no responsibility whatsoever to some health club a mile away. But NU does have a responsibility to the health of their student population and I'm glad to see they are making investments to encourage and facilitate healthy physical activity.  Bravo to NU once again, bravo for making such an investment. 

      I always expect to hear the sky is gonna fall whenever something gets proposed in this town, whether it's NU or a new business proposal, residential development, whatever.  The streets are gonna get bumpy, cars will drive on those streets, on and on, but this is a new one.  LOL. 

    3. NU can do what it wants to for students

      Unbelievable. The NU students pay tens of thousands a semester for the services that their school provides – why on earth would the city have an opinion on an athletic facility? It's been said here already, but every college has recreation for students and this is simply a service that NU is providing.

      EAC and LA Fitness are for Evanston residents, NU students are free to join, but they do not owe us anything. EAC and LA Fitness can improve their businesses by using normal methods, like lowering prices and offering more services 🙂

  2. Protecting Evanston streets

    Imagine what the Evanston streets leading to and from this gleaming new sports facility will look after they've taken a hellacious beating from the trucks and tons of materials being moved to and from the construction site. 

    Has NU taken road wear-and-tear in Evanston into consideration for this and the other construction projects it is currently undertaking? 

  3. Real costs to students and families

    I am not in any way opposed to studernt fitness and having facitilies to exercise, learn individual and team sports, etc. but is that what the new and exisiting sports centers and other facilites provide or are they another excuse for the expensive intervarsity sports ?

    Richard Vedder [an NU grad and college proesident] in his book 'Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much' points out how the cost of education—and possibly quality—are being driven by students [and sometimes alumni and parents] wanting the newest and best of everything—new sports centers, new student unions with every possilble feature and activity, majors [and thus faculty] for every possible field of study, high level administrators appointed to cover every possible student need, etc..

    This pushes the costs to the students up—which parents bear.  The more these and other factors push costs up the government [has to be asked] to fund more programs, grants and scholarships, which then allow the schools to increase tuition and room and board.  Students either go more into debt–esp. if school grants and easy borrowing allow them take majors [with few courses that will help them get a job] that have very low chances of helping them get a job or even be a well educated graduate—e.g. sound libeal arts education with a sound math/science background.  The students become more likely to default, take low level jobs, move back with parents or at a minimum be saddled with substantial debt.

    Yes it appears the university will 'pay for this' but how much will actually come from government [city, state, federal] grants ? how much will come from alumni and other donors who perhaps should be funding better core education ? and how much in increased room/board/tutition/fees [the latter are becoming a real but hidden issue] ?

    Is this something the students and faculty need or want ?  Will enough students/faculty use it—or just a few who already have more than enough outlets ?


    1. Real cost

      If you don't like the cost of attending NU or the fact that they choose to build new facilities, don't go there, don't send your children there, go someplace that better fits your budget, your philosophy, your whatever. 

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 *