A rendering of the proposed new Ryan Field.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) gave full-throated support to Northwestern University’s $800 million plan to rebuild Ryan Field at a ward meeting Thursday evening.

“If there was opportunity for the city to take over that land, to build something that was not a stadium, I’d be the first one in line to support that,” Reid said.

But since that’s not a possibility, he added, “Let’s make sure that we can get the most out” of the stadium “for the residents and taxpayers of Evanston.”

He conceded, though, that the city also has a responsibility to consider the concerns of residents living near the stadium.

Reid noted that some communities have implemented pilot agreements with universities engaged in similar projects which allow for payment in lieu of taxes to the local community.

If Evanston negotiated a similar agreement, he said, it could bring in millions of dollars a year, including more financial support for local schools.

Reid said he may be the only city council member who publicly supports the Ryan Field project.

Evanston Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings, who also spoke at the meeting, said that there were opportunities for the city to raise revenue from ancillary services which Northwestern would need from the city to operate a stadium offering more frequent events.

He said that the city could collect fees related to parking, entertainment, liquor and garbage pick-up if Ryan Field is more heavily utilized.

Desiree Shannon relocated to Evanston in 2022 from Columbus, Ohio. She has a journalism degree from Otterbein College of Ohio. During her undergraduate studies, she completed an internship with the Washington...

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  1. I am still waiting for these promises to be fulfilled – there is no evidence there has been any movement to gain any concession from NU in terms of “PILOT” agreements, which Ms. Kelly named as one of her biggest goals – she would make NU PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE….

    “Reid noted that some communities have implemented pilot agreements with universities engaged in similar projects which allow for payment in lieu of taxes to the local community. If Evanston negotiated a similar agreement, he said, it could bring in millions of dollars a year, including more financial support for local schools.”

    And this from CM Kelly’s campaign –

    Negotiate NU Fair Share Contribution
    by Clare Kelly | Mar 1, 2021

    I have deep roots and respect for Northwestern University. My great great grandfather, Elhanan Searle, was in NU’s first graduating class of five in 1858. He wrote the commencement speech on the Philosophy of Civil Liberties and went on to work with Abraham Lincoln in his law office in Springfield. My youngest son, Gus, graduated from NU last year, I completed part of my graduate studies at NU and my father taught photojournalism at NU’s Medill School of Journalism.

    While appreciating contributions and the prestige Northwestern University brings Evanston, it is important to acknowledge that Northwestern is among the top ten richest universities yet ranks very low when it comes to tax exempt universities’ financial contributions back to their host cities.

    In 2000, residents of Evanston, led by Firefighter Dave Ellis (Co-Chair of the Fair Share Action Committee), did the difficult and time-consuming work of getting a “fair share” referendum placed on the ballot. It allowed Evanston residents to vote and express themselves collectively as to whether or not they felt NU should pay its fair share in lieu of property taxes to the City of Evanston. This concept, which is frequently referred to as PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes), has been widely adopted by many ivy league and other universities across the U.S. 84% of the Evanston voters voted YES to NU paying its fair share to Evanston. Northwestern’s annual contribution to Evanston of $1MM is grossly inadequate. NU has an endowment of over 11 billion dollars. If NU paid its fair share it would contribute well over $20MM to the city annually, perhaps closer to $30MM according to former CoE CFO Marty Lyons. Such an amount could cover the total cost to taxpayers of the annual Fire and Police Pension payments i.e catch up payments plus annual regular payments. However, citizens’ overwhelming will for reform means nothing without Aldermen that are willing to negotiate hard for it. I will bring the needed resolve and tenacity to this negotiation.

    NU is in the top 10 richest universities but even tax exempt universities that don’t make the top 10 contribute far more to their host cities. Consider these:

    Dartmouth College contributes $8MM or about 26% of Hanover’s city’s budget to its host city of Hanover annually.
    Brown University contributes over $4MM annually to Providence.
    Carnegie Mellon pays $3MM annually to Pittsburgh.
    Cornell University’s payment is tied to CPI and on average pays about $2MM annually to Ithaca.
    And from the list of the top 10 richest universities these universities also contribute far more to their host cities:

    Yale pays $15MM annually to its host city, New Haven.
    Princeton University recently settled a lawsuit and agreed to pay $18MM to the City of Princeton on top of its annual payments of approximately $3MM.
    Harvard pays $6.3MM annually to the City of Cambridge.
    Consider this movement at UPenn where faculty and staff at UPenn formed an organization calling for UPenn to pay its fair share to the City of Philadelphia. The organization is called “PennForPilots.”
    Even as recently as this year, NU refused to pay even for itemized services that it received in 2019 from the Evanston Fire Department to the sum of $659,000.

    Evanston’s City Council members have to negotiate with resolve in regard to NU’s fair share compensation to the City on behalf of Evanston residents in order to secure a more substantial and appropriate payment. I firmly believe that we can work together to negotiate a fair payment in lieu of taxes from Northwestern University to Evanston that will provide financial relief for the City of Evanston. In 2004 I successfully rallied the Evanston community to challenge Northwestern University to close its toxic medical waste incinerator; and we won. With much strategic organizing and research and evidence we convinced 8 out of 9 City Council members to join our cause and vote in favor of an ordinance banning medical waste incineration in Evanston. Our joint movement led to Illinois and U.S. legislation to restrict and reduce toxic medical waste emissions across the state and the nation. As a council member, I will work effectively with my fellow council members and Northwestern representatives to negotiate a fair and more appropriate contribution from NU on behalf of the residents of Evanston.

  2. I appreciate the support of Council Member Reid for the Ryan Field Project. Like him, it is my hope that Northwestern voluntarily contributes more financially to the City of Evanston. A successful partnership to rebuild and fully utilize Ryan Field can move us closer to that goal.

    Instead of the usual debate about why the Ryan Field project should or should not move ahead, I’ll pose a different question. Who gets hurt if this project fails to win approval? On the Northwestern side of the equation, Pat Ryan keeps his money and invests elsewhere. Northwestern continues to use Ryan Field, perhaps on a more limited basis. The harm is more pronounced for Evanston. The city immediately loses $12 million in construction related fees and an estimated $659 million of economic impact during construction.There won’t be approx. 3,000 new jobs, nor an additional estimated $36 million in economic benefit in the first five years after opening. We don’t get a state of the art community center at no cost to Evanston taxpayers. Aside from those harmful economic loses, what signal does it send to potential future investors if we turn down the largest private investment in our history, not because of its benefits, but because Northwestern doesn’t do something else? The loss of this project could have a chilling effect on future private investment in Evanston. What do we gain with a “no?”

    Yes, we should negotiate greater economic contributions from Northwestern. Additional institutional contributions, including PILOT, are voluntary. We’ re more likely to be successful with a good relationship than a damaged one. Get the best possible deal on Ryan Field, but get a deal. Don’t aim for Northwestern and hit us.

  3. I used to think that this was a good idea, but if Devon Reid is the only one who does, I might be wrong …..

  4. Thank you, Councilmember Reid. Your support for the university’s investment in our community and for additional community benefits is appreciated.

  5. The City can raise revenue from the stadium (1) without allowing NU
    to turn the athletic campus into a commercial entertainment complex (2) whether or not NU rebuilds it.

    Tax the $80 to 100 million NU will soon receive in annual broadcast revenue.

  6. Of course Reid supports the NU stadium idea. His ward is the farthest away and will be the least affected. I’m in his ward, and I’m still against it.
    Nevertheless, practically single every idea of his is poorly thought out and makes little to no sense, and I have to say this one is as well. No surprise that he’s the only alderperson supporting the NU stadium.
    Devon Reid has to go.

    1. Actually, he may be the only alder person who has declared publicly that he supports the stadium project. One alder person, Melissa Wynne of the 3rd Ward, has come out publicly to oppose the project. Time will tell where the others stand.

    2. It astonishes me that so few of our City Council Members actually support the will of the majority of their constituents on this issue and many others…

      It is my impression that special interests are winning and the average resident & taxpayers are disregarded.

      Respectfully, Brian G. Becharas

      1. Brian, as someone who has been heavily involved in the whole Margarita Inn fracas, I could not agree more… we feel like we’ve been “bulldozed” by both the City Council and Connections for the Homeless. Connections, a NGO, with their undue influence is now virtually a branch of the city government – and accountable to no one…

        Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

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