A rendering of the planned new Ryan Field.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) says she’s not in favor of letting Northwestern University host a dozen full-capacity outdoor concerts if and when the new Ryan Field football stadium is built.

NU plans to put up a privately-financed, $800 million new stadium at the site of the current century-old football facility.

The university says it needs to have as many as 12 concerts, to ensure the new stadium’s ongoing financial viability. Just having football, officials have stated, does not produce enough revenue.

But Revelle, whose ward includes Ryan Field, tells Evanston Now that 12 is “too many, in my view.”

Eleanor Revelle.

Revelle says if City Council does okay the new stadium with outdoor concerts, she would prefer no more than one concert a month between May and October, for a maximum of six — assuming she’s okay with any in the first place.

Because outdoor concerts take place during warm weather, the 7th Ward council member is, like some stadium neighbors, concerned about noise.

While Northwestern says the canopy proposed for the stadium will help keep in some of the noise, Revelle points out that it will still be an open-air facility.

“We need a good ‘sound’ analysis,” she says, to the point that if concerts are allowed, a decibel meter should be on hand to make sure things don’t get too loud.

Revelle also says she’ll be proposing a special parking zone for the area, where only neighboring residents could park during concerts, and also during basketball games at nearby Welsh-Ryan Arena.

She also expects the city to hire a financial consultant to evaluate the economic impact of the new stadium and potential concerts.

An independent study commissioned by the university says ten full-capacity, 35,000 seat concerts a year (the study did not consider 12), plus several smaller non-football events, could net the area an additional $35 million in economic impact annually.

Direct and indirect tax revenue to the city, the study says, would jump from $1.4 million in 2021 to $5 million yearly by 2031.

The economic impact of the actual stadium construction, the study says, is $659 on Evanston alone.

In a report regarding this study, Northwestern says, “the approach taken by this analysis is purposely conservative.”

However, Revelle still wants a separate study done for the city, because “we don’t want to make a decision on the stadium dazzled by numbers that are unrealistic.”

There are still plenty of “what-ifs” to be answered before council votes on the stadium and the concerts.

For one thing, it’s still uncertain how many concerts NU would actually have.

While the school says it wants up to 12, officials have also stated that some of the concerts could be at the basketball arena, which is much smaller and, of course, has a roof so sound won’t carry outdoors.

Plus, not all outdoor stadium concerts would automatically be full capacity crowds.

Revelle says that while some Ryan Field neighbors are absolutely opposed to any concerts, there are others who are enthusiastic about more things to do in the community.

The alder says at this point, she’s not committing to a “yes” or “no” vote on the stadium and the concerts.

Right now, Revelle says “my role is to help residents get as much information as possible” and help guide her vote once NU comes back with more concert specifics.

That way, Revelle notes, if the stadium with at least some concerts is OK’d, the neighborhood will get as much protection from noise, parking and traffic concerns as possible.

She’s holding a fourth virtual meeting about the stadium on Jan. 19. The topic for that session is Northwestern’s desire to allow general admission alcohol sales at the new football field.

Assuming all of the many questions and issues can be resolved, the current Ryan Field will be torn down after the upcoming football season, with the new stadium opening in 2026.

Where the Wildcats will play in 2024 and 2025 is, like a high, booming punt, still up in the air.

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

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10 Comments

  1. Some elected officials drive legislative bodies to tax people (residents and non-residents) more and more, but then there is resistance in these same bodies to allowing businesses to grow and expand, where revenues into the general coffers will grow naturally.

    A growing economy is the better way to increase tax dollars into the government, and should be strongly supported over adding regulations, fees, and taxes, or increasing any of the same.

  2. I am no fan of NU expanding without a major boost to our tax base in a very direct way. However, I am thinking about the outdoor concert series in the summer on the golf course. It is loud, there is drinking, old people smoking a lot of pot, there are parking issues and it is in the same area of town. I do not recall a big conversation around those concerts. Further, each year NU hosts Dillo Day on their own property and pays for additional police protection. But large sections of town are still impacted by noise, traffic problems and students throwing up in yards on Sherman and Noyes. In both of those cases, city officials have allowed for those events to take place and the events have provided direct benefits in terms of taxes on purchases of food, alcohol and other items. I guess I do not understand the distinction CM Revelle is making? Is it the number of people in attendance at NU concerts? Maybe?

  3. Northwestern can and will build this new stadium regardless of whether or not they’re allowed to hold concerts there. It is disingenuous of them to suggest that the former is contingent on that latter. For those in favor of a new stadium, don’t be fooled into thinking this is actually an all or nothing proposition.

  4. “Don’t Get Fooled Again”, you may be right, but the attraction here is not the new stadium, but rather new revenues. There will be one time fee revenues related to construction, but I am one Evanston resident who is sick of the clown posse that is our City Council constantly taxing their way through everything that happens. If allowing concerts generates a couple million dollars more in tax revenue per year, we need it. I have two things to say to those that live near the site. You knew there was a large open air venue there when you bought your property, and become a music lover.

    1. For Matt, and everyone else that keeps making similar comments without knowing what they are talking about, for us folks that live near the stadium we knew exactly what we were getting into at the time as it’s been like this for nearly 100 years.

      NU is now trying to massively change the dynamics of the neighborhood by changing the laws so they can more than triple the number of events, sell >100x the alcohol, and change the very nature of the events and audience that attends this events.

      And if anyone trusts NU’s self promoting and bias analysis of all the good it’s gonna due for the city payrolls then I’ve got a bridge to sell you. They have repeatedly proven they are in this for themselves and don’t give two squats about the city and it’s citizens from whom they so blindly reward themselves each year.

  5. Dear Matt – I am a lover of music and knew when I bought my property that NU was ONLY allowed to host 7 games per year at the open air stadium or events of 10,000 people or less. To flippantly say “we knew” is disingenuous. A couple million dollars a year is nothing compared to the $23M NU should pay in property taxes just for the stadium if they want to hold mega for-profit events when students are gone which is directly against the educational mission of the university. So why are you selling Evanston tax payers short? Our underfunded schools, 7th highest property taxes, and city deserves more.

  6. “Matt,” the point of my comment was two-fold: to make the argument that NU is not being an honest broker in this situation and then, if true, that we shouldn’t take anything they say or propose at face value, and that we, as a community, shouldn’t fall trap into thinking we have to make the decision whether we’re in favor of concerts prior to the new stadium being built. I believe this stadium will be built on the proposed timeline regardless of whether or not the community is in favor of, or has made a decision on whether to allow, concerts. Let’s see if NU’s projections/promises on construction revenue to the city, hiring practices and sound and light from the stadium hold true before we make what would then be an informed decision on concerts.

    1. Northwestern wants to build the stadium because the Ryan family wants it. It will be a shiny new ego toy for NU’s biggest billionaire donor. For those who think this is just an upgrade to the existing Ryan Field, you’re kidding yourself. The $1 billion venture (with typical cost overruns) is reportedly the largest investment in an entertainment/stadium venue in Illinois history. NU will try to monetize it wherever, however, whenever they can, the impact to the city or the neighborhood be damned. If you don’t want this massive change, better speak up now! If you’re content for Evanston just to get the table scraps (sales tax, etc.) from this venture, then please don’t claim to have Evanston’s best interest at heart.

  7. If they Wildcats were an NFL franchise, they would expect, and probably, get money from the place the would build their stadium. In this case the City of Evanston will not pay anything and instead like extract some out of NU in exchange for allowing them to privilege to make this big investment.

    I am for it. Also, it plays into Evanston’s transit strength. The stadium is within walking distance to both CTA and Metra stations. It is like an even more accessible version of Ravinia, which is already great beacuse it has its own Metra stop. While the CTA and Metra trains primarily are there to get people to and from the Loop, they can also bring people to Evanston for concerts and other attractions. I don’t think there is any other suburb with mass transit as good as what Evanston has. I would hope the City thinks about how to leverage that for economic development.

  8. I commend council member Revelle in her dedication and professionalism in representing her constituents and all residents on this matter.

    Perhaps she could offer some advice and coaching to council member Jonathan Nieuwsma as he plows ahead in biased fashion with his and Connections for the Homeless plans to operate a homeless shelter in the 4th Ward Margarita Inn.

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