Eleanor Revelle.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) told residents at a Ryan Field meeting Thursday night that she and the city manager agree that the city needs to do “an independent look” at the economic impact of rebuilding the stadium.

Northwestern University officials say adding a dozen concerts or other special events each year at the new stadium would generate over $3 million a year in new tax revenue for the city.

Top NU officials to discuss stadium plans Monday

The Rev. Michael Nabors of Second Baptist Church says NU President Michael Schill and Athletic Director Derrick Gragg will discuss Ryan Field plans at the church at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 19, with a question and answer session to follow.

The church is located at 1717 Benson Ave. in Evanston.

And they say that given the relatively small slice of concert revenue retained by venue operators, the university itself would only see $2 million to $3 million a year in net revenue from hosting non-football events at the field.

Luke Figora, the university’s vice president of operations, said that given the potential additional benefits, using the stadium only for seven football games a year would be wasteful.

Much of Thursday night’s meeting was devoted to discussing how the city handles game day traffic at the stadium now — and plans for handling traffic from potential future events.

Scott Sophier.

Evanston Police Sgt. Scott Sophier, who heads the department’s traffic unit said the city has 30 to 37 officers and non-sworn personnel working traffic details on game days.

Police, he said, are at every corner in the stadium area and additional officers work the stadium parking lots and supplement NU police and the university’s contract security detail at the stadium.

The city police are all working overtime details on their days off, Sophier said, and the cost is covered by the university.

Stars on this map provided by the university’s traffic consultant show where officers are stationed for traffic control on game days.

“2022 was by far the best season operationally,” Sophier added, with “no arrests and no calls for any sort of physical violence” before, during or after the games.

Peter Lemmon, a traffic engineer with the Kimley Horn consulting firm hired by the university, said he has lived in northwest Evanston for 20 years near Willard Elementary School.

“Central Street generally functions pretty well” on game days, Lemmon said, but he said there are opportunities to improve parking signage, to establish better pickup and dropoff locations for services like Uber and Lyft and improve pedestrian infrastructure so people are less likely to stray off the sidewalks and onto the roadway.

Peter Lemmon.

He also said the university has started a conversation with Metra about setting up an arrangement like what the rail line has with Ravinia — in which the price of train rides is bundled into concert ticket prices.

“That’s a relatively new program, Lemmon said, “and I understand both Metra and Ravinia are really happy with it.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Hard to see how a full fledged concert venue will enrich life in Evanston. The argument that it would be “wasteful “ to have the stadium unused is extraordinary disingenuous. It’s time to just say no

  2. I’m a long time resident of Evanston and very excited about the prospect of concerts at NU. More tax revenue is a plus, as is the potential positive spillover to local businesses. I’ve lived in the NU area for almost 15 years and I think NU and the police do a good job with the crowds. I trust there would be reasonable restrictions on start and end times. This is a terrific idea. We’ve already had experience with concerts at Canal Shores and they’ve been a terrific enrichment to Evanston on nice summer evenings.

  3. A study conducted every five years by Americans for the Arts in partnership with economists from Georgia Tech shows that regionally, the average concert attendee in Chicago spends an additional $50.00 in addition to admission on food, beverages and merch, all of which are taxed. An entertainment tax on tickets could also add additional revenue.

    A look at Highland Park shows the city receives $1 million a year from not for profit Ravinia in addition to sales tax on food, beverages and merch. Additionally, hundreds of local youth get part-time summer jobs at Ravinia. Seems like local Evanston youth might benefit from similar opportunities.

    For all the complaining about NU’s lack of investment in Evanston, here they are willing to spend $800 million to build an attractive, modern facility with no taxpayer subsidies, no ARPA requests, no TIF district and no additional land off tax rolls. And a dozen times a year host concerts that provide both entertainment and tax revenue.

    Seems like an easy “yes” to me.


  4. Utilize the stadium for more than 7 games a year. Bring on the concerts. For all the people who live near the stadium, think of the extra money you can make in parking.

  5. Keep up the good fight Ms. Ravelle! NU is currently paying canvassers to generate petition signatures from the uninformed. The claim that it will be “wasteful” to build the stadium unless NU can raise money from concerts is a false ploy. NU is one of the wealthiest universities in the country. They have plenty of money to build this stadium without revenue from concerts. Thankfully, the city managers have agreed to an independent study of how much tax revenue will actually be generated . While city managers are at it, they should conduct a study to measure the effect on nearby property values and the probable loss of tax revenue from value declines. NU has a reputation of doing very little to nothing for Evanston and should not be trusted.

  6. Well let’s see. We stupidly put a homeless shelter in the heart of downtown. Why not do something Evanston needs? I say yes to a world class concert venue on Central Street.

  7. So Northwestern claims this new stadium won’t be financially viable for them unless they are able to generate the additional $2-3 million a year from hosting concerts in addition to football games? Huh? This private university, with one of the largest endowments in the country, that has the money to build a new stadium for close to a billion dollars can’t make it work financially unless they are able to generate an additional $2-3 million dollars a year? Kudos to whomever is making this claim if they have been able to do so with a straight face.

  8. I’ve been reading about and thinking about this project for some time.

    And I’ve concluded that it’s a tremendous endeavor, with tangible and intangible benefits.

    The reimagined Ryan Field – attention to detail – layout – architecture – sound engineering – is as beautiful as they come – and I’ve been to scores of stadiums across the country.

    A more comfortable and welcoming venue ensures that Evanston will continue to host B1G football – soon to welcome UCLA and USC, as well as the ability to host diverse entertainment opportunities at a privately funded, world class venue – steps away from public transportation.

    Don’t discount the ability of facilities to help student athlete candidates have one more reason to pick Northwestern University over another.

    Beyond the stated objectives, this project is also a multifaceted opportunity that can help our town to start to fill retail space made vacant over past years, as we as shoppers increasingly look online for everyday purchases.

    Retail that prospers going forward are stores with unique offerings and gathering places that are lively destinations for experiences that are “Amazon proof”.

    This project is a revenue generator – first with construction jobs, building permit revenue – and forever an ongoing annuity that will assist local shops and restaurants attract customers and fill seats, create jobs, make a bit more money, so they continue to have the ability to serve our communities, such as giving to the local soccer and other youth sports teams, increased sales tax revenue and saving gasoline – meaning we don’t have to go the Loop, United Center, Allstate Arena quite so often.

    Some have concerns about the future and that is very understandable.

    But look deeper, and I think most of us will come to the conclusion that the pros greatly outnumber the cons.

    I and so many in Evanston welcome this investment.

    Let’s work together to help bring this unique opportunity to reality.

    For me a 51 year resident of this leafy town, it’s a huge YES!

  9. I live near Evanston’s Central Street now but I grew up almost next to one of the main entrances to the Ravinia concert venue and yes the neighbors could hear the concerts a bit (including some ‘rock’), and yes there was traffic on major concert nights that a resident would have to think how to avoid at peak times, but I have never met a Highland Park resident who did not think that having this concert venue in the neighborhood was part of what made the Ravinia neighborhood in Highland Park special. Probably the majority of the Ravinia and Highland Park residents go to these concerts occasionally and see this as one small part of why they chose to live in the Ravinia neighborhood in Highland Park. Most Wrigleyville residents probably feel similarly.

    What Northwestern is proposing is far short of turning the stadium into a United Center and really is quite reasonable and should benefit the community overall, both culturally and financially. The significant tax revenue this would bring to Evanston is much needed as Evanston politicians have many proposed additional spending initiatives. This is a good project that the many concert-going Evanston residents will welcome. Even without considering the much needed tax revenue this will provide, adding some concerts is justified just for the additional cultural enrichment and joy of life this will bring to the community.

  10. As a 20 year resident in a single-family home near downtown, I would welcome this venue, events, and shoppers/diners downtown.

    Downtown is a “for lease” wasteland of drug addict vagrancy, crime, filth, all documented in police reports, pictures, videos, and shuttered businesses.

    People coming out of sports/event venues after a couple of drinks are no different from all of us departing restaurants after a couple of glasses of wine. That is called normal thriving society.

    In contrast, downtown is inhabited by people acting out scary antisocial behaviors that get even worse when they use their panhandling money to buy drugs and alcohol. This includes Connections residents- all documented in police reports and neighborhood pix/videos. 4 neighbors have been assaulted downtown in recent months.

    In contrast to downtown vagrancy, the stadium events bring decent, socially appropriate folks into our community. By shopping and dining, they GIVE to our community. Vagrancy TAKES from our community.

    Let’s try an experiment: Bring stadium attendees downtown! Send downtown vagrancy up to Central Ave. After a week, Ward 6 and 7 residents will be huge fans of the stadium and crowds!

  11. I live about five blocks from the stadium and oppose Northwestern’s current plan. The noise, traffic, and other nuisances that go with stadium concerts will fundamentally change this neighborhood. And Northwestern has been so dishonest in how they present this project — for example, saying that they need concerts to make it financially viable, then saying they won’t make that much money from concerts so don’t tax them on it — that they have no credibility.

    1. Agree with you that Northwestern’s financial argument is bogus. They have a $multi-billion endowment that was boosted last year by another $500MM from the Ryans.

      However, Evanston outside of Wards 6 and 7, is a mess. Wards 1 and 4 are overwhelmed with closed businesses and way too many shelters with too many people who exhibit vagrancy, commit crimes and drive shoppers/diners away.

      We welcome decent law abiding visitors who come and support our businesses and environment.

      I agree that any events that have a history of violence (e.g. rushing stage and crushing people) should not be allowed in our city.

  12. It’s good for businesses and for the city. But there is a downside there would be a lot of traffic and some people might not even be able to get home with all the traffic.

    I am a fourth grader at Orrington and I am planing to talk to Mayor Biss tomorrow with my Cub Scout Pack.

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