Eleanor Revelle.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) provided something of a roadmap for the city’s decision-making process about the proposed new Ryan Field football stadium at a 1st Ward meeting Thursday night.

Revelle, the council member whose ward includes the stadium, noted that Northwestern University is seeking three separate changes to city regulations to facilitate the stadium project:

  1. A zoning text amendment to broaden the permitted uses at the athletic complex to include commercial concerts.
  2. A planned development for construction of the new stadium, which will require a substantial variation from parking requirements.
  3. An amendment to the city’s liquor code to permit sale of alcohol at the new stadium. (The City Council approved liquor sales at Welsh Ryan Arena in 2019.)

Zoning text amendment

The school has already submitted the zoning text amendment request, and it had been scheduled for a Land Use Commission hearing on Feb. 22.

But LUC members asked to be able to consider the planned development request at the same time as the text amendment, so that hearing has been postponed.

The text amendment request, as now written, would authorize up to 10 days a year of “public-facing concerts” with attendance limited to the capacity of the facility.

The university has said the the 35,000 seat stadium would have a concert capacity of about 28,000 people. Some of those concerts might also be at Welsh Ryan Arena, which has a capacity of less than 10,000.

The text amendment also rewrites existing provisions allowing other types of events at the sports complex to permit additional “university-focused” and “community-focused” indoor and outdoor events and musical performances as long as attendance at those events is capped at 10,000 people.

Revelle said university officials have indicated that most of those events would be held in the plaza area around the new stadium.

“They wouldn’t be big concerts,” she said, “but up to 10,000 people could obviously be quite a crowd.”

University officials said this week that they plan to revise the text amendment request to lower that attendance cap, but didn’t say what the new proposed cap would be.

A rendering of the proposed new Ryan Field.

Planned development

Revelle said the university has indicated it will submit its planned development request in early to mid March.

She said that once city staff reviews the proposal, it will probably reach the Land Use Commission in early April.

(Assuming opponents are granted a continuance by the commission to marshal their arguments against the project, that would suggest the Land Use Commission might make a recommendation to City Council by early May.)

The planned development and zoning text amendment proposals would then be debated at at least two City Council meetings before a final decision, likely making the earliest date for a final decision sometime in June.

Economic impact

The projected economic impact of the stadium project is likely to be a major factor in evaluating the planned development request.

Last fall Northwestern issued an economic impact report prepared by the Tripp Umbach consulting firm.

The study claims, among other things, that Evanston will see its tax revenue from the stadium complex increase from $1.4 million a year to $5.3 million a year by 2031 as a result of the new stadium project — with most of that increase coming from additional special events.

It also claims that stadium-related jobs for city residents will increase from 376 to 827 during the same period.

The city is planning to hire its own consultant to do an independent assessment of the impact of the new stadium.

Alders on the Administration and Public Works Committee Monday rejected a staff recommendation to quickly hire a consultant without a formal bidding process.

Staff said that means the City Council likely won’t be able to select a consultant for the work until its March 22 meeting.

A timeline for completing the study wasn’t specified.

Liquor code amendment

Once the university submits its request for a liquor code amendment, it would likely take a minimum of one to two months for that request to work it’s way through the city review process to reach a final vote by the City Council.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. This seems “fair and balanced” to me, and time is being taken to consider all of the factors in this important issue…

    BTW Ald. Revelle was one of the Alderpersons who was willing to listen to my concerns (via Zoom) regarding the Margarita Inn issue. I’d like to thank her for that here publicly, as it shows great integrity on her part; Alderpersons Krissie Harris and Juan Geracaris did this, too, so I am also thank them. Which is more than I can say for my 4th Ward Alderman, who has ignored all my attempted communications with him…

    Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

  2. That “rendering of the proposed new Ryan Field” shows a heckuva lot fewer people in the plaza than the 10,000 Northwestern is proposing to allow for events outside the stadium

    For reference, here’s a tv commercial that had “only” 1,200 people arrive and gather in one place at a city intersection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DL0JF0W9j9Q

    Now imagine a crowd eight times as big as in the commercial, crammed into the area surrounding the stadium.

  3. I am generally impressed with the whole process of the city in reviewing and explaining the new Ryan Field. I am in favor of the development with possible revisions to number of concerts and crowd size.

    I would encourage any study by the city to include a traffic study. With all the available parking facilities in the city I would think that the university and city could coordinate remote locations for participant parking, where shuttle busses could take them to the site, thus significantly reducing congestion, commotion, etc. on Central and neighboring streets. And acquiring parking fees for the city (?).

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