The upcoming public hearing on rebuilding Ryan Field could last longer than a triple-overtime football game and a stadium concert … combined.

The hearing, by the city’s Land Use Commission, is set to start Sept. 6.

But Planning and Zoning Manager Liz Williams says so many people are expected to testify that the meeting may have to be continued … and continued again.

City Planning & Zoning Mgr. Liz Williams at 7th Ward meeting Tuesday night at Civic Center.

Williams told a 7th Ward meeting Tuesday night that “it’s very possible this could take three meetings” before the LUC votes on what to recommend to city council, which has final say on Northwestern’s stadium proposal.

The LUC normally limits public comment to a 20-minute presentation by the applicant (in this case, NU), ten minutes for “designated speakers of community groups,” and three minutes per person for everyone else. However, LUC by-laws say the commission chair can adjust the “everyone else” time up or down, “depending on the number of those who have signed up to speak,” which in this case will likely be quite a few.

Williams said that two groups have already requested that the hearing be continued past the first session. Such requests can be made by those within 1,000 feet of a proposed project, and may be “granted at the Commission’s discretion.”

There could be verbal fireworks at the hearing (or hearings), as cross-examination is allowed. So we might see the representative of an anti-stadium group quizzing officials from Northwestern.

NU wants to tear down century-old Ryan Field, and replace it with a modern, new and smaller football stadium (35,000 seats vs. 47,000) that would also host concerts.

Opponents say concert noise and crowds will hurt the quality of life near the stadium. Supporters say the economic impact will benefit the entire city, with jobs and tax revenue.

The new $800 million Ryan Field would be privately financed, but requires city council OK of zoning changes and other project specifics.

The LUC hearing was first scheduled for Aug. 23, but was delayed until Sept. 6 after Northwestern made some changes to the proposal, including a reduction in the number of concerts from ten to six.

NU says construction and operation of the new Ryan Field will pump $1.2 billion into the Evanston area economy by 2031,

However, the city is getting an independent review of the figures NU’s consultant used.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle at 7th Ward meeting.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) told the meeting the independent financial analysis should be ready by mid-September and will be made public.

It’s important to point out that the Land Use Commission does not make recommendations based on a project’s economic impact, whatever that impact may be.

The LUC’s actions are based on specific zoning and project criteria, but economic impact is not among them.

That issue is on City Council’s playing field.

Once the LUC makes its recommendation, Council will then take public comment again before it votes.

So we’re still in the first quarter on this one, with a long game ahead.

The Sept. 6 Land Use Commission hearing Sept. 6 is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 6 in the council chambers at the Civic Center.

Information on how to sign up to speak is available on the city website.

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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  1. I don’t get it. Last December Davis , NU’s community guy, said getting city permission for the up to 12 events, as well as the OK to sell alcohol to general admission fans at the football field are needed to make the stadium financially viable.
    “If they [concerts and alcohol sales] don’t happen,” Davis told the business people at the meeting, “this project doesn’t happen.”
    What has changed now that they’ve reduced the number of concerts to 6?
    Has anyone at Northwestern done a real financial analysis or are they just sky hooking numbers?

  2. I think for a major University that should be more concerned about becoming the poster child of how not to handle a crisis (I bet a case study is already being written at Kellogg), Northwestern just dug their hole a little deeper with their latest stadium “offer”. Who is advising the administration?

    If this is really important to NU (Patrick Ryan) then the City should require that an additional 10% ($80,000,000) of the cost of the new stadium should be put into an endowment for the City of Evanston. And add in that NU donate the land where the farmers market is held.

    Now let’s see if NU wants to become a real partner with the City of Evanston.

  3. I was initially in favor of the benefits of the proposed project, but it’s clear that Evanston must not give more economic power to people who have demonstrated themselves to be bad actors. Until there is complete transparency on the abuse scandal, consequences for all involved, and external oversight put in place—allowing NU this stadium will only embolden them to continue those traditions of abuse.

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