Evanston’s City Council Monday night is scheduled to select a consultant to conduct an independent economic impact study of Northwestern University’s plans to rebuild its football stadium.

In a memo to the council, Economic Development Manager Paul Zalmezak says the $78,500 contract with C.H. Johnson Consulting, Inc. of Chicago is designed to determine whether concerts and other events are needed to make the $800 million stadium project economically feasible and what the local economic and transportation impacts would be of such events.

A rendering of the proposed new Ryan Field.

Seven consulting firms responded to the city’s request for proposals for the project. Six were deemed responsive by city reviewers and, while two firms offered lower-cost proposals, the reviewers concluded C.H. Johnson best met the qualifications and approach to the project that the city was seeking.

The consulting firm has proposed a 12-week scheduled for completing its work.

Zalmezak says staff two weeks from now will seek council approval for a separate community engagement consultant to get public response to the study’s results before the Council has to vote on the school’s plans for rebuilding the nearly century-old Ryan Field.

The university has prepared extensive studies supporting the new stadium project, but residents near the stadium who oppose holding additional large-scale events at the athletic complex on Central Street have challenged the university’s forecasts.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. If they build the stadium, they will need concerts and other events to make the stadium economically feasible. I just saved Evanston $78,000!
    If they don’t build the stadium, they won’t need concerts and other events as the stadium is built and paid for.
    The question is whether NU (a non-profit) can infringe on neighbors who purchased their homes in good faith with an understanding of 6 football games a year to make an odd vanity project “maybe” economically viable.
    This economic impact study is a classic waste of taxpayer dollars.
    Knowing that the Bears are going to Arlington Heights, there is Soldier Field, Ravinia, Wrigley Field for concert events, I don’t even believe there is a market or need for yet another stadium. The only ones who will profit by this will be those who build the stadium. Everyone else will lose in the transaction.
    This is a very weird vanity project for Mr. Ryan that Northwestern shouldn’t be involved in.

    1. You are absolutely correct. Ryan is in the process of corrupting NU with his vanity project. His indoor practice field, when there is already one at Ryan Field, destroyed a critical part of the lake front. And now this project, that needs to be funded by turning north Evanston into a Wrigley Field type entertainment complex, overrun by 35,000 people on a Summer evening multiple times a summer, will destroy Evanston, and it violates the understanding that home owners, for the past 100 years, had when they purchased their homes. And on top of this, most students don’t see the point of this project. Many do not come to football games except when they are first year students, and they are forced to as part of new student week.

  2. I hope the “community engagement” proposal includes seeking input from across Evanston, not only nearby neighbors. Thousands of verified Evanston residents have signed a petition indicating their support for the benefits of this project and concerts; their voices should be heard, too. The recent Evanston Thrives report, sponsored by City Council, calls for entertainment as a catalyst to revive Evanston.

    I question why the City needs to spend $78,000 to figure out how it can profit from an investment that requires ZERO tax dollars. It seems that these funds might be better used in many other worthwhile ways.

        1. Oh ok, so this is just the 500 person survey that NU conducted. If there is a petition for supporters achieving thousands of signatures, I’d be interested in that. Thanks.

          1. Martin, try again. Note the section that begins with this sentence:
            “In addition to the support reflected in the survey, Northwestern has secured more than 2,600 individual signatures from Evanston residents…”
            Best regards.

          2. So let’s be clear about what people are signing onto:

            “We are Evanston residents and we support Northwestern University’s plan to build an accessible world-class community asset that reduces congestion, mitigates noise and light pollution, and brings significant economic benefits to Evanston.”

            There is no mention of concerts and non-profit events in that statement.

            Additionally, how has NU reduced congestion and noise? That has not been addressed.

            Deception at its finest.

    1. Ah yes, “verified Evanston residents” listed with only their last initial. At least NU eventually reclassified the person who claimed to live in the 11th Ward.

    2. Agreed. It is a waste of money to pay 78,000.00 dollars. The improvements to the stadium will benefit Evanston as a whole. The stadium has been there for 100 years, what did you think when you moved to a neighborhood with a stadium? Also the stadium is losing 10,000 seats. That means 10,000 less people coming to any event held in the stadium. Is anyone aware of that?

  3. I agree that this is a waste of tax payer money! NU can decide about the economic feasibility. We shouldn’t be held hostage to their desire for additional revenue. We need to understand what the impact will be on the surrounding area without NU’s biased studies. That’s what we should be studying.

  4. This second study is purely a stalling tactic by the people against the project and the fact that the council is letting this happen means their are not sincere about being true fiscal agents of the taxpayers money. So replacing an old stadium is a vanity project? Really. Mr. Ryan is an elderly man who wants to replace an old stadium with a brand new one that will the best in the conference AND bring benefits of green space to the community. I think many more people will benefit than Mr. Ryan who again, will leave behind a stadium for decades after he is gone.

    1. Green space? You have to be joking.

      If that is the reason for this stadium, put the green space in for $10 million and leave the stadium alone. No environmental hazards (asbestos for example), not increasing Evanston’s carbon footprint (tearing down, crushing, construction would be involved in building a new stadium).
      Cybil, I agree with you on the green space. That’s a place to start.

  5. As an outsider looking in, the handwringing and pearl-clutching of many Evanston residents when it comes to this project are downright perplexing, and quite honestly reflects poorly on the town.

    Many towns would kill to have a school like Northwestern University, and a project like this, completely privately funded, and *downsizing* from the existing stadium? It’s an incredible asset to the community, and to see residents treating it with such disdain is puzzling and reflects the worst of NIMBYism.

    1. Jane, maybe as an outsider, you can’t appreciate the impact to a residential neighborhood and city that does not have the instructure to support 10, 35,000 person concerts every weekend throughout the summer. 5-10 semi trucks of equipment will come through the streets to support concerts (that’s a low estimate). 1 semi truck is the equivalent to 1,000 cars worth of impact on streets. NU is not offering to profit share the concert revenue, only let Evanston collect the sales tax from tickets. So where will the street repair money come from? What about the extra security not immediatly at the stadium. Noone is contesting a new stadium for the purposes of football. Maybe think twice before you start judging people for something you clearly know nothing about.

      1. I don’t think how silly you sound, and it might be because you live and exist in an echo chamber that has conditioned you to think negatively of your neighbor (NW).

        It is normal for stadiums and large event spaces to have multiple use cases. And they’re downsizing the stadium, so in theory it might even have a lower footprint.

        I wonder if HP residents who live near Ravinia Festival felt this much antipathy when it was first being constructed.

        If Evanstonians were smart, they’d use this as a good-faith bargaining chip, but instead they’ve resorted to high-pitched whining that does not come across kindly to, frankly, anyone else.

        1. Many Evanston residents have been trying to work towards a Community Benefits Agreement. Northwestern has so far refused to come to the table to negotiate or even answer legitimate questions and concerns around traffic, pollution, noise, and safety. They repeat their sales pitch with no answers and frankly show no care towards residents with legitimate concerns.

          The comparison to highland park is a false narrative. Average attendance at Ravinia is less than 5,000 people. Football games and even nonprofit concerts up to 10,000 people are allowed under current zoning, so NU could hold bigger events than Ravinia or Canal Shores Out of Space right now under current zoning, at yet noone wants to talk about that. They want to shove 35,000 extra people into a city of 70,000. The zoning has been battled in the courts and all Evanston residents knew that the stadium cannot be used for mega for-profit events when they purchased their homes. NU has proved their apathy for the city and just thinks city should just shut up and say “thank you”.  Hard pass.

          1. “Dear Florida,” Ravinia Festival attracts upwards of 600,000+ guests a year, the vast majority in the summer months. That’s significantly more than Northwestern’s stadium would ever attract over the course of a year. Please be realistic and take off your black-tinted glasses.

          2. “Floridian,” Ravinia states it hosts 600,000 visitors spread over 120 events (for an average of 5,000/event).

            If NU gets the zoning change it wants, the stadium will host 700,000 people between football and mega-concerts alone (ten home games with the expansion of the Big 10 and ten stadium capacity concerts).

          3. Not true. The expansion of the number of teams in the Big Ten does not increase the length of the season. It’s still a 13-week season — or 6.5 home games per team per year.
            At 35,000 capacity for football, the stadium would be maxed out at an average of 227,500 game-day fans per year.

            Calculating concert attendance is more difficult, because NU says the stadium’s capacity for concerts will be 28,000 and because it says some of the concerts likely will be in the 7,000 seat Welsh Ryan Arena, rather than the stadium. If one assumes five stadium concerts and five arena concerts per year, that would be a concert capacity of 175,000.

            At 402,500 total for concerts and football, that would still be a lot of people, though.

            — Bill

        2. Floridian, thank you for an objective perspective. The new stadium replaces an obsolete facility with amenities not currently available in Evanston at no cost to us. Yes, many communities would welcome this asset.

          1. “Illinoisian,” you are misinformed. Current zoning permits U2 District properties to be used for many types of non-profit events primarily for the benefit of City residents. NU’s proposed zoning changes strike the requirements that the events be non-profit and primarily for the benefit of City residents.

            “Florida,” reducing seating capacity so that the stadium for look so empty on TV for game days (typical attendance is only 25,000) is not the same thing as reducing the footprint. The building will be much taller except for the existing towers/press box. Either way, it’s much, much larger than Ravinia, and there is a huge difference in the types of musical acts that a venue like Ravinia attracts. A better comparator is Wrigley Field.

  6. North Evanston (and neighboring Wilmette) is a dark, quiet bedroom community with a single lane road in either direction, a half mile from the hospital. Inserting large concerts and liquor sales with an open roof means rain delays could mean concerts starting late and running until 2 am (see the infamous Pearl Jam concert at Wrigley Field). Build the new stadium for football but put the semi trucks, light pollution (they’ll hang and activate lights for days before the concerts), excessive noise, and air pollution to an area more suited to it. I heard Soldier Field needs a tenant. Why not use an existing structure with adequate streets for it rather than keep the 7th ward awake? Will remember this when the Alderperson Revelle and Mayor Biss are up for re-election. Really disappointed this is on the table.

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