Northwestern University’s request for zoning code amendments for the planned new Ryan Field is scheduled to be heard by Evanston’s Land Use Commission on Feb. 22.

Update 2 p.m., 2/3/23: University spokesman Jon Yates now says the school, in response to a request from city officials, will ask for a continuance at the Feb. 22 Land Use Commission meeting so that the text amendment request and the planned development application for the stadium can be reviewed together.

Yates says the university had planned to submit the PD application in March and hopes to have that proposal to the LUC “in the near future.”

Yates says school officials “remain excited” about the “positive, transformational impact a new Ryan Field will have on our entire community.”

The university is seeking about 15 changes to current rules in the U-2 University Athletic Facilities District.

Several are designed to allow a wider range of:

  • Intramural, intercollegiate and amateur sporting events and practice sessions.
  • University-focused and community-focused lectures, speakers, festivals, social events and musical performances with attendance limited to 10,000 persons or less.
  • Banquets and similar events limited to the seating capacity of the facility.

The most controversial change would permit up to 10 days a year of public-facing concerts, with a variety of restrictions imposed.

That would replace a provision in the code that permits only “community and cultural events of a nonprofit nature” but allows seven such events in each facility and permits each such event to last for up to five consecutive days.

Under the proposed new rules, attendance concerts would be limited to the capacity of the venue.

A report from the school’s traffic consultant says that, for concerts, the new football stadium’s capacity of about 35,000 would be reduced to 28,500 because of the placement of the stage and supporting infrastructure.

The university’s basketball venue next door, Welch-Ryan Arena, also proposed for some concerts, has a capacity of about 8,000.

The proposed changes also include requiring the school to submit a transportation management plan for each event, provide private security for university-owned parking areas and limit amplified music from concerts to the hours of 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and days preceding holidays.

Final approval of any zoning change is up to the City Council.

The actual designs for the stadium project are not part of the text amendment process. They are expected to be submitted later and will go through a separate planned development review process by the city.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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