Northwestern University officials have released an economic impact study that claims the school’s plans for rebuilding Ryan Field will more than triple the City of Evanston’s direct tax revenue from stadium events by 2031.

It says annual tax revenue will grow from $1.4 million now, with six or seven football games at the stadium, to $5 million with the football games plus up to a dozen concerts a year and a few smaller ticketed amateur events.

The study, summarized during an online 7th Ward meeting Thursday night, was conducted by Paul Umbach of the Tripp Umbach consulting firm.

Paul Umbach.

Umbach said that assuming 10 concerts a year, with an average of 28,500 people attending each event, the concert tax revenue would total $3.6 million, including:

  • The 7% amusement tax on ticket sales
  • The 6% alcohol and 1.25% sales tax.
  • The $0.60 tax on each parking pass.
  • Additional indirect taxes from hotel stays and restaurant dining by event attendees.

He said the special events would have an overall annual economic impact of $36 million on the city and an additional $33 million in the rest of Cook and Lake counties.

He also estimated that the economic impact of seven football games per season on Evanston would increase from $43.7 million a year now to $52.2 million by 2031, with similar increases for the larger region.

And he said that the work to rebuild the stadium will generate $659 million in economic impact to the city during the construction period, and in total the project’s impact will be nearly $1.2 billion by 2031.

David DeCarlo.

David DeCarlo, who lives a couple blocks from the stadium at 1404 Lincoln St., asked whether the economic impact report considered costs like increased repair expense for roads around the stadium and what he claimed would be reduced property values in the neighborhood.

Umbach said the study did not look at road repair costs but that in his company’s studies of other stadium projects there’d been no evidence of property values being depressed by a stadium project.

“In fact, the literature shows that public improvements like this generally increase the value of properties in university communities,” he added.

Eric Herman, of 2706 Prairie Ave., said he was concerned about intangibles — not infrastructure costs but quality of life changes. “That will be a cost to the neighbors,” Herman said.

Umbach conceded that intangible negative impacts are harder to measure, but he said they would be offset by increases in spending at local businesses and in the employment of local residents, and in the social and community capital of having more things to do.

Dave Davis.

Dave Davis, the school’s director of neighborhood and community relations, said that at the next ward meeting on the stadium project the school would present a report from an acoustics expert on how the planned canopy over the playing field would help reduce noise in the neighborhood from stadium events.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said that session, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 15, would also address traffic and parking issues around the stadium.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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4 Comments

  1. Who cares? That revenue will be spent in irresponsible ways. Can’t support this unless there is a positive change to our individual property taxes. Let’s see a subsidy to our taxes since the city is subsidizing NU.

  2. We’ll never see a cent of that money!! I love Evanston, but not NU!! Their studies regarding this new stadium need to be verified by another expert of our choice.
    I live across from the stadium, and their game days are a nightmare. We all need to fight this proposal.

  3. I completely disagree with the commenters who are against this proposal. Even if the numbers, which are estimates, don’t fully materialize, the economic benefits and associated opportunities are certainly real. NU has a right to propose this. Did we all forget how critically important this world class institution is to the vibrancy of our city? I don’t understand our inability to embrace this central aspect of our identity. Not only the institution, but its students. Constant vitriol aimed at our resident college students. The stadium is significant and well thought out in its design and operations. The stadium existed long before any of these commenters not only purchased their homes, but before those very homes existed. You can’t tell me you didn’t know it was there when you decided to purchase your property. This is an obvious benefit and improvement from whats existing. It will benefit the City in whole as well as the neighbourhoods surrounding the stadium, including their property values. Is there nothing that we are able to welcome anymore?

  4. Northwestern is unlike most universities in that its stadium is surrounded on all four sides by residential neighborhoods. Having more large-scale events at night at Ryan Field, including concerts, and serving alcohol at them will have a profoundly negative impact on the hundreds of residents living near the stadium.

    I live close to Ryan Field and have first-hand knowledge of what happens in the neighborhood when there are night events and alcohol is involved. I still clearly remember the experience I had walking my dog with my daughter in 2019 when there was an evening game against Ohio State. It was not even 9 p.m. and we had to watch our step to avoid the glass shards from broken beer bottles on the sidewalk (I have the photos that show this). We saw many beer cans in front yards, observed a young man urinating in a neighbor’s driveway, and were approached by a visibly drunk man who tried to have an extremely personal and inappropriate conversation with me. I fear that if these proposed changes at Ryan Field take place, rather than experience this kind of behavior a couple of nights a year, we will experience it much more often.

    We already must put up with traffic congestion when there are home games. But at night after a concert or other event where alcohol is being served, if we are being realistic, this will include some drivers who are under the influence, which will make our roads unsafe. Remember, Ryan Field is not on a typical university campus, it is surrounded by residential neighborhoods that include many families with children.

    When we bought a house here, we understood there were 7 home games a year, with 1 or 2 at night. We did not know NU would push to adapt Ryan Field into a venue for concerts and other profit-making evening events. There are hundreds of residents living around the stadium who will be impacted by this. Those who live farther away see the profit potential for the city. They may feel quite differently if they lived near the stadium and experience what we experience.

    NU is a nonprofit institution, but is operating in this venture as a for-profit enterprise.

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