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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