Northwestern University’s plans to rebuild Ryan Field are sure to be one of the top stories of 2023.

Today we’re asking our readers what the outcome should be — what your views are about six possible options.

Some options may be highly improbable — but we think it’s worth knowing where Evanstonians are coming from on the issue as the university’s effort to win City Council approval for the project unfolds.

Please submit the survey form only once. Multiple submissions will not be counted.

Update 1/6/23: The survey is now closed.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Not meaning to offend anybody, but most Evanstonians have no idea and little appreciation of the amount of direct benefits and longterm ancillary benefits the university provides. Build the stadium.

    1. Alan, I appreciate your position on NU, but please read Mary Rosinski’s comments (below) on NU’s financial advantage gained by being here in Evanston. Then, could you explain what indirect benefits or positives Evanston gains from Northwestern’s presence?

    2. Having worked as a PR professional for the university, I can assure you… NU benefits far more than does Evanston from the relationship–and will fight like hell to keep it that way. It’s fine for NU to flourish, but Evanstonians should open their eyes to the outrageous degree to which the university is flourishing on the backs of Evanston taxpayers and renters. Anyone who argues that NU owes nothing to Evanston beyond its pittance payments (Good Neighbors Fund) is selling our budget-strapped city way short. On another note, in my 30 years living in the Seventh Ward, I never heard one lament about the lack of a Wrigleyville-type venue in the area. But now that an $800 million scheme is afoot, suddenly people think that’s JUST what’s needed? Hmmm…. Don’t be fooled. NU wants to do this not FOR the city, but rather to stuff more cash into its already bulging pockets.

  2. The small number of houses within 2-3 blocks of stadium area do experience some
    disturbance a few times per year, but they knew this when buying and should not
    kill future improvement to the area. They will be a few loud voices and are only looking out for their own convenience….maybe 10-20 days out of 365 days per year.

    1. The current situation is not a potential night time concert of 35,000 people being released on to the streets at 10pm, having consumed a significant amount of alcohol. To compare such an even to a Space Concert is ridiculous. This is capped at 3,000.

  3. If the stadium is to be replaced, the City should require underground parking to relieve the neighborhood (and the golf course) from cars everywhere.

  4. Bring on the updated stadium. Love the new energy it will bring to the area. Evanston needs the additional revenue.

  5. The Ryan Field controversy is not about rebuilding the stadium. Build the stadium. The larger question is about zoning and why should a Northwestern University -a non on profit corporation with an educational purpose and who has a $15+ billion dollar endowment be allowed to operate commercial/professional operations and in a property tax exempt district. People forget that in 1929 when NU built the stadium off their main campus it was with the understanding that it was for amatuer non professional purposes. The stadium was built in the center of residential neighborhoods and no one I have heard is opposing the building of the stadium for educational amatuer purposes.
    It is wrong to belittle the 1000s of families who oppose commercial use in the u2 district. If the city were to plan to bring in a huge entertainment venue, and put it in any neighborhood, there would be controversy. NU could have decided to build it on their main campus where they have acres and acres of land, 2 parking garages, most of students are gone during the summer. But they choose not to.
    The for profit commercial use NU wants is a goldmine for NU and of course something every other property taxpaying business and owner would want-
    Northwestern University can ask to exploit the zoning ordinance and the neighborhoods but it is up to the city council to stand up and say NO. If NU wants to play like a commercial entity , I would ask that they don’t ask for sweetheart zoning and should pay property taxes on the land they want to use for commercial/ professional purposes and the 37.5 acres of tax exempt land they have in the U2 district would generate about 18 million dollars a. years for the Evanston city and schools. (This estimate is based on the the 1710 central street commercial property which sits on 1 acre and generates over $600,000 in tax revenue. ) If the property were zoned residential each acre would be generating about $200,000 based on the Kendall College properties.
    The city taxpayers pay for the infrastructure that enables NU to have good roads, fire dept, water, sidewalks, garbage pick up , street lights, beaches, parks and rec, which their students, employees and visitors use. At one time in the late 1800s NU may have paid for the infrastructure, but that operations burdens has been turned over to resident taxpayers, so please , everyone who says Evanston would fail without NU, it just is not true. A college town can be attractive and fun, but NU owns over 300 acres of tax exempt land and those acres would generate a lot of revenue.
    I think NU and the City can have a healthier financial relationship -one that benefits the residents.
    NU doesn’t get extra credit points for paying the water taxes, electric taxes , permit fees -every resident pays those. In 2018 they earned over $93,000,000 on sports activities alone and the city athletic tax generated was a measley $1,080,000.

    NU does not have a fire department, the tax payers provide that for NU. People talk about the Good Neighbor Fund, that was $5,000,000 given to the city over 5 years and NU and city decided how it was spent. The money stopped 1 or 2 years ago. Just because NU wants to do it does not mean they should be able to do it.

    1. ^^this^^

      It shocks me how many people fall for the flashy marketing and completely ignore the larger issue with how NU takes advantage of the city and its citizens. During such a decisive time with so much debate about the haves and the have nots, it’s long past due for NU to start paying their fair share and relieve the burden on Evanston’s most vulnerable citizens.

    2. Agreed. The sad truth appears to be that institutions of higher education are only secondarily interested in education; their primary focus appears to be making money in any way possible.

  6. BUILD THE STADIUM. We need more life in Evanston, it’s been slowly declining for years. Restaurants and other entities are fleeing. We need to bring back life to this City.

  7. Build the stadium. Flex to the current market environment. Zone appropriately (but not too restrictively) to benefit Evanston and the University. There is common ground here that can be achieved.

    The University is offering the city a huge one in a generation benefit here. Paying for it all. It will be an $800M crown jewel with parks and beautiful aesthetics. They will do it right and first class.

    Some concerts might pep up the area. Revitalize some businesses along Central Street and even some surrounding neighborhoods. Ever seen some business areas of Wilmette recently? (note: it needs help). Some new shops and restaurants might do the community and small businesses good!

  8. When did all this tax exempt status start? Stop all tax exempt status; every one pays their share. Filing taxes would be a one page task, and be fair to everyone.

  9. Don’t build the stadium and allow 3 concerts a year that generates significant tax revenue to the city.
    How does the stadium fit NU’s mission statement?
    Northwestern is committed to excellent teaching, innovative research and the personal and intellectual growth of its students in a diverse academic community.

  10. Our community should not settle for the revenue crumbs (taxes on event-goers) that NU is offering. The real money is in broadcast rights on existing games and the pro sports NU wants to host; if NU wants a commercial stadium and arena, it should pay property taxes PLUS taxes on its revenue.

  11. What is in the new stadium that really benefits Evanston? I see congestion, more noise. I also see a great deal of garbage and I have yet to hear of the financial compensation to Evanston from the university. It is disappointing that college sports are so costly and over-rated. Just like pro sports where financial considerations have grown to unbelievable extremes, universities are sadly headed faster down the same path.

  12. Mary Rosinski gets it! I could not agree more! NU is offering peanuts back to the community only to grease the squeaky wheels. Also – Evanston Now, what is up with the phrasing of the questions? This really reads like a push poll.

  13. Use the new stadium for football games only. Keep concerts on campus, either outdoors or where they are already held indoors. Otherwise the disruptions to local residents of the loud noise and disorderly crowds (to which NU wants to sell alcohol) should be avoided and not allowed by the city.

  14. Evanston benefits from having Northwestern here.

    Northwestern benefits from being in Evanston.

    Let’s face it, our elected officials will approve this no matter what we all think.

    Let’s challenge our elected officials to make the financial aspect of this deal more sustainably lucrative for the city rather than their typical cow-towing from the past.

  15. Once this gets built and the entertainment venues begin, perhaps Northwestern can bus all of the vagrants, homeless, drug dealers, and criminals from downtown Evanston to the new stadium, so that Ward seven residents and patrons of the events can share in the misery and lack of safety those of us who live and own businesses downtown face every day.

  16. I know I could research this, but aside from tutoring, social service volunteering, community events, bike paths, and donations for various non-profits, didn’t NU commit to donating one million $ per year to Evanston coffers to help with things like policing, fire, general fund?

  17. In my opinion, a new Ryan Field is a once in a generation opportunity (maybe many generations) to have a significant investment in Evanston that students, residents and visitors alike can enjoy. If the opponents get what they want by blocking this historic private investment, NU still won’t pay taxes in lieu of, the rest of us Evanston residents miss out in the benefits of jobs and revenue, we are left with an eye sore on Central, and NU makes future significant investments in their Chicago campus because of greater local partnership.

  18. Build the Stadium, OLD Ryan Field is not a revenue generator for the city. It’s needed updating 25 years ago. It’s a must for the community as much as the neighborhood. No State Money or City money , 12,000 fewer seats less traffic. This is going to be a great addition to the city and the Wildcats!!!

    1. Less traffic is a misnomer. The games rarely see even the 35,000 people (think OSU or ND) so reduced capacity is irreleveant based on their average actually attendance. Then add on the fact that it’s still 12 more events at 35,000 people. That’s a huge burden on the aging infrastrcutre of the city. NU should be paying property taxes if they are going to hold for profit events in a residential district.

  19. Shocking that so many people that live in a university town are so ignorant about how Northwestern is a 501 c 3 and is not unique in its tax exempt status. There are 70 places of worship in Evanston that take up considerable real estate and don’t pay taxes either, going after them too? If you didn’t understand the makeup of the city you bought property in, shame on you. Most restaurants, bars and other amenities that you enjoy 365 days a year in Evanston are here because of NU.

    1. As soon as those churches start proposing zoning changes to bring in and sell alcohol to 10’s of thousands of concert goers I suppose I’d go after them too yeah!

      Shame on you for not recognizing that NU is far from the other more legitimate non-profits for which the tax codes were intended.

      1. The people of Highland Park might be happy that you don’t live there, as over 600,000 people attend concerts at Ravinia, located in a residential neighborhood, every year. The city of Highland Park receives tax revenue on all food, beverage and merchandise sold through not for profit Ravinia.

    2. Do the 70 places of worship combined take up even 1/1000th of the land and resources that NU does? It’s not even close!

      Are any of those legitimate non-profits fighting to change zoning laws to host massive concerts larger than the United Center, and sell alcohol to 10’s of thousands of concert goers in the middle of a residential zoned neighborhood? Nope!

      If you don’t understand the makeup of how NU is taking advantage of its tax exempt status off the back of Evanston citizens then shame on you.

  20. I have lived in this beautiful neighborhood since 1974. I am a retired NU faculty member who was willing to put up with the traffic and noise during football season. I even went to a lot of football games and tail gate parties. However, I now worry about larger crowds who probably will behave and drink like youngsters at rock and roll concerts. And alcohol???!!! What will this do to my property values?

    1. If it lowers your property value, your taxes will go down. To make up for it, my taxes, at the other end of town, will go up.

  21. If NU wants to operate a giant profit making venue they should be treated like any other giant profit making venue: be required to pay taxes on the property containing the venue.

  22. Scott Minor makes excellent points. Build the stadium, allow concerts, and work with the City and NU on reasonable regulations to address neighborhood concerns. It’s a no brainer. I live in the neighborhood. It isn’t some sleepy little village. It’s a vibrant, dynamic neighborhood that is served by two mass transit rail lines, bus routes, and major arterial streets — all that can support the handful of extra events a year that are proposed. A first-class facility with the amenities proposed at that site will benefit the neighborhood, Central Street businesses, and the larger community. Let’s not overcomplicate this.

  23. Evanston is hostile to its retailers and the city long ago chased away all its manufacturers — and all their jobs. We cede business to Wilmette and Skokie almost willingly. Without NU, Evanston is nothing. Build the stadium before our city lights go out.

    1. It’s just a hypothetical, but what if Northwestern decided to leave town? Would nobody else want to buy their land and put it to some productive use?

  24. Most university stadiums are located in far campus areas with access to major streets or highways, away from residential neighborhoods? They are not right in the middle of residential neighborhoods and small streets. In addition Northwestern has been lying about its intent to monetize the Welsh-Ryan, Ryan Field and baseball complex for years as well as been derelict in its responsibilities to mitigate the negative impact of noise from the Welsh-Ryan HVAC system on the surrounding neighborhoods for over five years. A consulting firm hired by NU to prognosticate on the positive economic impact of the stadium has been paid handsomely to produce a report that says what their customer wants to hear.

  25. This will soon become a nightmare. Neighbors were “guaranteed” only 12 -18 night games a year in return for agreeing Wrigley to have night games. Now there are many more night games and living anywhere within 2 miles of that stadium has become a nightmare of crime, property damage, drunk and disorderly crowds, traffic problems such that you cannot plan anything when there is a night game. Northwestern has proven time and time again that it has no regard for the Evanston community and will advance its own interests at all costs to the surrounding neighbors.

  26. Northwestern paying people from all over Chicagoland to canvas and drum up positive feedback while pointedly avoiding those not pro NU profit grab,should tell everyone what they need to know about NUs “sincere attempts to connect with the community”. We don’t need more performative nonsense from our neighbor. If there’s common ground to be found, trust is required. So far NU has only convinced me they can’t be trusted.

  27. I think building the stadium in its present location is appropriate, but I’d like the City to receive some monetary benefit

  28. I’ve lived on Central Street across from Ryan Field for 25+ years following graduation from NU. I love our neighborhood and its local, small business character that’s become increasingly rare. While the potential benefits to the neighborhood and the city could be a positive, creating something akin to a “Wrigleyville North” doesn’t sound at all appealing.

    I’ve seen a lot of vague “trust us – it’ll be great for everyone!!!!” marketing but far too little solid, independent information on the financial and other impacts, positive and negative, on local residents, the neighborhood, local small businesses (including rents), the city and the wider area both during the 2-year construction and after.

    Is there a source for independent analysis on the project that I’ve missed?

  29. Northwestern plans to place a major commercial entertainment venue in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The concerts plan will change the neighborhood fundamentally. NU knows this but is downplaying it like crazy. That’s why its mailers show happy families ice-skating like a scene from ‘Anna Karenina’ but do not depict stadium concerts with 35,000 fans. (The word “concerts” only appears once in the mailer, and it’s buried.)

    With their paid surveys, ads, videos, “independent” economic consultants, signature-gatherers-for-hire, lobbyists and so on, Northwestern is waging a no-expense-spared propaganda campaign. It might be that their objective is justified. But the amount of propagandizing and sheer baloney being thrown around is staggering.

  30. Shame on Northwestern for again wanting to damage our lovely community so it can make more money. If an $11BILLION endowment isn’t enough, they need better leadership. This proposal will harm area businesses, diminish property values and decrease our quality of life. All so they can become a commercial event business. If they want to expand their mission beyond education, go to a more appropriate area. This should not be built on the backs of Evanston residents.

  31. I say build the darn stadium. It’s a plus for Northwestern and the city of Evanston. Northwestern was here before the city of Evanston. People were aware that football was being played at Northwestern when they moved to the area. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Northwestern University wants the best for all parties. Northwestern is a world class university and should be treated in that manner. It is one of the three gems of the city, the others being the lake front and the citizens. Evanston is the capital of the North Shore of Chicago and we should act like it. Lead, follow or get out of the way. I say make a choice Evanston. I say lead….

    Marvin L. Walker
    Former trustee of Oakton Community College
    ETHS grad class of 1968

    1. That’s not leading… that’s following and letting NU continue to lead themselves to riches (under the guise of being a non-profit) while not being a responsible neighbor, nor demonstrating the values and mission they portray.

      This comes at the expense of your third gem. Leading would mean actually standing up to the bully and forcing them to give fairly back to the community they so willfully take from.

  32. In a former life, I worked with a few entertainment venue clients only to learn first-hand how difficult the concert business can be. A host of questions should be asked of NU by city government to determine whether NU’s revenue model is realistic: –Is NU expecting to fill the venue for each concert? How and at what cost?
    -What other costs are involved in setting up the infrastructure needed for concerts that have not been included in the cost to construct the stadium? ie. the sound system, staging, maintenance, etc. -NU has said Evanston will benefit from the tax on ticket sales however ticket sales typically contribute little to profit in this business. When entertainment venues make a profit, most of it comes from concession and alcohol sales where margins are high. What is NU’s revenue model?
    -How will NU cover costs to build the stadium beyond Ryan’s donation i.e the cost of interest, talent, security, licensing, labor, food, beverage, and city services? -NU has said they can’t pay for the stadium unless concerts are allowed. What’s the fall-back plan if the concert business is unsuccessful?

  33. If NU is going to have a new mega event center that hosts concerts and events then it is definitely time they start paying their share of taxes.

  34. Northwestern should cede the Ryan Arena property to the city of Evanston and put it on the tax rolls. Residential and small commercial delopmwntcwould be in keeping with the neighborhood, all eve problems with traffic, and balance tax losses from residential properties that have been donated to the university over numerous decades.
    Siting an athletic arena should not take priority over community concerns. Nor should it drive the university’s mission.

  35. The current plans do not address in any way the traffic generated and demand for parking in what has historically been a RESIDENTIAL community. This promise of local employment (as promoted in mailings to local residents boasting (illusory) “benefits” to the community is nothing but hype intended to distract from the core issues. The plan benefits the university and the egos of its leadership, but the community will see few if any benefits.

  36. NU needs to be more of a contributor to our tax base, particularly if they want to add events that will use more of the infrastructure that the rest of the communities pays for in their property taxes

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