Evanston City Council holds hearing on plan to renovate Northwestern University’s Ryan Field

By Chicago 4 Min Read

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) — A plan to renovate Northwestern University’s Ryan Field went before the Evanston City Council on Monday night.

It’s been more than a year since Northwestern released renderings of what the university called a “transformative stadium,” along with the plans to rebuild and host public concerts at the nearly century-old stadium.

There were about 3.5 hours of public comment on Monday. Later, the city will conduct its regular business, including getting a 10-minute presentation from the Northwestern and the opposition regarding the proposal.

Following the presentations, the council will have the opportunity to ask questions. As of 9 p.m., the council was just getting to the other orders of business, and then, the presentation on Ryan Field.

“This is a vote for Evanston,” one speaker said. “The benefits vastly outweigh the harm.”

To give an idea of many people attended Monday night’s meeting, there were multiple overflow rooms to accommodate the crowd.

Council chambers were packed with people on both sides trying to voice their opinion ahead of the city council vote.

The fate of a privately-funding proposal to revamp Northwestern’s Ryan Field stadium is now in the hands of the Evanston City Council.

At the special meeting, there were more than 140 people signed up for public comment.

SEE ALSO | Evanston neighbors, activists protest nearly $1B Ryan Field renovation plan

Some shared their excitement over the redevelopment as other shared their concerns over the university’s plan to rezone the area to allow for concerts and other community events at Ryan Field.

“Concert-related traffic and parking issues will extend well beyond the 7th Ward,” one speaker said. “We don’t need the revenue, the concert revenue. We need an enforceable CBA.”

Leonard Lamkin hopes that the council follows the direction of the Evanston Land Use Commission

The commission voted earlier this month unanimously for development, but against the zoning amendment to allow for concerts and similar events at the stadium.

“There’s a hospital there. There’s neighbors on every side. This is not like the average Big Ten university, where the football stadium is in the middle of campus. This is in the middle of our community,” Lamkin said.

Raju Ghate lives 500 feet away from Ryan Field, and says the university’s proposal will breathe new life to his neighborhood.

“I’ve lived there for 19 years. I mean, game days are amazing. It brings our neighborhood to life. If you go to the bakeries or bars or restaurants around the corner, they’re full of people. I don’t see the downside to this,” Ghate said.

On Monday, Northwestern University announced a $100 million community benefits agreement proposal for the city.

“One-hundred million dollar commitment from the university to the city and its people to our residents and our children is amazing,” Ghate said.

Lamkin sees it differently.

“They should sit down and negotiate with us, because it’s about equity. I saw equity and affordable housing, but what about money for our public schools?” Lamkin said.

No vote will be happening on Monday night. The city council is expected to issue its final decision on Nov. 13.

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