While no one can predict the future and many forecasts related to the Ryan Field rebuild and proposal for live performances are merely best guesses, there are indeed facts to know about Northwestern University, local ordinance, and the stadium proposal. We will continue to update this page with new information.
ECONOMIC IMPACT Myth: Northwestern University fails to pay what it owes to the City of Evanston. Fact: In FY2022, Northwestern University paid the City of Evanston $7,059,469.80 in city fees and contributed nearly $500K to ETHS, D65, and Roycemore. NU has also announced additional financial benefits related to the new proposal, including a $10 million workforce technology upskilling program; a minimum of $2 million in annual tax and fee revenue; a ticket surcharge that will generate an additional $500,000 in revenue annually to support Evanston schools; and $250,000 annually to support an Evanston/Northwestern signature event.
Myth: Northwestern University doesn’t support local businesses. Fact: In FY2022, Northwestern spent over $80 million with over 180 businesses in Evanston. As part of their Ryan Field proposal, they have also committed to a target of 35% of subcontracted spending -- more than $208 million -- for local, minority- and women-owned businesses.
Myth: Northwestern University doesn’t give to nonprofit organizations. Fact: In FY2022, Northwestern University contributed over $1.5M to over 40 nonprofits in Evanston.
Myth: Northwestern University is withholding its endowment from the Evanston community, when it can use those funds to pay Evanston. Fact: The University’s endowment is allocated to its academic and research missionand much of it is restricted, that is, it can only be used for specific purposes. The endowment is meant to support a portion of the University’s annual operating budget and fund things such as faculty commitments and student financial aid.
Myth: Northwestern University continues to purchase property in Evanston and remove property from the property tax rolls. Fact: Since its founding, Northwestern University has reduced the amount of property it owns by half. Originally, Northwestern owned 600 acres and has been a net seller of land over the past 50 years. Currently, the University owns approximately 240 acres - including 84 acres built on the lakefill - roughly 4.9% of all land in Evanston. Most recently, the University sold 1840 Oak Street in 2022 and returned it to the property tax rolls.
Myth: The Ryan Field proposal will surely hurt retailers and other service providers in the Central Street business district. Fact: Two recent reports, Evanston Thrives and the City of Evanston's economic impact report, both establish that the Ryan Field rebuild and the addition of live concerts will have a positive economic impact on Evanston. The impact of evening activities at the stadium on the Central Street business district is different than the impact of daytime football games, and that impact does and will depend upon the nature of individual businesses and their hours of operation.
IDLING TRUCKS Myth: Idling concert equipment trucks will pollute the neighborhood. Fact: According to Evanston’s city code, no standing or parked motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of eight thousand (8,000) pounds or greater shall be allowed to idle on any public street, public place, or private property for more than a total of five minutes within a sixty-minute period except under specific circumstances. The new Ryan Field will include an underground loading dock for equipment trucks.
COMMUNITY INPUT Myth: Northwestern University has not welcomed community feedback in its proposal for the stadium rebuild or concert events. Fact: Since September 2022, the University has convened or participated in over 140 public meetings to share information about the stadium proposal and to solicit feedback. The university's current proposal for six concerts, a priority commitment to local employment, and an investment in workforce training with local partners, reflect that community input.
FOOTBALL FAN BEHAVIOR Myth: There is rampant illegal behavior and drunkenness at Northwestern University football games. Fact: The City’s response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on April 20, 2023, shows all 911 non-emergency calls on the 2021 and 2022 Northwestern University home football game days from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. City of Evanston boundaries and Canal Shores were included. This 29-page FOIA response indicates that most of the reported complaints in the stadium neighborhood on game days were parking and traffic related. Stadium neighbors are encouraged to report illegal behavior that they witness to the Evanston Police Department.
TAXES Myth: The Evanston City Council can require Northwestern University to make payments to the city in lieu of property taxes. Fact: The University’s land is exempt from property taxation under the terms of a charter granted by the State of Illinois in 1851 and amended in 1855. The University’s property tax exemption has been upheld by the United States Supreme Court (University v. People, 99 U.S. 309 (1878)) and the Illinois Supreme Court (PEOPLE EX REL. CTY. COL. v. Northwestern University, 51 Ill. 2d 131 (1972)).
PARKING Myth: There is insufficient parking at Ryan Field for at-capacity events. Fact: Yes, there is insufficient parking currently for at-capacity events at Ryan Field, including football games. The proposed concert capacity of 28,500 is a 40% reduction from the current 47,000 capacity of Ryan Field. It has been proposed to limit on-street parking to only residents and to ban visitors from parking in the neighborhood for concert events, which will impact transportation planning for concert events. The University has released a proposed plan for handling transportation and parking, including the 1400 on-site parking spaces; offsite parking and shuttles; and resident-only parking restrictions.
Myth: The city will need to build new parking in the Ryan Field neighborhood. Fact: There has been no discussion about or requests to create new neighborhood parking lots.
ZONING AMENDMENT Myth: Once the city approves the zoning text amendment request for six concert events at Ryan Field and Welsh-Ryan Arena, Northwestern University is still not limited in the number of events it can host. Fact: The University must comply with any zoning changes that limit the number of concert events as approved by the Evanston City Council. That is the law.
LIVE PERFORMANCES Myth: The six live performances proposed by Northwestern University will take place at Ryan Field for six weekends in a row during the summer. Fact: Because of the cost and time to set up for live performance events, it would be more efficient to schedule live performances over fewer weekends. In addition, the proposed six live performances could be scheduled indoors at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Myth: Proposed live performances will be mega concerts. Fact: The proposed live performance capacity in a new Ryan Field is 28,500 attendees, which is 20% less than the proposed stadium seating capacity for football games and a 40% reduction from the current 47,000 capacity of Ryan Field. Welsh-Ryan Arena has capacity of less than 10,000 attendees.
Myth: The new Ryan Field will become Wrigley Field. Fact: The new Ryan Field is not the new Wrigley. Wrigley hosts 100 events a year. The new Ryan Field will be significantly smaller, and is focused on family-centered entertainment and opportunities for the community to connect.
Myth: Northwestern University will make millions of dollars from hosting six live performances. Fact: Each live performance may generate perhaps $200,000-300,000 for the University as the concert venue, totaling possibly $1.2-$1.8 million/year, which the University plans to use for maintenance of the new stadium and other athletic facilities.
Myth: Live performances will run all night long. Fact: According to NU’s proposed text amendment, “Concert music may be amplified during the hours of 10:00 a.m. through 10:00 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays (subject to the following), and during the hours of 10:00 a.m. through 10:15 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and days preceding national holidays and legal school holidays enumerated in 105 ILCS 5/24-2, as permitted for special events pursuant to Section 9-5-20 and any associated required permits shall be issued.”
Myth: Northwestern University and the City of Evanston do not know how to manage big events on Central Street. Fact: Ryan Field has hosted at-capacity events of more than 47,000 people (larger than the capacity of the proposed stadium), events that are planned and managed collaboratively by the University and the City of Evanston. Other entities involved in management of home football games include Northwestern and Evanston police departments, the Illinois State Police, Wilmette Police Department, and LUNA security firm (minority-owned). Event management includes traffic and parking management, security, emergency and weather contingency planning, and post-event clean-up.
Myth: Northwestern University has a profit-oriented mission. Fact: Northwestern University’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." The Internal Revenue Code has provisions for unrelated business income tax that contemplate that nonprofit organizations may perform activities that are ancillary to, but in support of, their core mission.
Myth: NU doesn't/won't have a safety or evacuation plan in place to deal with incidents during live performances. Fact: The university has a complete venue emergency plan for Ryan Field. It includes scenarios ranging from a temporary delay, to an internal shelter, to a full evacuation. They test that plan via a drill every year before football season begins. According to the University, the plan will be updated for the new stadium, and in many ways, will be better – lower capacity, more internal shelter opportunities, better points of egress and flow, etc.
SUPPORTERS Myth: Anyone who supports the Ryan Field rebuild or the proposal for six live performances at Ryan Field and Welsh-Ryan Area is naïve, in denial, stupid ... Fact: Supporters of the new Ryan Field are Evanston residents, business owners, community activists, restaurant patrons, shoppers, taxpayers, coaches, pastors, volunteers, teachers, sports fans, parents, congregation members, students, voters, dog walkers, professors, commuters, engineers, supporters of community philanthropy, and Evanston neighbors.
Myth: The Field of Opportunities group is “allegedly grass roots.” Fact: Field of Opportunities is indeed a grass roots community group, and all are welcome to join as supporters.
Myth: The Field of Opportunities group isn’t interested in working with Northwestern University on community benefits, in addition to a rebuilt Ryan Field. Fact: The Field of Opportunities group joins other community organizations in seeking to maximize the benefits to the Evanston community from the Ryan Field construction project and operations – including live performances – at the athletics campus.
CONSTRUCTION Myth: The new Ryan Field fails to support the community’s commitment to sustainability and environmental protection. Fact: The new Ryan Field is targeting LEED Gold certification, which would include the following sustainability elements:
Construction and demolition waste recycling and management.
Access to public transit, bike parking.
Energy conservation and efficiency.
Open landscaping and green space.
Light pollution reduction.
Water conservation and efficiency.
Myth: The fact that Northwestern University already has a contractor for the stadium construction means the University is withholding information from the community. Fact: For an $800 million construction project, the University needs to secure a construction contractor (and subcontractors) with capacity to take on this project well in advance of anticipated construction, as well as to develop the roster of local contractors as subcontractors. Construction of the stadium is still contingent upon zoning approvals.