This was inevitable: opposition to a new Northwestern stadium, where the school would tear down 97-year-old Ryan Field and replace it with a privately financed $800-million stadium, is emerging among local residents.
The issue is less related to football and more by the proposals to hold concerts and sell alcohol at the new Ryan Field. There are no specific plans for a number of concerts; this is more a financial concern than anything concrete as of now. Preliminary market studies indicate that the current interest in concerts in the area could generate over $35 million in new tax revenue for the City of Evanston from Northwestern over the first decade of the new Ryan Field alone.
But the thought of drunken outsiders stumbling out of the new Northwestern stadium and vomiting on neighbors’ lawns certainly has brought out the NIMBY side of locals both in Evanston and neighboring Wilmette, per various media outlets. From the North Shore:
“It’s sort of like a kick in the pants,” said [neighbor Ted] Marshall, who lives on the Wilmette side of Isabella Street. “No one who lives where we live would have ever suspected Northwestern would create a Wrigleyville-like environment. It comes as a real shock and a major disappointment.”
Marshall is one of dozens of Wilmette residents who have contacted Village officials to plead for help in contesting the Ryan Field plan, which was announced in September 2022.
According to the FAQ section of the site, Northwestern is requesting to host concerts because the new facility “cannot be financially viable on just seven football games.” The site also calls the rebuild a “once-in-a-century opportunity” that creates a “world-class” home for the university’s football team and the community.
Wilmette doesn’t really have a say in whether the Ryan Field rebuild takes place, and it’s a little unclear whether Evanston will put up a serious fight against the project. The city does has to approve concerts and booze, but there are plenty of local residents in favor of the project:
Steve Starkman and his brother Lonnie co-own Mustard’s Last Stand, a hot dog shop their father opened in 1969 in front of the stadium. Northwestern has bent over backward to appease cranky neighbors, Steve says. It lowered the volume of a wildcat growling during games after residents complained. The new stadium would have fewer seats than the current one and better security, a greener footprint and vastly improved handicap accessibility.
He has little sympathy for those fighting it. “Everybody here moved in after the stadium was already built, so I don’t really think they have a leg to stand on when they say they don’t want a stadium,” he said. “I just think people want to battle. That’s kind of the mindset here. Evanston is a battling town.”
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