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Evanston City Council Greenlights New Stadium For Northwestern University

Chicago Economy

The Evanston City Council approved Northwestern University’s plan to construct a new football stadium in a tight vote after heated public controversy over the proposal.  

The city council unanimously approved the project but was split 4-4 on a rezoning application to allow six concerts a year at the stadium in addition to other events, a major point of contention for many residents and some aldermen. Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss broke the tie.

Ryan Field

The stadium will be the only new one built in a Power Five conference without public money this century, a university information page claims. The estimated cost of the stadium is $800M, funded in part by at least a $480M donation from the Ryan family, a sum that “significantly increased” recently, although Northwestern declined to specify the size of the increase, The Daily Northwestern reported

As a part of the deal, Northwestern will contribute over $150M to various city programs over the next 15 years, according to university documents. This includes $2M annually in financial aid to Evanston high school students and $1M per year to local nonprofit organizations, community groups, faith-based institutions and schools. 

“The community benefits package agreed to is historic. It's a historic transformation with the relationship we have with this institution,” Biss said on ABC7. “That doesn't mean it's enough for everybody.”

The new stadium will seat 35,000 people, down 12,000 from the current capacity at the 97-year-old Ryan Field, according to ESPN

Northwestern played its final football game at the old Ryan Field on Saturday. The school hasn’t announced where the team will play while the stadium is built. 

The university will announce a timeline for stadium construction at a later date. 

“This project has been, and always will be, about more than just a stadium,” Dave Davis, Northwestern’s senior executive director of neighborhood and community relations, said in a press release. “It’s about enriching our community and creating a legacy of unity and progress.”