Controversy surrounds Northwestern University's $800M Ryan Field project

Renderings of the $800 million dollar new Ryan Field sparkle, but not everyone's thrilled about what would be the largest single project in Northwestern's history.

"We just feel that it's totally inappropriate to have private affairs here," said Ryan Field neighbor Colleen Caughlin. "To have concerts that have no place in a residential area. The noise will be incredible."

"They're talking about not a football stadium; they want to do a commercial entertainment complex," said David DeCarlo, founder of Most Livable City Association, which is fighting the rezoning required to host private events. "That is gridlock in the area and makes it difficult for ambulances."

Several neighbors whose yard signs protest the privately-funded project have recently vanished.

Northwestern University plans on hosting eight to ten concerts at the new venue per year, but said the design calls for a much lower seating capacity than the current field and a 360-degree canopy to hold in noise.


"Fewer seats in the stadium means fewer people that are coming to these large events," said Dave Davis, Northwestern's Senior Director of Neighborhood and Media Relations. "And also, lights will be built into the canopy so the lights will shine directly into the stadium and on the field, meaning less light that's leaving the stadium."

DeCarlo accuses Northwestern of not negotiating with neighbors in good faith about their concerns over the stadium's potential impact on traffic, parking, noise, and light pollution.

"We were seeing a lot of challenges trying to get the university and some of the backers of this project to listen to community concerns," he said.

"Let's face it; they get the concerts, what's next?" said neighbor Brenda Perkins.

But Northwestern says it's participated in more than 100 public meetings since 2021.

"We've been listening and we hear their concerns," said Davis. "We have a plan to address all the concerns that they've raised so far around noise, transportation and parking."

The University is going to specifically address neighbors' concerns at a public forum at the Evanston Civic Center on Tuesday, June 27th. Northwestern has already applied for this plan and for the rezoning.

The City Council is expected to vote whether to approve the project some time this fall.