As Northwestern University gears up to potentially build a new $800 million stadium to replace the old Ryan Field, it’s getting significant pushback from the venue’s surrounding neighborhood.
The university is seeking a zoning change from the city of Evanston that would allow it to host concerts and serve alcohol at the stadium — something the 47,000-seat, 96-year-old current Ryan Field cannot do.
More than a thousand Evanston residents have signed a petition asking city leaders not to approve the construction of the stadium, which is being entirely funded by private money. Dissenters worry that adding alcohol to the stadium’s concessions will lead to drunken disruptions for the neighborhood, as well as “crimes of opportunity” in the late-night hours.
The petition’s organizers have pointed to hypocrisy from Northwestern board of trustees chair Peter Barris, who asked local government officials in Martha’s Vineyard to stop construction at a hotel across the bay from his vacation home in 2021.
“The surfacing of this personal circumstance, which is distinctly dissimilar to Northwestern’s proposal, is an attempt to distract from our goals — to transform a century-old stadium into a community asset that will benefit all of Evanston and create one of the finest stadiums in the country,” Barris told the Wall Street Journal.
The new stadium is just the latest development for Northwestern, which has spent roughly $1 billion over the last 10 years building up its athletic facilities on its private stretch of Lake Michigan shore.