Wilmette, News

Northwestern’s changes to Ryan Field requests do not change Wilmette’s opposition

Northwestern University announced Aug. 17 that it will lower the amount of concerts it is requesting in its zoning filing for Ryan Field.

But any number more than zero is too many for the Village of Wilmette.

Wilmette Village Manager Mike Braiman confirmed that the Village Board’s Aug. 8 decision to oppose concerts at a rebuilt Ryan Field is not attached to a number. It objects to the allowance of any concerts at the NU stadium.

Village President Senta Plunkett has sent the board’s objection to City of Evanston officials, and she plans to present it in person during the city’s Land Use Commission meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 6, when the Ryan Field project will be a topic of discussion.

The original plan for Ryan Field was to build a new “world-class” venue that would host a limited number of concerts in the 35,000-person stadium. NU later announced that number was 10, and in its zoning application to the City of Evanston, it hoped to remove any restriction on the quantity of large-scale events it could hold.

Amid backlash from Wilmette as well as plenty of Evanston residents and groups, a letter from NU President Michael Schill published on Aug. 17 says the school is amending its zoning application to request six concerts per year. Schill wrote that the university is also no longer asking for text to allow for unlimited 10,000-person events.

Other changes include: the reduction of “community-based” events to 60 per year; and an increase in contributions to the Evanston community, such as a $2 million revenue guarantee to the City and a ticket surcharge that would benefit Evanston Public Schools.

“It has always been our intention to provide a project that can be enjoyed by all of us well into the future,” Schill wrote. “We look forward to working with you to see Evanston take advantage of this opportunity today and for generations to come.”

The Ryan Field project has also been impacted by the ongoing athletics scandal at NU.

As the school responds to allegations of hazing, abuse and assault within various athletics programs, most notably Wildcats football, faculty members and community organizations have called for Northwestern to pause its attempts to rebuild the stadium.

Schill responded to the criticism in his letter, saying that the Ryan Field project is a positive step for the athletics program.

“I recognize that we are facing significant challenges that go beyond the new stadium,” he wrote. “Those challenges require extraordinary care, time and healing. I firmly believe this rebuild will help us create an opportunity to build toward a positive and exciting future where we do what we do best at Northwestern — bring people together and positively impact communities.”

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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