With the demolition of Northwestern University’s Ryan Field set to begin next week, Wilmette officials are continuing to mull their options regarding a potential objection to the Evanston university’s large-scale redevelopment plans for the venue.
Wilmette Village Manager Mike Braiman told The Record via email that the village does not yet have an update to provide the community regarding the status of the town’s strategy to further combat Northwestern’s vision to reimagine Ryan Field.
Braiman did, however, note that officials will have “an update to share prior to or at the February 13 Village Board meeting.”
Northwestern announced its intentions to build a new “world-class” venue that would host a limited number of concerts in the 35,000-person stadium in the fall of 2022.
The $800-million plan cuts stadium capacity by approximately 12,000 (from 47,000 to 35,000) but creates what the school describes as “more communal areas” and enables multiple revenue-generating concerts each year.
Since the inception of the school’s plans, Wilmette residents and elected officials have intensely fought the project, mainly Northwestern’s rezoning request to allow concerts at the new stadium that is just two blocks to the south of Wilmette’s border.
Opposition toward Northwestern’s plans was last publicly discussed during the Village Board’s Dec. 12 meeting. Nearly two dozen Wilmette residents addressed trustees during that session, continuing arguments that the Ryan Field redevelopment will have wide-ranging adverse effects on the entire town.
Following the more than hour-long public testimony that opened the Dec. 12 session, Wilmette Village President Senta Plunkett said that trustees would adjourn to executive session following the conclusion of the meeting to “consider all of our options and the timelines associated with those options.”
“The Village shares your concerns related to the impacts of concerts of Ryan Field on your neighborhoods and we agree that Northwestern has not satisfactorily addressed many of the concerns that you have raised this evening,” Plunkett said on Dec. 12.
“I hope you can appreciate that it would be imprudent for the Village to discuss litigation strategy in a public meeting,” she added, noting that trustees would not return from the session to “discuss this publicly tonight” but that officials will “share more information with (residents) when it is appropriate to do so.”
No public update from Wilmette officials on Ryan Field has been made available since but Braiman did tell The Record that “the Village Board continues to actively review this matter.”
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Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.