Evanston City Council reaches decision on future of Northwestern University's Ryan Field

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After more than a year of debate, the Evanston City Council gave Northwestern University's proposal to rebuild Ryan Field a green light on Monday night.

The Evanston City Council 5-4 approved a resolution authorizing the city manager to sign a memorandum of understanding with the university. Mayor Daniel Biss broke the tie, voting in favor of the measure.

A number of residents said they were opposed to renovations and the possibility of hosting concerts at the open-air venue, due to concerns about a hike in property takes, selling off zoning rights, amusement and liquor taxes and traffic.

However, others said they are for much-needed and new business to come to Evanston.

The Most Livable City Association, which voiced opposition to the proposal, released the following statement regarding the motion's approval:

"Tonight, our city government sided with powerful insiders and the billionaire donor who controls Northwestern Athletics, against the families who live in this community," David DeCarlo, president of the association said in a news release. "It's been an eye-opening experience: We've learned that Mayor Biss is just another politician, making backroom deals to advance his career instead of representing the people who elected him."

"After carefully weighing the evidence, Evanston’s Land Use Commission overwhelmingly rejected commercial rezoning for the stadium. Mayor Biss and four councilmembers completely ignored that evidence and sold our zoning protections to Northwestern. Our fight will continue now as we seek legal recourse."

Northwestern in late October pledged $100 million in donations to the Evanston community over the next 10 years if the proposal to host concerts is approved, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

A few weeks earlier, the Evanston Land Use Commission voted 7-2 against a zoning amendment that would allow concerts and similar events at the planned stadium. Northwestern in Sept. 2022 unveiled the estimated $800 million project, which would demolish the 97-year-old bowl-style arena and replace it with a differently designed stadium.

The new venue would have around 35,000 seats, compared to the 47,000 currently at Ryan Field. Multiple residents have voiced concerns around the potential for concerts, specifically noise pollution, traffic and overcrowded street parking.

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