EVANSTON, Ill. — Evanston residents rallied against renovations planned for Northwestern University’s Ryan Field Tuesday, saying they don’t want Evanston to turn into another Wrigleyville.
“If we look at Wrigley [Field] as an example,” said Trisha Connolly, an organizer of the rally. “How many local business are still there? Large hotels, sports bars, if that’s what we want next to a neighborhood, that’s okay for the people who want that, but we like the local charm and we want to support more of that.”
The latest plan put forward by Northwestern was introduced before the Evanston Land Use Commission meeting earlier this month. The amended plan included concessions like dropping the number of proposed concerts from ten to six, and limiting community activities at the stadium to just 60 days a year.
Other financial commitments from the plan include $10 million directed toward a technology upskill program aimed at helping adults develop technological skills, along with $500,000 going to support public schools accumulated through a ticket surcharge from proposed concerts at Ryan Field.
However, locals said there are still many unknowns when it comes to the renovations, like environmental impacts, traffic and noise.
“[Local leaders] have to show effort and hear people impacted and what they think would be the best way of handling that,” Connolly said. “There’s a lot of environmental factors and not a lot of answers that we are getting anyway.”
The Evanston Chamber of Commerce released a statement Tuesday reaffirming their support of the planned renovations, citing a recent economic impact study they said shows the renovations will be a boon for the area.
“It’s critically important that Evanston seizes on this opportunity and moves this project forward to the benefit of residents and local businesses. Since this project was initially announced, the business community has supported it. It will bring new visitors, partnership opportunities, and investment to Evanston at no cost to taxpayers, and frankly is a no brainer, especially given what the City’s economic impact study found, which is not surprising. We need to think about the bigger picture, and the impact this project will have on future generations of residents and businesses. It would be foolish to let a privately funded gift like this pass us by, and Evanston Chamber encourages the City to approve this project.”Garrett Karp, Executive Director – Evanston Chamber of Commerce
The study noted Ryan Field renovations are expected to generate a five-year average of nearly $77.8 million in total spending, $27.1 million in increased earnings, and 510 jobs for Evanston per year while hosting the reduced number of concerts — six.
More info on the economic impact study can be found here.
Northwestern also released a statement Tuesday, commenting on their ongoing discussions with the City of Evanston on the planned renovations to Ryan Field.
“The University is actively in discussions with the City on a community benefits package and has been forthcoming about that process. This is in addition to the benefits already put forth by the University including a minimum of $2 million in annual tax and fee revenue to the City of Evanston tied to events at the new stadium, $12 million in taxes and fees for the construction and permitting, $500,000 in revenue annually to support Evanston Public Schools and an additional $10 million commitment from the Ryan Family that will enable the University to create an Evanston workforce technology upskilling program. The stadium rebuild will yield tremendous economic returns for all of Evanston.”
In fact, the City’s own third-party study specifically stated, ‘The costs borne by the City to have the stadium in the community are believed to pale in comparison to the benefits received.'”Jon Yates, Vice President for Global Marketing and Communications – Northwestern University
An Evanston City Council meeting was scheduled to being at 5:45 p.m., where members of the protest are expected to address the council during public comment.