EVANSTON, Ill. — Despite the fact that controversy is surrounding the stadium’s main tenant, Northwestern isn’t going to pause its plans for Ryan Field.
They will, however, make a few changes in hopes of earning more support from the Evanston community.
In a letter to the Northwestern community late Thursday night, president Michael Schill announced that the school is moving forward with its $800 million renovation of its football stadium.
While mindful of the current hazing allegations and lawsuits that surround the Wildcats’ football program, the school believes it’s best to move forward with the project with a few changes.
“The redevelopment of Ryan Field is a generational decision that is tied directly to our commitment as a founding member of the Big Ten, and our commitment to our student-athletes,” said Schill in the letter. “The rapidly decaying condition of Ryan Field will require a major investment by the University in any case. The Ryan family’s generosity enables us to leverage private philanthropy to build a world-class athletic facility for our varsity sports that will be a year-round asset to the Northwestern and Evanston communities.”
Schill also wrote a letter to the Evanston community that the school is willing to modify its zoning proposal to the city along with a few other changes to the initial plan ahead of a Land Use Commission meeting.
- Northwestern is willing to reduce the number of concerts to six per year.
- The University won’t ask for the ability to host unlimited 10,000-person university events at the stadium.
- Limit community-based activities at the stadium and plazas to 60 per year
In the letter, Schill also listed a number of community benefits the stadium proposes to provide to Evanston, including a technology upskilling program, ticket surcharges to support schools in the city, and more.
After the release of the letter and proposed changes, the Evanston Most Livable City Association, which has been critical of Northwestern’s renovation of the stadium, was skeptical about these proposed changes.
“Northwestern knows it is losing the battle of public opinion. So they sprung this updated proposal less than a week before the Land Use Commission hearing with their characteristic stealth. Still seeking a radical zoning change, and failing to address environmental, financial, and labor concerns with the stadium rebuild, this ‘offer’ is nothing but a fig leaf in NU’s quest to remake entire neighborhoods and disrupt life in Evanston and beyond.”
Members of the Northwestern faculty called for the project to be paused on July 11, the day after the firing of head coach Pat Fitzgerald after further revelations of hazing were revealed. Initially, the head coach had been suspended for two weeks in the offseason without pay after an investigation into hazing allegations made by an anonymous whistleblower.
Since then, a few lawsuits have been filed against the football program while other allegations of problematic behavior have surfaced against other Northwestern sports programs.