Northwestern University released renderings Wednesday of the proposed design for a new football stadium, a replacement for the 97-year-old Ryan Field.
A $6.1 billion fundraising campaign completed last year ensures that development of the 35,000-seat stadium will not require taxpayer funding, hurt the university’s research efforts, or come at the expense of students, faculty and staff, according to school officials.
“I have no doubt that the privately funded stadium will be a game changer for our football program, athletic department and community, and will be in line with our other excellent facilities, such as Welsh-Ryan Arena and Ryan Fieldhouse,” said Dr. Derrick Gragg. , vice president of athletics and recreation.
The design for a new Ryan Field was formed from feedback received over the past year from Evanston community members during meetings hosted by Ward 7 Councilwoman Eleanor Revelle. Many residents wanted to see less traffic and noise on game days, while others suggested using the new facility year-round for concerts and other community events.
University officials said that’s one reason they unveiled a 35,000-seat proposal, 12,000 fewer than the current Ryan Field, which would be demolished after the 2023 football season. They also plan to include a canopy over the new stadium to reduce noise and light pollution in the surrounding neighborhood during games.
Additionally, if approved, the new Ryan Field would include fan plazas, a community park and public green spaces modeled after Chicago’s Maggie Daley Park. The facility would also replace existing stadium benches with comfortable seating and include high-tech scoreboards and concession stands provided by local restaurants.
According to a statement from the university, because a new stadium would not be financially viable if it hosted only seven football games each season, the school will also consider allowing some concerts, but has not decided how many.
Northwestern “is exploring all options,” the statement said, for a temporary home for the Wildcats during construction, which is expected to be completed before the 2026 season.
The massive project still needs a green light from Evanston, but before the rights-granting process begins, Northwestern will spend several months gathering more feedback from the community and city officials on the proposal, according to Northwestern President Michael Schill.
The school’s lucrative fundraising campaign surpassed its goal thanks to a donation of $480 million, the largest in its history, from the Patrick and Shirley Ryan family. The donation will also support biomedical and economic research.
“The new Ryan Field will be more than just an amazing home for Wildcat football,” said Patrick Ryan, Northwestern graduate and retired CEO of Aon Corp. A major year-round gathering place for the Northwestern and Evanston communities that is accessible for all”.