Northwestern gets initial application OK’d by Evanston for temporary football field, with conditions

Evanston approved an initial application by Northwestern University to use Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium, its lakefront soccer field, for home football games with a few conditions while Ryan Field is demolished and rebuilt.

The stadium, which hosts the university’s competitive men’s and women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse teams, would be used while the university executes its $800 million rebuild of the 98-year-old Ryan Field. Construction on the stadium is expected to be completed in 2026.

A second step toward approval from the city is expected to take place in a few weeks one the university submits a building permit application..

The rebuilding project has caused division in the city, resulting in an ongoing lawsuit filed by the Most Livable City Association and a campaign to unseat Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss, with some nearby residents opposed to the city allowing six maximum-capacity concerts at the rebuilt stadium. The stadium sits in the center of a residential neighborhood on the border between Evanston and Wilmette, leading to concerns about parking, noise and traffic.

Others who approve of the project argue the benefits of Northwestern’s community benefits package outweigh the costs and that increased foot traffic will bolster the city’s downtown, which has continued to struggle to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city did not approve of a video board as part of the application and told the university that all press boxes must be attached to the spectator seating. An event operations plan is required to be submitted to the city for review before football games are operated at the site, and all improvements, regardless of whether they are permanent or temporary, must comply with zoning and building code requirements, according to Evanston’s Communications and Engagement Manager Cynthia Vargas.

Northwestern’s Vice President for Global Marketing and Communications Jon Yates stated he had no further information on the project to share at this time.

It is unknown whether all six scheduled 2024-25 season home games will be played at the lakefront stadium. The Wildcats first home game is set for Aug. 31 against Miami of Ohio. There have also been reports the university has considered hosting games in Chicago at Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field and Soldier Field.