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Northwestern University unveils what temporary lakefront football stadium will look like

Northwestern University has released a new concept plan of its temporary lakeside football complex along with seating and sideline details as it works to rebuild Ryan Field for the 2026 football season.

Seating will be along all four sides of the field with a majority placed beyond the end zones on the north and south ends.

The south side structure will include semi-private suites and club seating, which will feature all-inclusive food and beverage options, along with field lodge seating with tables and swivel chairs for up to four people. Typical stadium seating will also be available on the south structure.

The north side is the largest bleacher seat section and will house the student section. The east side along the lakefront will feature bleacher seating.

Existing west side seating will be utilized for the football seasons.

Up to 15,000 attendees are expected to be able to fit in the temporary stadium. The former Ryan Field had a capacity of 47,130. The rebuilt stadium will have seating for 35,000. Those looking for ticket details and other information can join an online alert list.

The temporary field is being erected at the Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium, which typically houses the university’s lacrosse and soccer teams, while the $800 million rebuild of Ryan Field continues.

Northwestern’s women’s lacrosse team placed second in the NCAA Tournament on Memorial Day weekend with a 14-13 loss to Boston College. The team won the NCAA championship in 2023, beating Boston College 18-6 and securing its eighth title after an 11-year dry spell.

The football team is expected to play a majority of its home games at the temporary field except for the Nov. 16 game against Ohio State and the Nov. 30 game against Illinois. Those games will be played at Wrigley Field.

Residents in Wilmette and Evanston have been fighting the use of the rebuilt Ryan Field for commercial ventures, including six full-capacity concerts permitted by the city per year. Opponents have cited concerns over noise, traffic and parking in the largely residential area near the stadium. Proponents argue the city’s nearby downtown could use the foot traffic and dollars brought by concert goers. An ongoing lawsuit filed by the Most Livable City Association is scheduled for an update in court on June 26.

The Evanston City Council narrowly voted to approve the use of the field for concerts with Mayor Daniel Biss casting the tiebreaking vote on Nov. 20. Less controversy surrounded the actual demolition and rebuilding of the 98-year-old stadium with residents, city officials and university officials acknowledging the stadium was long past its useful life.

The first game of the season is set to take place in less than 100 days at the lakeside field on Aug. 31 against Miami (Ohio).

The university is also the subject of multiple lawsuits filed by former football players accusing the school of ignoring allegations of hazing. Former coach Pat Fitzgerald has filed a countersuit arguing that his termination after the hazing controversy came to light violated his contract with the university.

In April it was announced all the cases will be consolidated in response to accusations Northwestern was using information from the hazing cases to bolster its case against Fitzgerald.