Northwestern seeks Evanston’s OK to use existing lakeside field on campus for 2024 football season

Northwestern University is “evaluating” using an existing campus field for football games while the reconstruction of Ryan Field is taking place.

An application made to the Evanston Community Development Department on Tuesday, requests a zoning analysis to determine if Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium could host football games, according to city spokesperson Cynthia Vargas.

The school is seeking to construct temporary seating for up to 15,000 spectators and other game-day necessities at the field.

The field, located lakeside at 2235 Campus Drive, is used for competition by Northwestern’s men’s and women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse teams, according to the university website.

A new location is needed while the university works on the $83 million demolition and reconstruction of the 98-year-old Ryan Field.

It is unknown if Northwestern would play all of its home games at the temporary site. The Wildcats have six home games on their schedule, starting Aug. 31 against Miami (Ohio). The school has reportedly been considering other sports stadiums in the Chicago, including Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field and Soldier Field.

The Ryan Field project has caused heated debate. The stadium sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Nearby residents from Evanston and Wilmette are concerned about the potential impact of traffic, parking and noise levels from up to six concerts each year at the stadium.

The Wilmette Village Board reached an agreement with Evanston to minimize negative impacts on its residents. Wilmette considered litigation against the zoning changes Evanston City Council narrowly approved that would allow the concerts. A lawsuit has been filed against the stadium by the Most Livable City Association and a campaign to unseat Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss was sparked by his tie-breaking votes on the issue.

To be approved, the temporary site would have to align with parking, height and setback zoning requirements.

The review should be finalized by next week, the city said in a Thursday email, and will likely result in the site being in compliance. Once approved, the university will have to apply for building permits for the construction of the temporary improvements.

“As this process continues to evolve, the city will ensure robust communication and coordination with the City Council and the community,” Vargas said.

Construction on the stadium is expected to be completed in 2026.

Northwestern responded to requests for comment early Thursday by saying the university is still exploring options for where the team will play and will share information as soon as possible. Follow-up requests for comment from the school after the city confirmed the proposal were not immediately answered.