Northwestern University to begin Ryan Field demolition by month’s end to make way for new stadium

Northwestern University is set to begin the demolition of nearly 100-year-old Ryan Field after months of contention in Evanston regarding plans to build a new stadium.

Demolition may begin as early as the week of Jan. 29 and is expected to take approximately four months, according to a news release from the university.

Along with football, the $800 million stadium will host six full-capacity concerts and a variety of other activities each year, the result of a narrow vote by Evanston City Council.

The 5-4 vote on Nov. 20 allowing the concerts came alongside a 6-2 vote allowing the stadium be demolished and rebuilt. Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss cast the tiebreaking vote on the zoning changes to allow concerts

Nearby residents, including those in Wilmette, pushed back against the plans for months arguing increased noise pollution, traffic and parking needs would negatively impact property values and way of life.

Supporters of the commercialization of Ryan Field argued the city’s downtown has struggled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased foot traffic from concerts and other events could help boost the local economy.

A pending lawsuit filed by the Most Livable City Association and about a dozen area residents argues the zoning vote violated the due process rights of residents.

Northwestern spokesman Jon Yates said the university has not announced where the Wildcats football team will play during construction. University officials have estimated construction will be completed by the 2026 football season.

The Wildcats have previously played games at Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, and at Soldier Field which is leased by the Bears from the Chicago Park District.

A representative from the Cubs said the organization is not aware of plans for the Wildcats to play at Wrigley Field in the interim. A spokesperson for the Chicago Park District could not provide an immediate response about the team playing at Soldier Field.

The Illinois State Facilities Authority which manages off season use of the White Sox’ Guaranteed Rate Field, did not respond to requests for comment.