Evanston City Officials, Don’t Rubber-Stamp Northwestern’s Field of Schemes!

Evanston City Officials, Don’t Rubber-Stamp Northwestern’s Field of Schemes!

December 14, 2022
Petition to
Mayor Daniel Biss and 10 others
Signatures: 1,641Next Goal: 2,500
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Why this petition matters

Recent Updates:

  • Northwestern University (NU) is trying to fast-track its radical proposal for a commercial entertainment complex—the City of Evanston's Land Use Commission hearing is currently scheduled for September 6th.
  • In addition to 6 full-capacity concerts, NU wants to hold other large commercial events at its stadium, basketball arena, and anywhere on its athletic campus (as of NU's May 18th zoning amendment application).
  • The Most Livable City Association has linked arms with other community organizations to form the Northwestern Accountability Alliance to oppose the zoning changes and advocate for a community benefits agreement to address the social, environmental, and economic impacts of the new stadium development.
  • Sign our petition to add your voice to the growing number telling Evanston officials: no commercial zoning and yes to a Ryan Field CBA!


Northwestern University says its new Ryan Field will be a “more intimate setting” within a “modern stadium campus.” But what NU is really proposing is a huge for-profit event center with a smattering of collegiate football games.

Northwestern demands 6 outdoor concerts every summer with a capacity of 35,000, other large commercial events, and alcohol sales—all exempt from property taxes. Meanwhile, the rest of us face increasing property taxes, making housing less affordable.

We implore the Evanston City Council, Mayor Daniel Biss, and city zoning officials: do not move forward without securing meaningful protections for residents and businesses. We, the undersigned, can support the new stadium if and only if it upholds two core Evanston values: Equity* and Livability** (see details below).

Please sign to petition the City to:

  • Reject rezoning Ryan Field and the surrounding athletic facilities for commercial events.
  • Undertake an INDEPENDENT study of the stadium’s impacts (financial, environmental and quality-of-life) on all residents and businesses. (Do not just take the university’s word for it, nor the word of the university’s paid consultants.)
  • Adopt clear standards for all stadium and arena activities and establish an accountability board to govern them.
  • Require a NON-DISCRETIONARY, yearly financial commitment from Northwestern to the City of Evanston and local public schools comparable to commitments made by peer universities. 

Concerned community members have formed the Most Livable City Association to ensure that the new Ryan Field is not a “field of schemes” but instead a project that serves the core Evanston principles of equity and livability.

Your voice counts! Tell Evanston city officials not to rubber-stamp Northwestern’s plan.


NU is a nonprofit educational organization seeking to enter the live entertainment business. The university pays no property taxes and insists it will not make payments in lieu of taxes like many universities do.

  • Northwestern makes no financial contribution to Evanston public schools. In contrast, the University of Pennsylvania will contribute $100 million over 10 years to the Philadelphia school system.
  • In fact, Evanston residents subsidize NU’s use of city resources, including fire and emergency services. In 2019, NU used $659,000 in fire and rescue services, for which it refused to reimburse the City.
  • Northwestern needs no additional revenue to build its stadium:
    • The multi-billionaire Ryan family donated $480 million towards the project.
    • In 2021, Northwestern made a $87.8 million surplus of revenues over expenses.
    • Northwestern has an endowment fund of nearly $15 billion—making it one of the top 15 wealthiest universities in the country.
    • Northwestern’s new Big 10 media contract for football games will make the university up to $100 million a year.

As one of the richest, most selective universities in the country, and flush with cash from its new Big 10 deal, NU should make payments in lieu of taxes like its peers do—Yale recently announced it will pay $135 million over six years to its hometown.


For-profit, mega-events with alcohol will impose high costs on the surrounding neighborhoods and on the entire City of Evanston:

  • Police, fire, and emergency personnel will need to respond to increased traffic congestion, illegal parking, intoxicated drivers, nuisance behaviors, and accidents due to the masses of concertgoers.
  • Diverting critical personnel on event days and nights will mean fewer staff to patrol and respond to calls in other neighborhoods and do other important work.
  • Traffic and parking congestion will span multiple wards and prevent local patrons from visiting small businesses, such as bakeries, bookstores, hair salons, and specialty retail shops.
  • Packed stadium concerts will create significant noise and light pollution—in other communities with large outdoor music venues, people miles away can hear—and feel—the noise. Northwestern has made no public commitment to adhere to the City’s existing noise ordinance.

Northwestern can build its new college football stadium, and it can already host nonprofit community events at the stadium without changing the current zoning code. But it can’t host commercial events for its own benefit, impose the costs on the rest of us, and undermine Evanston’s vision of creating the most livable city in America.

Please sign the petition and tell Evanston city officials to stand up for our community.  For more information or to learn about other ways you can help, go to www.mostlivablecity.org.

This description has been updated to reflect NU's May 18th zoning amendment application.

Support now
Signatures: 1,641Next Goal: 2,500
Support now

Decision Makers

  • Daniel BissMayor
  • Clare Kelly1st Ward
  • Krissie Harris2nd Ward
  • Melissa Wynne3rd Ward
  • Jonathan Nieuwsma4th Ward