Northwestern brings in Legends amid planned Ryan Field redevelopment

The athletics division of Northwestern University has agreed a multi-year partnership with Legends which will see the global premium experiences company assist in the planned redevelopment of Ryan Field stadium.

Under the deal announced today (Monday), Legends will support Northwestern Athletics in its approach to optimising revenue generation and curating experiences for all fans as part of the University’s efforts to reimagine and rebuild Ryan Field, inclusive of premium product development and pricing, corporate hospitality, premium seating and ticket sales.

Northwestern Athletics initially engaged Legends last year through its research arm, CSL, to conduct a comprehensive study on improving the overall fan experience, which included a survey and series of focus groups to solicit direct feedback from ticket holders, alumni, and other fans. Additionally, Legends Project Development and CSL are supporting the ongoing, exploratory project planning for the new Ryan Field initiative.

It was announced in September that Ryan Field, the 47,000-seat home of Northwestern’s American football team, was set to undergo a major renovation, thanks in part to a $480m (£397.3m/€471.1m) donation from the family of Patrick and Shirley Ryan.

The announcement marked the largest single gift in the Evanston, Illinois-based university’s history, and although the funds will also be assigned for biomedical, economics and business research, they will chiefly go towards a revamp of the stadium which was renamed in honour of Pat Ryan in 1997.

Originally constructed in 1926 and expanded in 1949 and 1952, Ryan Field underwent an extensive renovation in 1997, supported by a leadership gift from the Ryan family. The Ryans’ latest donation will provide the lead gift for the redevelopment of Ryan Field.

The agreement with Legends will also seek to enhance the fan experience at Wildcats’ sporting events and maximise Northwestern Athletics revenue generation through a streamlined, data-driven sales approach. As part of the overarching agreement, Legends will manage premium seating, ticket sales, marketing and business intelligence for football, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, and other ticketed Northwestern varsity sports.

“Legends has proven to be an invaluable partner since our collaboration began in 2021, and we are excited to introduce the Legends Way to the Wildcats community,” said Northwestern’s deputy director of athletics, Jesse Marks.

“Their robust sales, data analytics and proven facility development expertise will greatly enhance Northwestern Athletics’ reach within the University, Evanston and greater Chicagoland communities, providing an innovative experience and a first-class level of service throughout the sales and development process.”

The latest collaboration bolsters Legends’ position in advising university athletic departments on identifying opportunities to enhance fan experiences and optimise revenue streams on new and renovated facility projects, having partnered with the likes of University of Notre Dame, University of Oklahoma, University of Southern California, Villanova University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Utah and San Diego State University.

“The college athletics landscape is rapidly evolving, and Northwestern University has fully embraced what it takes to be on the leading edge of the sports fan experience today – and into the future,” said Michael Behan, chief operating officer of collegiate partnerships at Legends.

“We are excited to partner with such a renowned university and athletics program and to leverage our expertise and development strategy to help invigorate and enhance the experience for the Wildcats’ community and supporters.”