Design & Development

Northwestern unveils plans for revamped Ryan Field

Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois has released renderings of a design for a new stadium that will replace Ryan Field.

The new stadium campus will be privately funded and will seek to create a “world-class” home for Northwestern University Athletics.

The current Ryan Field is 97 years old and has a capacity of 47,000. The new stadium has been designed to have a maximum capacity of 35,000, which Northwestern hopes will create a more intimate setting.

The new stadium will include a state-of-the-art canopy to focus noise and light on the pitch, with the wider campus to feature plazas, a community park and other publicly accessible greenspaces for residents.

Northwestern said the stadium will “set a new standard” for accessibility and inclusivity, with plans for Ryan Field to be one of the most accessible stadiums in the US. The project has been designed to achieve Gold LEED certification.

The stadium will also feature enhanced sight lines, chair backs for every fan, and a student section modelled on other sports. Other features will include cutting-edge technology and scoreboards, as well as upgraded concessions featuring local food.

Northwestern first revealed plans to revamp Ryan Field last September. The project will be funded by a $480m (£440m/€495m) donation from the family of Patrick and Shirley Ryan – the largest single gift in the university’s history.

The funds will also be assigned for biomedical, economics and business research but will chiefly go towards the revamp of the stadium, which was named in honour of Pat Ryan in 1997. Ryan is a 1959 Northwestern graduate, who founded and served for 41 years as chief executive of Aon Corporation.

Speaking yesterday (Wednesday) following the release of the new renderings, Ryan said: “Our family’s commitment to athletics is much deeper than football. It’s about developing the body, mind and soul, which we experienced as undergraduates at Northwestern and have carried with us throughout our lives.

“The new Ryan Field will be more than just an amazing home for Wildcat football. Our hope is that through this new stadium campus, Ryan Field is reimagined as an architecturally significant year-round gathering place for the Northwestern and Evanston communities that is accessible to all.”

Northwestern president Michael Schill added: “I am excited about this project, which will create a world-class new stadium that is befitting our world-class institution, our amazing student-athletes, our fans, our alumni and the Evanston community.

“I appreciate all the work my predecessor and the leadership team at the University have done to actively listen and solicit input from the community. I am looking forward to continuing that engagement and look forward to seeing this project come to fruition.”

To ensure the financial viability of the new stadium, Northwestern is also considering hosting a limited number of concerts each year. The university will work closely with the City of Evanston, residents and community partners to determine the optimal number of concerts per year.

The project is set to generate more than $10m in direct fees and more than $600m in indirect economic development for the City of Evanston. More than 2,900 jobs will also be created during the rebuild.

Last month, Northwestern agreed a multi-year partnership with Legends, through which the premium experiences company will assist in the Ryan Field project.

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.