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Design & Development

Northwestern to construct temporary stadium during Ryan Field rebuild

Featured image credit: Lectrician2/CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED/Edited for size

Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois has detailed plans to build a temporary venue for its American football, soccer and lacrosse teams while Ryan Field undergoes redevelopment.

Its American football team, the Wildcats, will play the majority of its games this season at the Lanny and Sharon Martin athletics facility near Lake Michigan. The move will keep the team close to home as it looks to build on its bowl-winning 2023 season.

The temporary structure at the Martin athletics facility will offer views of Lake Michigan, Northwestern’s North Campus and downtown Chicago. Northwestern said the temporary facility will “bridge the gap” between the old Ryan Field and the new state-of-the-art stadium scheduled to open in 2026.

The university received the green light for the Ryan Field project in November last year, as Evanston City Council voted in favour of the proposal. Northwestern first revealed plans to revamp Ryan Field in September 2021 and the project will largely be funded by a $480m (£383m/€448m) donation from the family of Patrick and Shirley Ryan – the largest single gift in the university’s history.

The current Ryan Field is 97 years old and has a capacity of 47,000, and the new stadium will have a maximum capacity of 35,000. Renderings of the new stadium were released in September 2022.

During the 2024 season, most of the Wildcats’ games will be played at the temporary Martin athletics facility, and the university is also continuing discussions with other Chicago-area venues that could host some games.

Northwestern’s lacrosse team, as well as its men’s and women’s soccer teams, will also play at the Martin athletics facility, while the field hockey team will continue to play at nearby Lakeside Field.

The construction of a temporary facility was viewed as the best option for Northwestern, which looked at several options for its teams over the next two seasons. The exact configuration of the stadium is still being designed, but it will be a temporary enhancement to the existing Lanny and Sharon Martin athletics facility and part of Chap and Ethel Hutcheson Field.

Capacity for the temporary facility will be considerably less than either the old Ryan Field or the new Ryan Field that is under construction. Northwestern has partnered with InProduction, the company behind the structures used for the NASCAR viewing area in downtown Chicago, to make the enhancements.

Construction is expected to begin early this summer, and the facility will remain operational until the end of the 2025 season.

Northwestern president Michael Schill said: “I am thrilled that we could make this happen. It’s truly a win for our community. In addition to creating a wonderful fan experience in the lead-up to the opening of Ryan Field, hosting games on campus will reduce the travel burdens for our student-athletes and fans and will make games much more accessible. We also are pleased to keep the economic benefits of football game days in Evanston.”