EVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern unveiled plans Wednesday to build a new Ryan Field and replace the current 97-year-old football stadium with a state-of-the-art facility featuring a reduced seating capacity and greater emphasis on the fan experience.
The school said the stadium would seat 35,000, down more than 12,000 from the current Ryan Field, and feature a canopy designed to keep noise and light focused on the field. It would include cutting-edge technology and scoreboards, as well as concessions with food from local restaurants.
Northwestern said the stadium would achieve Gold LEED certification, and “set a new standard” for accessibility. The plan calls for plazas outside, a community park and other green spaces that could be used year-round.
Northwestern said it is also considering hosting “a limited number” of concerts.
The project that athletic director Derrick Gragg called “transformational” was made possible a year ago by a $480 million donation from the family of Patrick and Shirley Ryan that was the largest in school history. Some of that money is also funding academic ventures. The school said the Ryans have committed to increasing the donation to ensure the funding for the stadium and plazas does not come at the cost of “research, scholarship, student aid, tuition or staff and faculty support.”
It’s not clear where the football team would play during construction, assuming the city of Evanston, Illinois, approves the project. The school said it is “exploring all options.”
The current Ryan Field opened in 1926 and expanded in 1949 and 1952. The stadium underwent an extensive renovation in 1997 supported by a gift from the Ryans.
In recent years, Northwestern has also constructed a lakefront practice facility and overhauled its basketball arena.