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BREAKING: Northwestern releases design plans for new Ryan Field

The stadium will feature a reduced capacity of 35,000 and an “innovative” student section.

Rendering from Northwestern Now.

In just over a year, the beige fixture marking the oldest and most storied building in Northwestern’s Central Street athletics complex will likely be no more.

On Wednesday, Northwestern announced initial design standards for its new stadium, set to open at the beginning of the 2026 football season. The privately-funded $800 million project still needs approval from City of Evanston officials before it moves forward, but on the current timeline, the ‘Cats will vacate Ryan Field as it has been for 97 years following the 2023 season for construction to begin.

The planned capacity of the multipurpose facility is set at 35,000, which marks a 12,000-person decrease from the current design. With a noise-refracting canopy roof, renovated plazas and a more technology-centered fan experience, the new stadium would immediately become one of college football’s most modern venues.

University officials are also aiming to turn the stadium campus into a community hub and a space for other largely-attended events such as concerts. Inside, Northwestern hopes to feature food stands from local restaurants as well as a new, “innovated student section modeled on other sports.” According to the news release, the stadium will also “set a new standard for accessibility and inclusivity.”

A $480 million gift in Sept. 2021 from the Ryan Family — the largest in school history — set plans to replace Northwestern’s 97-year home in motion, with part of the gift also having been allocated to academic and research endeavors.

Northwestern has yet to finalize where the ‘Cats will play their home games during the multi-year construction of the new stadium.

The school states it has been in contact with community members for feedback about the design, and over the next month, Northwestern will hold “listening and learning” sessions before moving forward with the City of Evanston.

With only three home games left in the 2022 season, the ‘Cats — as of now — only have eight total contests remaining in their tenure at the original Ryan Field. In four years, the old building on Central Street will transform into a modern stadium, bringing a new look and new energy with it to Evanston.