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BREAKING: Evanston Land Use Commission votes to approve new Ryan Field, denies rezoning

Northwestern clears its first major hurdle in building its new stadium.

SPORTS-FBC-NORTHWESTERN-LAWSUIT-TB Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Northwestern has secured a huge initial victory in its goal of rebuilding Ryan Field — but with a major caveat.

On Wednesday night, the Evanston Land Use Commission voted 9-0 to recommend the overhaul of Ryan Field, but did not recommend NU’s request for rezoning to allow for concerts at the stadium. The Commission struck down the rezoning proposal 7-2.

“While we appreciate the commission’s support of the new stadium, we are disappointed in the commission’s non-binding recommendation of the complete project without concerts,” Hilary Hurd Anyaso, Northwestern’s Director of Media Relations, said in a statement.

“However, we remain encouraged by the support of thousands of residents who support this project, and we are hopeful the City Council will vote to approve the new stadium in its entirety. As the University conveyed to the commission, for the project to move forward, a modest number of concerts are needed. Evanston has never seen a project of this magnitude, that is generational and will have lasting positive impacts on the City’s economy and broader community. There is precedent for the City Council to approve projects after a commission has recommended against, and we are hopeful that will be the case with the stadium proposal.”

In order for Ryan Field to host concerts, the area would have to be rezoned for commercial use. The current zoning allows the stadium to only be used for academic and athletic purposes.

The votes come after a series of three commission hearings on the new Ryan Field. While the Land Use Commission makes these recommendations to the Evanston City Council, the City Council does have the final say over the project and the zoning. The City Council can adopt the Commission’s recommendations, adopt parts of the recommendations or ignore them entirely.

Northwestern intends to begin demolition on the existing Ryan Field at the end of the 2023 football season, and have its new stadium ready to go by the start of the 2026 campaign. Now, that power rests in the hands of the City Council, which will meet at a date to be determined in the near future.

Stay tuned to Inside NU for continued coverage of this situation.