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Wilmette passes resolution opposing concerts at Northwestern’s Ryan Field


The Wilmette Village Board voted unanimously to approve a resolution opposing concerts at Northwestern’s Ryan Field, which the university plans to rebuild.

The resolution was passed after residents spoke out at a Village Board meeting on Tuesday, which Village President Senta Plunkett said was the most crowded she has ever seen.

The board has collected feedback from residents — most in opposition of the proposed plan — for nine months. Plunkett called the commercialization of the athletic campus a “non-starter” in a news release sent out by the village, which estimated concerts would directly affect over 500 households in Wilmette.

“We have received more communications on this matter than any other topic in recent memory,” Plunkett said during the meeting. “Through this resolution, we are sending a clear message to Northwestern University and the Evanston City Council that commercializing an educational facility’s athletic campus in this manner in a residential neighborhood to drive profits is wholly unacceptable.”

The news release also states that noise from concerts, estimated in the environmental assessment provided by Northwestern, would exceed 70 decibels, much higher than what is allowed as part of both Wilmette’s and Evanston’s noise ordinances, with the entire process for each concert, including setup , sound check and teardown, disturbing residents for about 48 hours.

Beyond noise concerns, residents and the village have cited parking as an issue, with fewer than 1,500 on-site parking spots available for concertgoers, according to Wilmette officials. Residents have speculated the parking would overflow into residential areas.

“The Village’s opposition to the concerts is consistent with both Wilmette and Evanston’s long-standing objections to the commercialization of Northwestern’s athletic campus, which dates back to the 1970′s,” read the Wilmette news release. “The Village has twice previously joined the City of Evanston in litigation to protect athletic residents by preventing the commercialization of the campus.”

Evanston resident Evie Russell has created a website outlining the history of issues between Northwestern and the cityincluding zoning issues, dating back to the 1970s.

“Good for you, fight the fight!” Russell told the Wilmette Village Board.

Others also objected to the proposed plan. Debbie Thiersch, who lives just northwest of the field, is concerned about access to Evanston Hospital during peak traffic times that could become worse during concerts. Brett Vassallo said there have been issues in the past with EMS vehicles getting by on narrow streets during football and basketball games.

Monica Russell y Rodriguez recalled incidents of football game attendees throwing up in each yard. She pushed back against those who call these issues inconveniences, saying they are much more.

“It will change dramatically the quality of our life, particularly in that part of Wilmette,” the south Wilmette resident said.

Dave Lundy lives a bit farther away from the athletic complex but said there is no way to compromise the plan into a feasible solution.

“This is a zero-sum game,” he said. “If Evanston gives approval to commercialize Ryan Field, Wilmette loses. They win, we lose. Period.”

Not all Wilmette residents are opposed to the proposed plan. Mark Weyermuller, who lives nearly 2 miles from the stadium and owns a small business near Wrigley Field, said the village can work with Northwestern in the same manner Chicago does with concerts held at Wrigley.

“I’m not sure that Wilmette should be weighing in on this. This is Evanston,” Weyemuller said. “I understand it’s a block away on Isabella Street, but I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for your board to be working on this.”

Another resident in favor of the plan is Wilmette Chamber of Commerce President Charles Hutchinson, who said the field would be good for Wilmette businesses by bringing in new customers. He said the village has the ability to control traffic and noise.

“We think that you should use the thought process not of 1970, not of 1976, or even 1982, which was over 40 years ago, but the process that you had when you decided that we need to redo Eden’s Plaza with the world’s first- ever Wayfair,” Hutchinson said.

John Powers, who lives two blocks north of Northwestern’s athletic campus, argued the noise and traffic would be less with fewer seats in the proposed new stadium compared with the current stadium.

Plunkett plans to present the resolution to Evanston’s Land Use Commission on Aug. 23 when the proposed zoning changes that would allow Ryan Field to be used for concerts are presented. Once the plan has been presented to the Land Use Commission, it will go on to Evanston City Council.


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