Residents of Evanston, Illinois, are contesting Mayor Daniel Biss and Northwestern University's $800 million redevelopment proposal for Ryan Field. Local residents have formed the Better Than Biss campaign, targeting Biss' prospects in the 2025 mayoral election. The controversy centers primarily on the proposed commercial use of the renovated stadium.
Among the contentious issues is the rezoning of the new stadium to host up to six concerts annually and 60 days of community events, as per an ABC 7 Chicago report. Despite supporters claiming its economic benefits, critics voice concerns over noise pollution, traffic congestion, and additional demand on city services.
Evanston resident Parielle Davis founded the Better Than Biss campaign, addressing perceived mismanagement of the Ryan Field matter by Biss. Davis, speaking to the Chicago Tribune, expressed feelings of betrayal and exclusion from the process centered around local participation.
Notwithstanding the community's dissent, the Evanston Chamber of Commerce backs the redevelopment. Some community members align with Northwestern University's claim, reported by ABC 7 Chicago, that the stadium desperately needs refurbishment.
In the light of community concerns, Northwestern University revised its initial proposal, scaling back the number of concerts from 12 to six. Adding to it, the university proposed a 10-year, $100 million benefits package for the city, according to the Chicago Tribune.
In spite of these adjustments, city residents protested today, November 11. The protestors advocated for more community participation and negotiating leverage. Among their concerns was the conjecture of congestion hampering emergency services with Evanston North Shore Hospital located close to the stadium.
Activists, including Davis, argue that Biss failed in leading the Evanston City Council to negotiate a resolution that caters to community needs, as the Chicago Tribune reported. The Better Than Biss aims to campaign a 2025 mayoral candidate endorsing transparency, negotiation skills, and a supportive stance towards education.
Significant, the city's Land Use Commission voted early October in favor of Ryan Field's refurbishment but against its commercial use, as reported by the Chicago Tribune. The final proposal vote is scheduled for November 13 at the Evanston City Council meeting, with an independent negotiator assisting city attorneys in crafting a memorandum of understanding with Northwestern University.