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Protesters disrupt meeting over disapproval of plans for Northwestern's Ryan Field

Protesters interrupt meeting over rebuilding of Northwestern's Ryan Field
Protesters interrupt meeting over rebuilding of Northwestern's Ryan Field 00:41

EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) -- Protesters interrupted the Evanston City Council meeting Tuesday night – upset over proposed renovations to Ryan Field.

Members of the Northwestern Accountability Alliance shouted inside Council Chambers after a rally outside.

They said the rezoning involved in rebuilding Ryan Field would be too disruptive to the community.

The new stadium would be 12,000 seats smaller, but the university wants to host concerts and events there in addition to sports. Northwestern has said that the project is privately funded, including a $480 million donation from the Ryan family, for whom the stadium is named.

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In July, six faculty members called on Northwestern to pause the Ryan Field renovation plans, but earlier this month, the university presented their vision for the future of the stadium to the Land Use Commission in Evanston.

The Northwestern Accountability Alliance said in a statement:

"Northwestern's requests to expand Ryan Field and to rezone the new stadium as a for-profit entertainment complex would significantly disrupt the livability of Evanston and surrounding communities, while bringing dubious benefit to residents. Despite vague promises from Northwestern, our alliance questions the value to the community of a property-tax-exempt commercial zone in a residential neighborhood. Northwestern will already make up to $100 million every year from athletics with its new Big 10 media deal—on top of its over $15 billion endowment. That means the university can more than afford to redevelop the stadium plus pay property taxes—or payments in lieu of taxes—and make other commitments to the community, as many of its peer universities do."

Supporters of the renovation from the group Field of Opportunities called the protest a "stunt:"

"Today's march is nothing more than a stunt intended to pressure the City Council and distort the facts. This project is a no-brainer for Evanston and would bring an incredible economic boost to our city at no cost to taxpayers. As Evanston's own economic impact study noted 'The costs borne by the city to have the stadium in the community are believed to pale in comparison to the benefits received.' Northwestern is not creating anything new; the stadium already exists but is in dire need of revitalization. The rebuild proposal has taken community feedback into account and comes with a host of benefits, including funding for workforce programs, education funding, and much more. We urge the city council to consider the bigger picture and the incredible, generational impact this project will have on our community."

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