The university is pledging 35% of its subcontracting spending will be with local minority-owned and women-owned businesses
EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- At nearly 100 years old, Northwestern officials say Ryan Field is in dire need of an upgrade.
"Right now we have an outdated, dilapidated football stadium that can't be used by the broader Evanston community. If you look outside the stadium, it's surrounded by concrete. We can only use it seven days a year for football games," said Dave Davis, senior executive director for neighborhood and community relations.
Davis said this new privately funded project will remake the stadium for a "fan-centric" experience. Mockups of what the new stadium would look like have been released, with the intent to add general admission alcohol sales and multiple concerts.
An informational meeting was held Wednesday with the community, and minority and women-owned businesses, as the university plans to submit its redevelopment application to the City of Evanston for the $800 million project.
The project will completely redesign Ryan Field. Although it will lower capacity by 12,000, it will add new multi-use space on the outside in the largest single capital expenditure in Northwestern and Evanston history.
"They're bringing a lot of resources to help minority businesses so they can meet the needs, the demands for this project," said Visanth Stephen, with VR Diverse.
The university is pledging 35% of its subcontracting spending will be with local minority-owned and women-owned businesses, but the effort is facing some pushback. More than a thousand people signed a change.org petition, urging the city council to slow down approval.
Kelly Marcelle supports the new stadium but said she's aware of the criticism.
"There's a lot of fear mongering," said Evanson resident, Kelly Marcelle. "I've heard there's going to be trash everywhere. There's going to be drunks stumbling around our property. I've even heard of child endangerment."
Meanwhile, Davis is urging anyone with questions or criticisms to reach out to the University and is pledging to listen.
"When we engage with our Evanston neighbors and our residents. It actually creates and leads to better outcomes in terms of the project design," he said.
Still, there is a long way to go and community input is necessary. Northwestern hopes to have the project approved by mid-summer.