|Country||United States of America|
|Category||Design awaiting implementation|
|Design||HNTB, Perkins & Will|
Ryan Field – design description
How did the concept of a new stadium for the Northwestern Wildcats happen?
In September 2021, Patrick and Shirley Ryan donated $480 million to Northwestern University in Evanston (a northern suburb of Chicago). It was the largest donation in the university's history. The Ryan couple are alumni of the university, which they have supported for many years. Patrick Ryan is an American billionaire, founder of the company Aon, in addition to also being a former chairman of the university's board of trustees, and the stadium where the university's football team, the Northwestern Wildcats, plays is named after him.
The Ryans supported the university as part of the 'We Will' campaign, during which the institution raised $6.1 billion from nearly 175,000 donors, one of the largest fundraisers in the history of higher education. The Ryan family's grant will support biomedical, economic and business research, but most importantly, it will contribute to the new Ryan Field. The old stadium has been in existence since 1926 and underwent its last major upgrade between 1996 and 1997.
The facility has fallen further and further behind modern standards, including a lack of extensive commercial offerings, the flat, expansive stands do not provide the best view of the field and it is the only Football Bowl Subdivision venue without permanent floodlighting. While there has previously been talk of a possible upgrade, the grant provides the opportunity to build a completely new stadium that takes into account all the needs of the team, the university and the local community.
To ensure that the future facility meets the expectations of future users and local residents, a public consultation was carried out. The first renderings showing the concept for the new facility were made public in September 2022, with HNTB and Perkins & Will responsible for the design. It is estimated that the construction of the new stadium will cost $800 million. The money is expected to come from donations and the university budget, with no public funding.
When will the new Ryan Field be built?
A main contractor is already expected to be selected in autumn 2022, although the project still needs local approval. Work could begin after the 2023 season and be completed before the start of the 2026 season. During construction, the Northwestern Wildcats will have to play their games at another facility for two seasons.
What will the new Ryan Field be like?
The plan is to build an entirely new stadium on the site of the existing Ryan Field. The proposed new facility will have a capacity of 35,000 spectators, which is more than 12,000 fewer seats than the current one. The stands will be steeper, closer to the playing field and split into three tiers along the field and two behind the ends. The stadium will occupy a smaller area and be lower than its predecessor. The auditorium will be fully covered by a roof. The concept draws inspiration from the now defunct Chicago Stadium.
The stands will be equipped with seats with backrests, and two large LED screens will be placed behind the ends of the pitch. There will be floodlights under the roof. The stands will have VIP boxes, as well as seats for the people with disabilities. The facility will be equipped with catering facilities and numerous additional functions. The stadium is intended to be spectator-oriented in order to provide the best possible conditions for fans to attend events.
The stadium will be built primarily for the Northwestern Wildcats college football team representing Northwestern University. Players from the university's lacrosse team are also expected to perform there. However, the games of these teams will not cover the costs of maintaining the facility, so it is planned that it will also host concerts, and additional commercial functions are expected to keep the stadium in use at all times. Outdoor space will be created for festivals, fairs and other outdoor events.
The stadium is to feature a number of environmentally friendly solutions, such as the use of renewable energy sources and a rainwater management system, so that it meets the conditions for LEED Gold certification. Considerable attention has also been given to the local community, for whom the stadium and its surroundings are intended to serve as a place to meet and spend free time. Although the facility will be noticeably smaller than its predecessor, it is expected to provide more jobs and more revenue for the local budget.
To reduce nuisance to local residents, the roof is to be designed to absorb as much sound and light as possible. The facility is to offer a range of facilities for cyclists, reducing the number of people arriving at the stadium by car. There are also plans to work more closely with public transport providers to find the most suitable timetables.