The Chicago Bears’ trek to Arlington Heights continues to feel like a “when, not if” situation. But it turns out the university that fancies itself as Chicago’s Big Ten Team also has eyes for a new stadium.
Danny Ecker has the scoop on Northwestern University’s plans for a teardown and rebuild of Ryan Field in suburban Evanston:
Losing a home game to SIU really put some things in perspective for Northwestern, eh? Probably should’ve demolished Ryan Field after that game. Nothing beats a clean slate after a tough loss. (I got jokessssssss!)
All funnies aside, it’s about dang time NU gets new digs. It’s amazing what a sleek, modern stadium can do for interest in a team or program. Save for any time they’re playing my alma mater, I have no interest in seeing the Wildcats. But putting them in a state-of-the-art facility that looks like it belongs in the Big Ten piques my curiosity. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
Two notable nuggets caught my eye, especially as I try to see this through the lens of someone who is on the cusp of obsessively watching a football stadium building project.
Firstly, the stadium upgrades comes with plans on a reduction from 47,130 to 35,000. This is unsurprising. It’s not like NU is filling Ryan Field to capacity now. Also, reduced stadium sizes seems to be what is in style at the moment. As we’ve discussed from the Bears side of things, they are planning to increase capacity for the Arlington Project to be Named Later (compared to Soldier Field) … but it won’t be the 100,000-seat behemoth many would have been previously expecting.
Secondly, the NU project comes with an estimated cost of $800 million. That feels like a lot of cash for a stadium that comes with a size reduction. But on the other hand, that might be in line with what this type of project entails. For what it is worth, this is expected to be funded entirely through private donations. That breeze you felt is a sigh of relief from local taxpayers. But that chill you felt up your spine might’ve been you realizing that it is safe to assume that new Bears joint will cost north of $1 billion. Based on recent projects for the Rams/Chargers and Raiders, we should brace ourselves for estimated costs coming in above $2 billion. Whatever the final costs will be, they won’t be cheap.
I won’t obsessively watch this situation develop, but I think it’ll be worth keeping an eye on to see how NU goes about handling its business. Maybe the Bears can learn a trick or two from their Evanston neighbors. Perhaps Pat Ryan — who is on the Bears’ Board of Directors, seen as a favorite to buy the team if it ever goes up for sale, and is the Ryan which Ryan Field and Welsh-Ryan Arena are named after — will keep copious notes.