Northwestern officials outline parking and capacity plans for temporary football stadium

Northwestern University officials on Wednesday provided information on parking, seating capacity and other topics related to the temporary use of a lakeside athletic field for some home football games during the 2024 and 2025 seasons.

Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium, which hosts the university’s men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams, will be able to host fewer than 15,000 people on temporary seating structures along the north, south and west sides of the field while Ryan Field is being rebuilt, officials said at a meeting of the Northwestern University/City Committee meeting in Evanston.

Northwestern’s vice president of operations and chief operating officer, Luke Figora, said the plan will give students and other attendees a unique experience unlike any other in college football.

“Rather than having to go somewhere else to watch the team play they can do it here, on campus in a unique facility showing the beauty of the lakefront,” Figora said. “It’s something different that a handful of students that ever go through Northwestern will get to say that they experienced, and that’s something kind of cool.”

Ryan Field is about a mile from the campus on the northern border between Evanston and Wilmette.

Not all home games for the two seasons will be held at the temporary site. Deputy Director of Athletics for Operations & Capital Projects Deneé Barracato said games against opponents such as Ohio State that traditionally draw larger-than-average crowds will be played at larger venues. Those venues have not been announced but there have been reports the university has considered Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field and Soldier Field.

A maximum of seven home games could be held at the temporary field per year. Public announcement systems are set to be directed eastward toward the lake and current plans call for use of existing lighting. If further lighting is needed, anything added would be for temporary use.

The demolition of the 98-year-old Ryan Field is nearly complete and plans call for construction of the new $80 million stadium to be finished by the 2026 football season.

Committee member David Schoenfeld expressed concern about parking at the temporary venue but was told the university plans to utilize two of its nearby parking garages, some of the parking areas at Ryan Field and downtown Evanston garages, and provide shuttle service if needed.

Parking could even be shifted downtown to help bring further foot traffic into local businesses, according to Dave Davis, Northwestern’s senior executive director for neighborhood and community relations.

“Part of this plan, if we work in partnership with the local business community, could be to spur economic development in that area,” Davis said. “We don’t have to try to park all the people on campus. We have the capacity to do that now but I think we have the opportunity to do more and share the wealth.”

Game times are still unknown. Such decisions are dictated by the football conference and media companies broadcasting the games per the university’s media rights agreement. Barracato said they are informed of the upcoming game time around seven to 12 days ahead of time.

Northwestern’s first game is scheduled for Aug. 31 against Miami (Ohio).