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Northwestern's plans for a flashy $800 million football stadium

$800 million in private funding goes a long way. Inside Northwestern's massive proposal. PIC: Northwestern University

We knew Northwestern had some money, but this much? You could have fooled me.

Northwestern's Ryan Field is around 97 years old, named Dyche Stadium at the time for former Evanston mayor William Dyche. In 1997, enter benefactor and multibillionaire Pat Ryan, who was the founder of Aon, one of the most well-known property-casualty insurance groups. Just like that, his family became the namesake of the Wildcats football field.

Over the past few years, it's clear the stadium has deteriorated. After all, it is nearing the century mark. So, the school proposed a new place to call home for the 'Cats, and the Board of Trustees gave it the stamp of approval this past week.

The stadium - also to be called Ryan Field after Ryan, the 84-year-old, and his family - will be a significant upgrade to the current stadium. Even though the 35,000 capacity is proposed at almost 15k less than the current edition of Ryan Field, it's a bit more intimate and accommodating for a Chicago-area football team that isn't the Bears. It's a modern look with a canopy to protect the tiered seats, a perfectly-stationed student section behind the end zone, and premium seating options.

The wild part isn't even the stadium itself. The Ryan's have guaranteed they can accomplish this build with ZERO public taxpayer financing, and can fund the project with entirely private money. It could cost as much as $800 million, according to sources close to the project. Northwestern is also claiming the physical building of the stadium could generate nearly 3,000 jobs and up to $600 million in economic development for the Evanston/Chicagoland area.

Over the past few years, Northwestern has had a few high moments - including 5 straight bowl appearances from 2008-2012. They've also had, lately, some crashing lows; notably two seasons with no more than 3 wins going back to 2019. Surely, a new look is overdue; and hopefully it's a kick in the behind that Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats will utilize to ensure Northwestern competes with the loaded conference that is the Big Ten; Ohio State, Michigan, Minnesota, and Penn State sure hope it doesn't.


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