Will NU Football Play
on the Lakefront?

A lot of Northwestern fans were surprised to learn that NU had not landed off-campus playing sites for its 2024-2025 home games before it began tearing down Ryan Field in February. After all, it had been a couple of years since the school originally announced plans to replace the stadium-- what had NU been doing during this time? Why was there no plan in place?

Of course, NU had a difficult task in front of it: the likely alternate sites-- Soldier Field, Wrigley Field, and SeatGeek in nearby Bridgeview-- all had home teams that would take priority. NU could not schedule those venues too far in advance, because the home teams' schedules are not yet set. By the time those schedules are final, it will be too late to arrange a Northwestern football game.

Attempting to solve this dilemma, Northwestern has been reportedly looking at the possibility of staging its home football games on campus for the next two seasons, on the lakefill, using temporary stands. While this has been rumored for several weeks, WGN's Mike Lowe broke the story on March 27, revealing that NU is attempting to get a zoning agreement with Evanston for the temporary venue.

While this seems like an ingenious solution, it is very late to consider this idea: the Big Ten kicks off in just five months. The temporary stands would need to be designed, constructed, moved, and installed in record time.

The likely site would be the playing fields near the new Kellogg center and the Ryan Fieldhouse, Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium. This will offer a setting and view unlike anything we've ever experienced for football, but there will be several enormous problems:
  • These fields are already home to NU lacrosse, field hockey, and soccer. Scheduling and practices will become very complicated very quickly.
  • The temporary stands would likely hold nearly 15,000 fans. This would be a smaller venue than allowed by the NCAA for FBS-level teams. NU would need to obtain some sort of waiver to make this work.
  • On the other hand, getting 15,000 fans onto the lakefill will bring its own wild logistical challenges.
As of April 1, it does look like NU is giving this a serious run. Evanston has expressed tentative support.

Strangely, the proposed move mimics a somewhat tongue-in-cheek suggestion that HTP posted 14 years ago.