Northwestern reveals plans for 'state-of-the-art' Ryan Field replacement with 12K fewer seats

The Big Ten's smallest stadium is about to get much smaller.

Northwestern University announced plans Wednesday to replace its current football stadium, Ryan Field, with a new, more modern stadium, also to be called Ryan Field. The project's most notable feature: it's significantly smaller than its predecessor.

Specifically, Northwestern plans to go from its current capacity of 47,130 all the way down to 35,000, a reduction of 12,000 seats. That original capacity was already the smallest in the conference; Minnesota's Huntington Bank Stadium comes in second-to-last at 50,805.

The construction of the stadium is reportedly projected to cost $800 million, funded entirely from private donations with no taxpayer funds (though such projects can still cost the public due to lost revenue from donation tax write-offs).

Here is what an $800 million Northwestern football stadium looks like:

The decision to downsize makes sense given that games at the 97-year-old Ryan Field are notorious for light crowds even for its smaller confines. At the new Ryan Field, fans can apparently expect a much nicer experience, with amenities including:

  • improved sight lines

  • every seat having chair backs (the current stadium uses bleachers)

  • high-tech scoreboards

  • upgraded concessions with food from local restaurants

  • a state-of-the-art canopy designed to focus noise and light on the field

  • new plazas and a community park in the surrounding area

  • increased accessibility and inclusivity

  • Gold LEED certification

Northwestern did not say when the new stadium, which will also host concerts and other events, will be completed.

EVANSTON, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 24: A general view of Ryan Field as the Northwestern Wildcats take on the Maryland Terrapins on October 24, 2020 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Downsizing Ryan Field is probably the right move for Northwestern. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)