Record gift to key Northwestern stadium overhaul

Northwestern will redevelop Ryan Field in the coming years with funds from a $480 million gift from the family of Patrick and Shirley Ryan, the university announced Wednesday.

The gift from the Ryans, whose names are on both Northwestern’s football stadium and basketball arena, will include funds for other university projects but will serve as the lead gift for a stadium rebuild. Northwestern said it will generate additional gifts to complete the project, which likely would begin after the 2022 football season.

The $480 million gift is the largest in university history.

Originally built in 1926, the football stadium last was renovated in 1997, when it also changed its name from Dyche Stadium to Ryan Field. Both Patrick and Shirley Ryan graduated from Northwestern, and Patrick Ryan served as chairman of the school’s board of trustees for 14 years.

Northwestern will soon survey bids from architecture and design firms for the stadium project, which aims to exceed Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and become more accessible to all fans. The team would play at least one season — and most likely two — at alternate venues, with Chicago’s Soldier Field as a likely option. Northwestern also could play more late-season games at Wrigley Field, where it will host Purdue on Nov. 20.

“We deeply appreciate the Ryan Family’s enduring dedication to our student-athletes,” athletic director Derrick Gragg said in a prepared statement. “The impact of their visionary generosity on past, present and future Wildcats is truly incomparable. The rebuilt Ryan Field will be a world-class venue befitting this institution’s pursuit of excellence in all areas.”

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