|Former names||Dyche Stadium (1926-1996)|
|Location||1501 Central Street|
Evanston, Illinois, U.S.
|Broke ground||April 8, 1926|
|Opened||October 2, 1926|
|Construction cost||$2.6 million (original)|
($38 million in 2020)
|Architect||James Gamble Rogers|
|General contractor||J. B. French Construction Company|
|Northwestern Wildcats (NCAA) (1926-present)|
Ryan Field is a stadium in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb north of Chicago. Near the campus of Northwestern University, it is primarily used for American football, and is the home field of the Northwestern Wildcats of the Big Ten Conference. It is the only FBS stadium without permanent lighting. Its current seating capacity is 47,130.
Opened 95 years ago in 1926, it was named Dyche Stadium for William Dyche, class of 1882, a former Evanston mayor and overseer of the building project. The stadium was renamed Ryan Field in 1997 in honor of the family of Aon Corporation founder Patrick G. Ryan, who was then the chairman of Northwestern's board of trustees. The renaming was made by the other members of the board in recognition of the Ryan family's leadership and numerous contributions to Northwestern, including the lead gift to the Campaign for Athletic Excellence, Northwestern's fundraising drive for athletic facilities.
At the time it was constructed, Dyche Stadium was considered one of the finest college football stadiums in the country. The stadium originally consisted of two semi circular grandstands on either sideline, with the west (home) sideline having a small, curved upper deck whose 2 ends abut in matching concrete towers. The purpose of the curved grandstands was to maximize the number of fans sitting close to the action. End zone seating was later added in the south, and in 1952 McGaw Memorial Hall was built beyond the north end zone.
The stadium had a natural grass surface when it opened. It switched to artificial turf in 1973 and was used until 1996. Prior to the 1997 season, the natural grass surface was restored and the playing surface was lowered approximately 5 feet (1.5 m) to improve sight lines from the lowest rows of the stadium.
The Chicago Bears played their first home game of the 1970 season vs. the Philadelphia Eagles at Dyche Stadium on September 27 as an experiment; the NFL had required that the Bears move out of Wrigley Field because its seating capacity was under 50,000, which was below the minimum set out by the newly constituted post-merger NFL. Also, the Chicago Cubs were in a September pennant race with the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets in the National League East. If Wrigley Field was needed for postseason baseball games, the temporary grandstand for football along the east sideline (in right and center field) would not be available until late October. After Evanston residents petitioned city officials to block the team from moving there permanently and the Big Ten Conference opposed the Bears' use of Northwestern's stadium, the Bears ended up moving to Chicago's Soldier Field the following year.
It also hosted the summer College All-Star Game in 1943 and 1944, which had usually been instead held at Chicago's Soldier Field. Both games were played at night with the use of temporary lights. The college all-stars held their practices for the game at Dyche Stadium in years such as 1934 and 1935.
Northwestern's decision to rename Dyche Stadium to Ryan Field defied the university's own 1926 resolution that forbade such a change. School officials said that a private institution can override previous boards' decisions, and dismissed the earlier resolution as a "show of appreciation." But NU did not explain why a mere gesture of appreciation would expressly state that any football stadium at any location would retain the name Dyche, as indeed the 1926 resolution does. The Dyche family wasn't notified of the change; NU claimed that the only descendant they found was a grandniece, despite other family members living in Chicago and being listed in the phone book. After the family protested, NU said it was willing to install an informational plaque at the stadium, noting its former name.
Parts of The Express: The Ernie Davis Story, a 2008 film about Syracuse University Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis starring Rob Brown as Davis, and Dennis Quaid as Davis' Syracuse coach, Ben Schwartzwalder, were filmed at Ryan Field.