Stadium Guide: Ryan Field, Northwestern

All season long, Joshua Guiher of has been providing us guides on what to see and do at the biggest and best college football stadiums in the country. In the past, he has previewed, Navy, West Virginia and Notre Dame, as well as many others.

And after previewing the Big House for us in September, Josh is talking Michigan again this week. Only instead of talking about Michigan Stadium, he’ll be talking about Northwestern’s Ryan Field, as the Wolverines head on the road for their first game away from Ann Arbor all year.

Ryan Field: Northwestern

Northwestern plays at Ryan Field which was christened in 1997 after a $30 million renovation to the previously named Dyche Stadium that was originally opened in 1926. It is an older stadium without many frills, but an easy ticket to get especially considering the team plays just outside of Chicago and hosts quality opponents such as Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State among other Big Ten schools.

Quick Facts:

* The stadium hosted the Chicago Bear’s 1970 home games
* Current capacity is 47,130
* Largest crowd ever was 55,752 versus Notre Dame on October 27, 1962


Seating at Ryan Field is bench style with plenty of room between seats.

Be careful, though, because Ryan Field is one of those places where some of the sightlines can be terrible. For instance, you want to avoid sitting in sections 101-103, 113-115, 122-124 and 135-136, especially if you are down low because you will not be able to see all of the action.


Concessions are fairly basic, with items such as a brat ($6), polish sausage ($4) and a hot dog ($4). The hot dog comes in a little plastic sandwich baggie so if you get one that has sat around in the warming drawer for a while it can be a soggy mess.

Drinks are Coca-Cola products with the standard size costing $4.

Traditions (What To Watch For):

The best tradition that Northwestern has is actually a recent addition. It is called “Walk with Us” and is a tribute to the late head coach Randy “Walk” Walker and features the band, cheerleaders and Willie the Wildcat as they welcome the team to the stadium near the intersection of Wildcat Way and Ashland Avenue.

Another tradition is Wildcat Alley, a family-friendly fan fest area featuring face painting, inflatable games, the marching band and food among other things.

If you want to watch the band, they take the field about 20 minutes before the scheduled kickoff time.


While the tailgating might not rival some of the craziest in the country, you are likely to find some of the nicest, most welcoming fans in the country at a Northwestern tailgate.

Most of the tailgating was around the stadium, but those spots are reserved for season parking holders meaning that those driving in for a single game can’t park near the stadium. Also, be careful because if you try to be slick and just park on the road by the stadium, you will be towed very quickly.

However, Northwestern offers a good number of free parking options on-campus with a shuttle service to get you to/from the game. You can also tailgate at the free parking spots, but don’t expect to have a bunch of people around.

Here is the link for the official parking information however note that the Northwestern site makes you download the parking pdf to your computer.


I bet 40 percent of the tailgates we walked past welcomed us in for drinks, food or both and we were a group of four fraternity guys in Penn State apparel. I’ve never felt so welcoming at an opposing teams’ stadium.

Once inside, the Northwestern fans were polite and helped show us to our seats. They were a pretty quiet fan base with only the students really making any noise.


Finding tickets for a game at Northwestern usually isn’t too hard. Now saying that, of course this weekend’s game against Michigan is sold out so if you are going, you will need to use an alternate ticket site such as StubHub.

Tickets range in price from $35 for end zone seats to $50 for the better sideline seats. I really recommend that you spend the extra money for the sideline seats.

Getting There:

Getting to Ryan Field can be a bit of a traffic mess due to the lack of parking and the location of the stadium. Therefore, most of my recommendations here are going to be for public transportation.

The option we took from our hotel was a taxi. If I remember right, it only cost each of us a few dollars and they dropped us off less than a ¼ mile from the stadium.

Another option is to take the CTA. You will want to take the purple line of the “el” and get off at the Central Street station, which is only a ¼ mile east of the stadium. For more information, visit their website or the central station timetable here.

The other public transportation option is the take the Union Pacific – North line of the Metra Rail and get off at the Evanston Central Street station.

As for flying in, since Evanston is just a suburb of Chicago, you can fly into either O’Hare or Midway, which ever works out for your favorite carrier or your budget.

Where To Stay:

This isn’t much of a concern since you are right in the Chicago area. Just find a hotel that works for your price range and travel route. Keep in mind that if Notre Dame plays the same day that you might need to avoid areas on the eastern side since South Bend is only a 90 minute drive straight down Interstate 80 and many of their fans stay in the Chicago area.


I can’t say that there is a ton to do in Evanston, but there certainly is plenty to do in the area with Wrigleyville and downtown Chicago. Personally, I recommend Wrigleyville since I love sports. Here is a whole website dedicated to things to do in Wrigleyville.

Things To Do:

As I just mentioned, there is not much to do in Evanston. Travelocity says that the best thing to do not related to exploring the Northwestern campus is to visit the Grosse Point Lighthouse, but it only rates as a 3.5 of out 5, further backing my point that you will need to explore one of the other 76 distinct Chicago neighborhoods.

I recommend a trip to Oktoberfest at Navy Pier if you are there at the right time in the fall. If you visit for a September game, see if the Cubs or White Sox are playing a game.


I can’t say that Ryan Field is anywhere near the nicest or biggest stadium you could visit. It is however home of some of the friendliest fans and one of the easier stadiums to get a ticket to in the Big Ten. If you want to watch a well-coached team that has a chance to beat a top 25 program while in the Chicago area, I recommend a visit to Evanston and Ryan Field.

Follow Joshua on Twitter @collegiatestdms.

About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.