After a two-year hiatus, Northwestern football will return to Wrigley Field.
Northwestern Athletics and the Chicago Cubs reached a five-year agreement Tuesday that includes five home football games for the ‘Cats at the Friendly Confines. The last time Northwestern played at Wrigley Field was during the 2010 season, when they lost 48-27 to Big Ten rival Illinois.
The deal looks to be profitable for both the Cubs and Wildcats, while increasing Northwestern's exposure. The athletic department has been pushing the University's brand as “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” since 2010.
Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips stressed the marketing component of the agreement.
“Part of this thing that we have to address is we’ll always be the tiny private school in the Big Ten,” Phillips said. “There are an awful lot of people in Chicago who have not had the opportunity to go to college, so we hope that they adopt Chicago’s Big Ten team.”
Northwestern will be able to play one football game every season at Wrigley beginning as early as 2014, when $300 million in stadium renovations are set to be underway. Upgrades will include wider concourses, new clubhouses, and more area for end zones.
After the 2010 game exposed a lack of space in right field – as both teams had to play with one end zone – renovations became a key part of the agreement.
“The City of Chicago deserves the chance ... to cheer not only for the football team that drives us as the engine of our department, but also our seven-time championship lacrosse team,” Phillips said, alluding to opportunities for many of the 19 varsity programs at Northwestern to host sporting events at Wrigley Field.
This spring, the Wildcats’ baseball team is slated to be the first varsity program to play at the stadium when it plays host to Michigan on Apr. 20.
“I certainly thought about it as a young little kid growing up in Chicago,” Phillips said. “The dream is to play on that field, and to reward those 30 kids at another university that you have great respect for at the University of Michigan is going to be fantastic.”