The Cubs and Northwestern University announced a five-year deal to play baseball, football and lacrosse -- and possibly soccer and other sports -- at Wrigley Field.
The first of those events will be a baseball game featuring NU's Wildcats against the University of Michigan Wolverines Saturday, April 20. That's part of a three-game set originally scheduled to be played in Evanston; the other two will remain, while a Wrigley audience will see college baseball while the Cubs are in Milwaukee taking on the Brewers. No game time has yet been set for this event, nor ticket prices.
Perhaps the most famous NU baseball grad is former Cubs catcher, current Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Other active Wildcats in the major leagues include J.A. Happ and George Kontos (Mark Loretta retired in 2009 after a 15-year career); previous NU grads to play for the Cubs include Gene Oliver and Bob Will.
The only other specific event that was announced Tuesday morning in a Wrigley Field news conference was that the NU women's lacrosse team -- which has won seven of the last eight NCAA lacrosse national championships under coach Kelly Amonte Hiller -- will play Notre Dame at Wrigley sometime in the spring of 2014.
There will be five Northwestern football games at Wrigley, though none this year; both Cubs President of Baseball Operations Crane Kenney and Northwestern VP of Athletics Jim Phillips said that the first game there will depend on the Cubs' construction schedule. Regardless, the deal will include five games, and the five-year deal could be extended. Opponents, said Phillips, will be determined by NU -- it won't just be Illinois, and they'll try to get five different opponents when the series actually begins. Football games will be held in November -- Kenney said, "We're holding October for playoff baseball." (Don't laugh. Someday that will be true.)
Regarding the, um, unusual circumstances under which the Northwestern/Illinois game was played in 2010, Kenney said that the remedy will be to move the third-base dugout out of the way, which he said would provide a 12-foot perimeter around the entire field. That should be more than enough for Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, I'd think.
Kenney also assured me that there is money budgeted for resodding the field if there is any damage done, to make it major-league suitable for the Cubs, and this also includes resodding after concerts.
The Cubs' proceeds from this series will go directly to the baseball budget; for Northwestern, in addition to financial benefits, they get higher-profile exposure, plus opportunities for some of their student-athletes to have internships with the Cubs. The Cubs have already used some NU facilities for working out, as when Theo, Jed and Jason brought in some of the top minor-league prospects to get them acclimated to a major-league atmosphere.
Sounds like a win-win for everyone.