Northwestern and Illinois played a college football game at Wrigley Field November 20, 2010. The Illini won the game 48-21, and it was oddly played with both teams going for the west end zone after the east end zone was deemed unsafe to play with the right-field wall behind it, even though it had been heavily padded and approved by the Big Ten when the field was laid out. That approval was rescinded two days before the game.
The game sold out and a fine time was had by all, myself included.
The Cubs and Northwestern announced a five-year deal in February 2013 that was supposed to include more football games, as well as baseball and other sports. NU did play one baseball game, against Michigan that spring, (Luke Farrell, who pitched for the Wildcats that day, was drafted by the Royals and is still in their system) and their women’s lacrosse team played a game there in April 2014. But ongoing construction at Wrigley has prevented any further such events from taking place.
Thursday, Teddy Greenstein reported in the Tribune that the Cubs would like to host a postseason college football bowl game at Wrigley Field, perhaps as early as 2020:
Football will return to Wrigley Field in November of 2020, Cubs President Crane Kenney told the Tribune, with Northwestern's hosting multiple Big Ten games the team's "first priority."
More intriguing, Kenney said the Cubs "absolutely" intend to begin hosting an annual bowl game.
The bowl would be the first of its kind in the Chicago area, and the timing should be ideal.
By 2020 (actually 2018), fans will be able to eat in new Wrigleyville restaurants such as Big Star and Smoke Daddy, sleep at the boutique Hotel Zachary and revel in a tented plaza that can accommodate crowds of nearly 6,000.
There are already 40 college football bowl games, so many that teams with seven losses were needed to fill some of the slots. That’s ... not optimal. Adding another game for which the Cubs would have to wait in line for participants wouldn’t necessarily provide a good matchup, and Greenstein’s article says there is a moratorium on adding any new bowls through 2019. However, he also notes:
Hard to imagine a game at Wrigley would not trump some current bowls, given these 2016 attendance figures: The Bahamas (13,422), Miami Beach (15,262), St. Petersburg (15,717) and Detroit's Quick Lane Bowl (19,117), which is in the Big Ten lineup.
So I suppose it’s possible that an existing bowl could relocate to Wrigley, with the promise of bigger crowds. Wrigley would almost certainly sell out for any bowl game, although it should be noted that attendance at the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium (perhaps the most comparable thing to a bowl at Wrigley) has dropped from 49,012 in 2014 to just over 37,000 the last couple of years. Pricing for tickets would be key to getting a Wrigley Bowl (or whatever they want to call it) to sell out.
As noted above, the Cubs also want to have an annual Northwestern game at Wrigley starting in 2020. Another article by Greenstein has details:
That ASAP date is November of 2020, Cubs President Crane Kenney told the Tribune. The team needs the next three baseball offseasons to complete the Wrigley Field restoration project.
After that, the Wildcats will return, with games likely spread out over a number of seasons.
"Jim and I are excited to get the 'Cats in the Confines' program going again," Kenney said.
The 2020 football schedule will not be examined and released until next year, Big Ten senior associate commissioner Mark Rudner said, so there's ample time for planning.
So this tells us, also, that the Cubs expect that three more offseasons will complete Wrigley Field construction and that everything should be ready to go by Opening Day 2020. Given that we’re hoping the Cubs are playing deep into October for the next several seasons, the construction season might be shortened as it was this winter. To guarantee the park would be completed, I wonder if they might have to build an extra year into that plan and wait till 2021 to have football in the fall at Wrigley.
A 2020 completion date for construction, if met, would also allow the Cubs to bid for All-Star games starting in 2021.
And regarding the field being big enough so that teams could play both ways?
With advance warning, the field could have been laid out to allow for the use of both end zones, given that the wall outside the third-base line is pegged to the ground and can be removed by a forklift.
Anyway, that's history. Dugouts will be moved closer to the foul poles before the 2018 season, allowing for ample space, Kenney said.
So, this means that the dugouts will remain in their current locations for 2017 and will be moved as part of next offseason’s construction.