Game at Wrigley comes at perfect time for Northwestern
If Saturday's football game between Northwestern and Illinois was being held at U.S. Cellular Field or Soldier Field instead of Wrigley Field, the folks at those respective schools might still be working feverishly right now trying to sell tickets to ensure a sellout crowd.
Instead, they are focusing on everything but ticket sales for what should be a fascinating afternoon on the North Side.
And why aren't they worried about ticket sales?
Because the game is at Wrigley Field, where lately any non-baseball event held there virtually guarantees a sellout.
Concerts such as The Police, Jimmy Buffet and Dave Matthews? Tickets couldn't go any faster. A hockey game between the Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings on New Year's Day? Good luck getting that seat.
Now the NU-Illini game joins that list, having been sold out for weeks already.
What is the deal with the Friendly Confines anyway?
"You're talking about one of the most prestigious sports venues in the world," said Mike Polisky, senior associate athletic director/external affairs. "Particularly with football, it's such a perfect tie-in. The Bears used to play there, obviously. The last college football game played there was in 1938.
"It's just a unique opportunity for our fans and for the city of Chicago. We're thrilled to be hosting the game there it's a real privilege for us. Everything is working out as well as could have been imagined."
And from a marketing standpoint, which is a big part of the whole deal, the timing couldn't be more perfect from the Wildcats' perspective.
"The performance of our football team and the performance of our basketball team last season and the expectations this season ... it's the proverbial perfect storm. Our football team just upset the 13th-ranked team in the country (Iowa), and now we're coming to Wrigley Field for a truly historical event.
"We're inviting anybody and everybody to get on board with Northwestern. Regardless of where you went to school, we can be your favorite team in the Big Ten or your second favorite team we're OK with either."
Northwestern representatives have spent a lot of hours in the car commuting down from Evanston to the North Side the past few weeks to tie up any loose ends. And while the drive itself might be a little pain, working with the Cubs' staff has been anything but, according to Polisky.
"It hasn't been difficult at all; the Cubs' organization has been a tremendous group of people to work with and incredibly supportive," he said. "And our title sponsor, Allstate, has been tremendously supportive. You've really had three Chicago-based organizations working hand in hand incredibly well.
"This is the marquee event in college football this weekend. It's just been an incredibly exciting time. We're thrilled with how everything is working out.
"We feel this is truly just Ryan Field South."
Just shoehorned in a little more, as those small gaps between the end line and the right field wall suggest.
"Problems crop up all the time, especially when you're trying to fit a football field inside a baseball stadium," Polisky said. "It's been a pleasure to work with a great group of people and see how the problems are solved.
"Problems that did come up like, 'How are we going to get the netting up for field goals and extra points?' we just continued to find solutions for. There's some really talented people working on it."
Polisky said there are no immediate plans for a return trip to Wrigley, so he'd like to make sure the day is a success for Northwestern and its fans.
There's one way, he says, to ensure that: "With a Northwestern win."
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