Is Wrigley Field still big enough to host a football game?

That’s one question Cubs working to answer before Northwestern-Illinois matchup can happen

By Teddy Greenstein | Tribune reporter

January 20, 2009

Before he can envision a Wrigley Field bleacher battle between football fans in Northwestern purple and others in Illinois orange, Crane Kenney needs an answer.

Here’s the question: Is the field large enough to accommodate a gridiron?

Wrigley was football friendly from 1920-70, hosting some 365 regular-season NFL games. But that was before the Cubs added dozens of seats near the dugouts and bullpens.

Kenney said an architect is examining the dimensions, and the Cubs’ chairman expects to receive a report this week.

At the very least, he believes the field would have to run from center field to home plate, rather than down the left-field line, as the Bears had it.

“Do we have enough space [to ensure] the safety of the players?” Kenney asked on Monday, rattling off a few key questions. “And economically, can it be a win for both sides? We’re going to dig in.”

One key question was answered Monday: If NU wants to move its game Nov. 20, 2010, against Illinois from Ryan Field to Wrigley, it does not need Illinois’ approval.

“The only time a school would need approval is if it wanted to have a date changed,” said Big Ten Associate Commissioner Mark Rudner.

Indiana moved its 2000 game against Penn State to the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. The game drew 43,122 fans, 12,012 more than IU’s season average.

NU’s last two home games against Illinois have drawn crowds of 22,242 and 32,166. Temporary bleachers could push Wrigley’s football capacity past 45,000.

Kenney purposely waited to examine football feasibility until after the NHL’s Winter Classic. He no longer fears pipes bursting or ramps covered with frozen beer.

So some questions have been answered. But many remain.

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