By Dave Wischnowsky-
(CBS) Come November, Wrigleyville is usually pretty dead.
It’s usually pretty dead in October too, mind you. But that’s for different reasons.
However, the powers that be on the North Side of Chicago (aka Tom Ricketts & Theo Epstein) want to change that – and not just by putting a baseball team inside Wrigley Field that’s actually built for the fall.
Earlier this month, the Cubs secured approval from the Chicago Landmarks Commission to move the brick wall behind Wrigley’s home plate this offseason and add 56 prime box seats. Just as significantly – if not more so – the team will also convert a section of the wall near the home dugout so a regulation football field can fit inside the ballpark.
Two years ago, of course, Northwestern and Illinois clashed at Wrigley for the first football game at the ballpark in four decades, but were forced to play in just one direction because of space limitations and safety concerns. This new removable 12-foot section along the third base line is expected to rectify that problem and transform Wrigley into a viable football venue that’s as unique as any in the nation.
Not surprisingly, since that news broke, rumors have begun to fly about potential future football games at the Friendly Confines.
Illinois, for one, is said to be considering a return appearance (“If that opportunity presents itself, it’s something we’d be open to,” Illini athletic director Mike Thomas recently told Crain’s.)
Notre Dame has been mentioned as a potential competitor (“I certainly think coming back to Chicago is something we’d take a look at,” ND athletics spokesman John Heisler said about the Irish, who played at Soldier Field on Oct. 6 and on baseball turf at Yankee Stadium in 2010).
And last week, the Omaha World-Herald reported that Nebraska is strongly interested in squaring off with Northwestern at Wrigley (Tom Ricketts, an Omaha native, is a Cornhuskers fan). Northwestern AD Jim Phillips has previously said he very much wants to play at Wrigley again.
But as interesting as all those rumors might be, none of them involve the team that I’d most like to see pig up the pigskin for a visit to Wrigley.
Namely, the Chicago Bears.
Of all the bits of Chicago sports trivia knocking around inside my head, perhaps my most favorite is that Wrigley Field – which the Bears called home from 1921 to 1970 – has still hosted more of the team’s football games than Soldier Field.
In fact, until Giants Stadium broke the record in September 2003, Wrigley actually held the record for most NFL games played in a single stadium, with 365 regular-season contests. And to set that new mark, Giants Stadium needed the dual occupancy of both the Giants and Jets.
Wrigley Field, first and foremost, is a Major League Baseball venue. But the place is also a deeply historic NFL venue with the 50 seasons that the Bears spent there an NFL record until Lambeau Field set the new mark with its 51st season in 2007.
Back when the Bears relocated from Decatur and changed their nickname from the Staleys, it was in order to identify with the Cubs, who welcomed them into their ballpark.
Some day soon, I’d like to see Wrigley welcome the Bears again. After seeing the jubilant atmospheres that the Blackhawks’ 2009 Winter Classic, the 2010 Illinois-NU game and this past summer’s “Friendly at the Confines” soccer match produced inside the old ballpark at Clark & Addison, it shouldn’t be a matter of if the Bears will play again at Wrigley.
Rather, it should just be a matter of when.
“Our field is flexible to hold unique and world-class events,” Cubs spokesman Julian Green recently told Crain’s. “Teams can benefit from the unique experience of Wrigley.”
And fans should benefit from once again seeing a Bears football game inside the place where Bears football was born.
So, make it happen, Chicago.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.