Wrigley Goes Purple

Saturday's meeting of Northwestern, Illinois are teams' first at Wrigley since 1923

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCChicago.com

    The pitcher's mound and home plate are gone, and the infield and warning tracks are covered in a thick layer of turf as Wrigley Field is readies for its first a college football game in decades.

    A sellout crowd of around 40,000 is expected as Northwestern hosts Big Ten rival Illinois in Saturday's inaugural Allstate Wrigleyville Classic.

    Northwestern and Cubs officials showed off preparations Monday, which included a ceremonial repainting of the Cubs' external marquee in Wildcat purple.

    Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips said fans attending the game will experience "one of the terrific events in the sporting world in a bowl game-like atmosphere."

    The setup is more challenging than the conversion for the NHL game, when a rink was built atop turf and infield.

    "I think it was a little harder on the pre-setup with the sod and leveling the field,'' said Roger Baird, Wrigley Field's head groundskeeper since 1995. "After the hockey game we had a lot of work afterward, which will be the same thing here. We'll have to put the mound back in, put the skin area back, the runner's lines, warning tracks and re-leveling and some re-sodding."

    College football teams from DePaul and St. Louis -- schools that no longer have football teams -- clashed at Wrigley Field in 1938. Illinois and Northwestern last met at Wrigley Field in 1923. 

    The Wildcats will take the Chicago Transit Authority's Purple and Red lines to get to the field.