SBD/Issue 51/Facilities & VenuesPrint All
Wrigley Field College Football Game Gets
Mostly Positive Reviews Despite Challenges
In a "potentially disastrous afternoon" Saturday, Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure "elevated a PR stunt gone awry into a must-see performance" during the team's game against Northwestern at Wrigley Field, according to Melissa Isaacson of ESPNCHICAGO.com. Illinois' 48-27 win over Northwestern, which included Leshoure's school- and Wrigley Field-record 330 yards rushing, "rose above circumstances that threatened to embarrass both schools, the Big Ten Conference, the Cubs and whoever else was unlucky enough to be involved." When Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany "correctly, but belatedly, ruled Friday that the east end zone could not be used because ... players could potentially be mortally wounded by running into the wall that borders it at full speed -- despite the very impressive-looking high school gym pads attached to the brick -- the game sort of got lost in the shuffle." The decision "meant the teams would be running the same way." Both teams also "would be occupying the same sideline" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 11/20). In Illinois, Mike Imrem wrote, "The intimacy of the venue, the throwback texture of the conditions, the overall uniqueness that used to be common, they conspired to make the game special." The weather was "chilly and some of the sightlines unsightly, but a good guess is not many in the sellout crowd minded." The atmosphere outside the ballpark was "like a frat party," as Sheffield Avenue was "dubbed 'Wildcat Way' and looked like Bourbon Street on a Saturday night" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 11/21).
LIVING UP TO THE HYPE? In Chicago, Paul Sullivan wrote the game "lived up to the hype." It "wasn't as exciting" as the '09 Red Wings-Blackhawks NHL Winter Classic at the ballpark, but it was "just fun" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/21). ESPN college football analyst Bob Davie, who called the game, said, "The goal of everyone involved with this was to create a bowl game during the season in Chicago, and based on the atmosphere we have in here today, based on the attention this has received across the country, I think it's a home run" ("Illinois-Northwestern," ESPNU, 11/20). But the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes the game "did play a bit goofy." Gay: "These games show we live in strange, simultaneously modern and retro times" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/22). ESPN CHICAGO's Jon Greenberg wrote, "This is the end result of two schools, and one conference, desperate for relevance in a crowded sports marketplace and ultimately mucking it up" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 11/21). In Chicago, David Haugh wrote, "They should move this rivalry to Soldier Field in what could become an annual event for The Chicagoland Bowl. The baseball field concept that cannot continue sounded great until it dawned on Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany ... that the details don't make Wrigley the right venue" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/21).
Delany Says Decision To Not Use
East End Zone Was "No-Brainer"
TIGHT FIT: Delany said he "had never been put on notice" that the distance between the east end zone and the wall was "anything other than tight, not a blatant violation of NCAA playing rules." Delany: "Once it was obvious to me there is a rule in play and we weren't close to being in compliance with it, it was a no-brainer." Delany said the Cubs, Northwestern and Illinois all were acting in good faith but that the NCAA rules issue was "never vetted until" last Wednesday. When asked about the Cubs' statement about the Big Ten "signing off on the field dimensions," Delany said that the league's involvement was "mainly relating to signage, revenue sharing and issues not related to game operations" (ESPN.com, 11/19). Former Univ. of Michigan AD Bill Martin said that Big Ten officials "made the right call." Martin: "The most important thing is safety. You wouldn't want the game's outcome to be determined by the physical venue itself. Better late than never" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/20).
BRONX BOWL: On Long Island, Kimberley Martin noted Army and Notre Dame Saturday played the first football game at new Yankee Stadium before a "sellout crowd of 54,251." Army coach Rich Ellerson "praised the atmosphere." Ellerson: "That was electric. Really something" (NEWSDAY, 11/21). Also on Long Island, Mark Herrmann wrote the "whole trip looked like a good idea that ought to be tried again and again." The Army-Notre Dame game was a "revival, not a debut," as N.Y. "used to be the capital of college football" (NEWSDAY, 11/21). In N.Y., Dick Weiss wrote Notre Dame "cast its spell over" N.Y. The Yankee Stadium game was the "second phase of an idea developed by former AD Kevin White, who wanted to pay homage to the school's barnstorming past." White, now AD at Duke, "developed a scheduling format of seven home games, four road games and one off-site game" for Notre Dame (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/21).
Sod Was Torn Up In The Middle Of Heinz Field
During Yesterday's Raiders-Steelers Game
The NFL is "closely monitoring conditions at Heinz Field" after the Raiders "became the latest Steelers opponent to complain about the playing surface," according to a league source cited by Jason La Canfora of NFL.com. The Patriots also "complained about the field conditions last week." The portion of the field between the hashmarks between the 30-yard lines is "pocked with soft spots and areas where the sod easily comes out." The Steelers "plan to re-sod at some point, but timing is an issue." The Univ. of Pittsburgh will play West Virginia Univ. at Heinz Field on Friday, and the venue will host the Western Pennsylvania high school playoffs Saturday. La Canfora: "The Steelers know this problem will be much worse before it can get better"
(NFL.com, 11/21). In Pittsburgh, Fittipaldo & Bouchette report yesterday's contest was the "last NFL game on that particular grass." New sod will be "laid down starting Sunday." Raiders DE Tommy Kelly said, "The field is absolutely atrocious. They have to do something about that. They got big divots like they're playing golf out there." Steelers LB James Harrison, who "had to be attended to by trainers late in the game," said, "The middle of that field is nothing (but) a sand pit, so when I hit the ground it all went into my eyes" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 11/22).
Phase One Construction Of Philly Live Will
Begin In April And Be Completed By Mid-2012
In Philadelphia, Dan Geringer notes the proposed 350,000-square-foot Philly Live complex has "shrunk to a 40,000-to-45,000-square-foot 'Phase One' building featuring a huge sports bar with Philadelphia hockey and hoops memorabilia." The Spectrum is being demolished tomorrow, and it is taking place "by wrecking ball, not implosion, so it will take months to bring down the building, fill in the hole and prepare the Spectrum lot for development." As a result, Comcast Spectacor VP/Public Relations Ike Richman said that Phase One construction is "expected to begin in April and be completed by mid-2012" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 11/22).
POSSIBLE THROW-IN: In Newark, Ted Sherman cited New Jersey state officials as saying that "at least four suitors remain at the table in a possible redevelopment deal for the long-stalled Xanadu complex in the Meadowlands -- which could include the nearby Izod Center." Former NJSEA Chair Jon Hanson, who is "heading a special governor's commission on the state's gaming and entertainment industry," said that his panel "expects to file recommendations to Gov. Chris Christie on the dormant $2 billion mall project before Christmas." Hanson acknowledged that Izod Center, "which is part of the Meadowlands Sports Complex and is adjacent to Xanadu, has been part of the discussions." Hanson: "It's not being marketed with Xanadu, but the arena has been discussed. We cannot have a solution on the arena until Xanadu is addressed" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 11/21).
TWIN BUILDING: In Minneapolis, Joe Christensen reported the Twins' Spring Training complex in Ft. Myers, Fla., is "about to grow." Lee County is "close to acquiring 15 acres on the south end of the complex," and with the additional land, which is priced at about $5M, the Twins "would have additional parking space, a fifth full-sized practice diamond and various projects around Hammond Stadium." Fans by '12 also "could see an outfield party deck, expanded concessions and a bigger team merchandise store" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 11/20).
TITANS OF ROCK: In Nashville, Michael Cass reported U2 "will play at Vanderbilt Stadium" during their trip to the city next summer. The Titans, who operate LP Field, "were approached by U2's promoters but turned them down, citing scheduling conflicts." LP Field's agreement with the June 9-12 CMA Music Festival says that "no other concerts can be held within 30 to 45 days of the festival unless" the CMA "gives its blessing" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 11/21).