The Daily Northwestern

Evanston businesses disappointed by Wrigley move

Located near Ryan Field, The Locker Room sells Northwestern gear and receives much foot traffic during the football season. Some Evanston businesses are concerned that a recently announced NU-Chicago Cubs partnership, which will allow some games to be held at Wrigley Field, will cut into their revenues.

Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Located near Ryan Field, The Locker Room sells Northwestern gear and receives much foot traffic during the football season. Some Evanston businesses are concerned that a recently announced NU-Chicago Cubs partnership, which will allow some games to be held at Wrigley Field, will cut into their revenues.

Josh Walfish, Reporter

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When Northwestern announced it was taking five football games and a slew of other sports to Wrigley Field over the next several years, the news was well received by most fans. Some Evanston business owners, however, are not so excited.

Dick Peach, president of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, said NU football provides a major boost to area hotels, restaurants and retail stores. Peach said the city was blindsided by the announcement and had hoped the city and University would have been able to talk about the agreement beforehand.

“What we’re trying to do with the conversations with the University is to lessen the impact,” Peach said. “Nobody’s going to believe for the moment that the alumni will stay in Evanston and take a train down to Wrigley Field.”

Peach said the conversations center around trying to keep NU’s marquee games in Evanston. He specifically named six schools which have historically traveled well to Evanston — Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin — as games he would like to keep at Ryan Field.

Peach said he is optimistic the two sides will come to some sort of agreement, calling the University a “great partner.”

Ross Kooperman owns The Locker Room, 1416-A Central St., situated directly across the street from Ryan Field. Kooperman said he was shocked when he learned the Wildcats were moving games away from its home field.

Kooperman said a normal November football game brings in the same amount of money as two or three months’ revenue from the rest of the year. He said the University’s athletic department is taking a big risk with the move, and he’s unsure whether it will pay off in the long run.

“Maybe the athletic department is thinking loss of revenue will be negated in future years with a higher profile within the sports marketing realm of Chicago,” Kooperman said.  “But I think it’s a big question mark. I don’t believe that NU’s profile is as great as it claims it is.”

The athletic department declined to talk about finances, citing department policy. However, Kooperman estimates he lost thousands of dollars in 2010 when the Wildcats hosted the Allstate Wrigleyville Classic, a football game between NU and Illinois, at Wrigley Field.

Restaurants along Central Street, where Ryan Field is located, were down $30,000 a day from the 2010 event, Peach said.

NU has tried to attract more Chicago residents in the past three years with the “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” marketing campaign.

At the Feb. 5 press conference announcing the NU-Cubs agreement, athletic director Jim Phillips suggested the Cats’ fan base in the Chicago area has gone up 49 percent in the last three years, a result of how NU has found unique ways to market itself to a professional sports market.

“We’ll always be the tiny private school in the Big Ten,” Phillips said at the press conference. “That’s not going to change. That becomes a challenge. So for us, we have to do innovative things, we have to do creative things.”

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About the Writer
Josh Walfish, Sports Editor

Josh Walfish was Sports editor of The Daily. His past positions include Gameday editor. He is from Rockville, Md., and has interned for RantSports.