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Wrigley Field and Northwestern Athletics forming a strong relationship

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 18: A general view east end zone goalpost mounted right field wall as Northwestern Wildcats practice for

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 18: A general view of the east end zone and a goalpost mounted to the right field wall as the Northwestern Wildcats practice for a game against the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday November 20 at Wrigley Field on November 18, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\GYI0062520458.jpg

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The Cubs plan to paint their iconic marquee purple, at least metaphorically, twice a year after announcing a unique partnership with Northwestern on Tuesday.

The Wildcats will play up to five football games on the corner of Clark and Addison. Wrigley Field also will host Northwestern baseball, lacrosse and other sports as part of a flexible five-year partnership that includes reciprocal marketing.

“It has become clear there’s a lot of things we can do together,” Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney said. “Not just football games, but extensions from classrooms to boardrooms to weight rooms. Our organizations have really embraced each other.”

A renovation of Wrigley Field will allow for a regulation football field, which wasn’t the case when Northwestern and Illinois played in the Friendly Confines in 2010.

The Big Ten decided before that game to use only one end zone for offense because of safety concerns. NCAA rules mandate there must be adequate space surrounding the playing surface, and the east end zone was within a few feet of the right-field wall.

Although Kenney said the Cubs have a short-term solution that includes moving a ­dugout roof, which would allow for a ­12-foot perimeter around the field, satisfying NCAA requirements, it’s doubtful the Wildcats will play at Wrigley Field in 2013.

The addition of Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten complicates future schedules. Ongoing Wrigley renovations also make 2014 a more reasonable target date. The games will be played in November, after the Cubs’ season ends.

The Northwestern baseball team will host Michigan at Wrigley Field on April 20, the seven-time national-champion women’s lacrosse team will play there in 2014 and other sports will follow.

“This will be our home game and we will select who we play against,” Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips said when asked if Illinois could be an annual football opponent.

“There’s not going to be any school we just write in and say we’re going to play them every year in the place. We want different opponents, honestly.”

It’s the new business partnership between the team and the university that has Northwestern officials claiming this is the first partnership of its kind.

As part of the deal, Northwestern will have an ongoing marketing presence at Wrigley Field while making athletic and educational facilities available to the Cubs.

The Kellogg School of Management is currently developing a curriculum for growth and development of Cubs employees and Northwestern student-athletes are interning with the Cubs.

“The Chicagoland area is a crowded marketplace,” Phillips said. “We have to do innovative things. We have to do creative things. We have to get Chicago sports fans to adopt Northwestern.”



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