Soldier Field to Host Illinois-Northwestern Games in 2015, 2017, and 2019

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CHAMPAIGN, Illinois (Fighting Illini Athletics) – The Fighting Illini football team is set to return to historic Soldier Field for a three-game series beginning in 2015, Director of Athletics Mike Thomas announced Monday.

In 2015, Illinois will play Northwestern at Soldier Field on Nov. 28, in a game originally scheduled for Memorial Stadium in Champaign. In addition to the 2015 date, the Fighting Illini will play the Wildcats at Soldier Field in 2017 and 2019. Illinois hosted Washington at Soldier Field in 2013.

“It's exciting to seize the opportunity to further engage our incredible number of Illinois alumni and fans in the Chicagoland area with these three football games coming to Soldier Field,” Thomas said. “As the flagship university in the state we are committed to all Fighting Illini, and as part of that mindset, we will continue to bring a variety of athletics events to Chicago where we have the largest alumni base of any Big Ten institution.

“By taking these Thanksgiving weekend games to Soldier Field, we will provide a great environment for our student-athletes, fans and students who are already in the Chicagoland area for the holiday, and it becomes a destination game for all Fighting Illini fans. Ending the regular season at a historical site and one of the best stadiums in the world will make for a big-time event for our student-athletes and will be a great springboard for our football program into the postseason. Recruits want to experience greatness, and this is the latest in a long line of connections between the dominant football brands in our state that start with the earliest days of the NFL with Halas and Grange, and stretch through Butkus, Caroline, and many other former Illini through the decades."

Football fans will be able to enjoy tailgating opportunities and a special Chicago-style Street Fest are located just outside Soldier Field for fans and alumni to enjoy a day full of activities at the historic home of the Chicago Bears. More details on pregrame activities available for fans attending the game will be forthcoming.

"We plan to offer our season-ticket holders ­at Memorial Stadium a special ticket price for this game, while also providing a wide-range of ticket prices for different areas of the stadium,” Thomas said. “The feedback from the fans who attended our game there in 2013 was extremely positive, and we will be working to provide a great game-day atmosphere for our fans and players.”

The City of Chicago and Chicago Park District are solidly behind this agreement.

"I'm pleased that the Fighting Illini will be returning to Chicago, providing an opportunity for players, coaches, students, fans and Chicago alumni to gather in the country's greatest and most-spirited sports city,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “From the NFL draft to the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship tournament, Chicago is solidifying its position as a first-class sports and tourism destination.”

“College football is a great part of the legend of Soldier Field and this series builds on its history of hosting first-class college football at the historic stadium and in Chicago,” said Michael Kelly, General Superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District. "From hosting the annual College All-Star game to former collegiate champions such as USC, Notre Dame, NIU and, of course, the Fighting Illini, we are very proud that Soldier Field continues to be a significant venue in the history of collegiate football. These games will provide college football enthusiasts with an extraordinary venue as the site of this exciting rivalry."

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