Now that we know that it is possible to play a championship game of football outside in the cold elements, the idea is one that seems to be gaining traction in cold weather cities. Hosting a Super Bowl is the biggest ticket there is in the football world, but hosting a college football championship or a conference championship is not all that bad of a gig either. With Chicago making a push to one day host a Super Bowl, perhaps the Windy City could become a more ideal destination for the Big Ten Championship Game as well.
According to Pro Football Talk, Chicago is reviewing plans to potentially add 5,000 seats to Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears. The goal would be to make Soldier Field an attractive venue for a potential Super Bowl by increasing the seating capacity to a more desirable number for the NFL. But hey, if the whole Super Bowl thing does not work out, the Big Ten Championship Game could make a nice home in Soldier Field. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has suggested the conference is not glued to Indianapolis and that rotating between cities could be an option down the line. If that is the case, Chicago would easily be one of the top targets. The Big Ten is based in Chicago and can easily serve as the central point for the entire conference even with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers this year. The biggest obstacle in place would be the NFL schedule. Because Chicago has a natural grass field, hosting an extra game not involving the home town Bears does come with some mild concerns, but there are a number of stadiums that serve dual purposes for the NFL and college football even with a natural turf (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Tampa for example), so it can be done, especially for just one game.
The first three Big Ten Championship Games have been held in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The ability to host the game under a roof is an attraction for the Big Ten, but it takes the conference away from what is supposed to differentiate Big Ten football from other brands. Games being played in the elements in the fall are supposed to be what makes the Big Ten different, but playing the championship game inside gets away from the typical Big Ten image.
In 2012 the game attracted just 41,260 fans and in the first year the Big Ten was accused of paying people to fill seats. Last fall the Big Ten Championship Game welcomed 66,002 fans to watch Michigan State upset undefeated Ohio State. Would moving the game outdoor sin a larger city, that is supposedly much more convenient to travel to, have an impact on the future ticket sales of the game? Perhaps not as much as the game’s participants and the fan bases they would bring with them.
Ohio State will help pack the stadium no matter where the game is played. Michigan will as well. Perhaps Illinois or Northwestern would do their part if the game was played in Chicago, but there is evidence that would argue otherwise.