Earlier this morning, the Illinois athletic department announced an agreement to play Northwestern at Soldier Field in three of the next five years. The first game at the home of the Chicago Bears will be on Nov. 28, 2015, and both teams will meet again at the venue in 2017 and 2019.
Interestingly, it is Illinois that is sacrificing its true home games to instead play at a neutral site. It's reasonable to expect big crowds though, as many Illinois alumni and, of course, Northwestern alumni, call Chicago home. Though Soldier Field is much closer to Northwestern than it is to Urbana-Champaign, the crowd at these games will likely be more orange than purple — the attraction of a game in downtown Chicago is an enticing Thanksgiving vacation for Illini fans.
In addition, the Northwestern-Illinois game has traditionally been both teams' last games of the season, often taking place over Thanksgiving break. Thus, attendance hasn't been the greatest, as many students are home for the holiday and the weather is already leaning toward winter conditions by late November. So playing this game at Soldier field actually makes a lot of sense.
These games will likely be nationally televised, which is a bonus for both teams. It should also add some extra life into the Illinois-Northwestern rivalry, as Illinois fans have taken offense to Northwestern's self-proclaimed status as Chicago's Big Ten Team. What better way to settle the score than to play the annual game in the heart of Chicago?