MIKE NIETO: Will Toyota Park make a play for state football in 2013?

2011-06-30T22:00:00Z 2013-02-09T21:26:32Z MIKE NIETO: Will Toyota Park make a play for state football in 2013?By Mike Nieto Times Columnist nwitimes.com
June 30, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

Kevin Spudic would like to see Illinois' state football finals in the Chicago area.

The former Highland High School and Valparaiso University baseball star, who is director of business development for Toyota Park, said he will make a bid to the Illinois High School Association for the Bridgeview stadium to host the IHSA state finals in 2013. Spudic thinks Toyota Park has a chance to host the finals, at least for classes 5A through 8A.

Because the Big Ten expands from 11 to 12 teams, it will have conference games on Thanksgiving weekend, the same weekend as the state finals. The IHSA has used the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium since 1999. In alternating years, starting in 2013, the Fighting Illini will be at home.

"I think we have the right capacity (20,000 seats) because we are not too big and we are located off of (Interstates) 294 and 55," Spudic said. "I think we have a good place and we would love the opportunity."

Toyota Park has hosted football, and Spudic said he would like to have an NCAA Division II contest come to Bridgeview. It hosts the Catholic League championship game and has been the site of a few regular-season games involving Catholic League teams.

"I know if they choose to split the venues, we could host the 5A and up because most of those schools are in the Chicago area," Spudic said. "I don't know if the IHSA would want to split the venues."

It did back in the 1980s, when the then-six-class system had the Class 1A through 4A games at Hancock Stadium in Normal and the 5A and 6A contests at Northwestern's Dyche Stadium (now Ryan Field).

IHSA assistant commissioner Craig Anderson said the organization will be looking at several options.

"We don't know if we are going to have all the games at one place or split them," he told me a few weeks ago. "With Toyota Park having natural grass, if we have all eight games at one place, that would be a concern as far as how the field could hold up."

The chosen venue would also need to have enough locker room space for the teams to change, something of which Spudic is already aware.

"We would have to find enough space if we had eight games in two days," he said.

I don't think Toyota Park can host all eight games for the above-mentioned reasons, but for three or four games, it is doable. Rain might present a problem given the stadium's playing surface, but the venue has great sight lines and is an excellent place to watch a sporting event or concert.

Whether or not the site is chosen, one cannot blame Spudic for pushing his stadium. It would likely draw a few more people who just want to watch the state finals, but don't feel like driving downstate.

Not to be ignored, either, is the fact that 10,000 or 12,000 fans in a 20,000-seat stadium looks pretty good. 

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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