On Friday March 29, the University of Illinois football team held a practice at Gaitling Stadium in Chicago. On September 14 the Illini will host Washington at Soldier Field in Chicago. Both events are part of athletic director Mike Thomas’ efforts for Illinois to have a larger share of the Chicago market. It makes sense to do it. The largest percentage the university’s student body still comes from the six county Chicago area. If you make those kids Illinois fans when they are 10, 11, and 12 years old. They’ll be more likely to buy tickets when they get to the University. Illinois has played basketball at the United Center ever since the place was built in the mid 1990s. There is no doubt that that event has created a fan base for the basketball team. Chicago is also the place for the largest group of Illinois alumni in the country. So, having a Chicago presence is a good thing where they’re concerned as well. On top of that, several high school recruits attended the practice as well. In short, making Chicago a priority can be a real benefit to the Illinois football program.