Wrigley Rebuild

Wrigley Field 1060 Project is a 5-phase $575 million renovation plan. Chicago Tribune reported in July of 2014 that $375 million were for the stadium overhaul and $200 million for surrounding areas, including a hotel, an office building, and the plaza. Phase one started in the 2014-2015 off season and phase five completed during the 2018-2019 off season. The vision for the Chicago Cubs organization was to “ensure the viability of the ballpark for future generations of Cubs fans, while preserving the beauty, charm and historic features fans have come to know and love.” Photos were taken during phases one and two.

Phase one visit on October of 2014:

With the exception of the scoreboard beyond center field and its supporting structure, the surrounding bleachers along right field and left field were completely demolished and removed, making way for the design of a new infrastructure that completely rethinks the use of space behind the ivy. The cold days of fall in Chicago are also short, as the sun starts to set 4:30-5:00pm. Not only is it a challenge to see the work in progress, it’s a challenge do get it done in a busy timeline. Both Sheffield and Waveland Avenues were fenced off to the side walk across the street. Cautions were taken to protect the brick wall that is traditionally covered in the iconic ivy that we all associate with Wrigley Field. Something universally true about a renovation plan of this scale is that every step of the way is critical, a path if you will. But this was an especially fragile part of an otherwise crude site, as the only thing supporting the freestanding brick wall during construction was a system of forms and braces. Meanwhile, huge holes were bored into the ground for improved foundations, not to mentioned all the secondary vibrations from the heavy equipment. The braces in the photos represent the back of that iconic ivy-covered wall. The only elements still visible were the manual score board behind center field that towered over the ground where bleachers once stood, waiting out the frigid winter with short days to rebuild its bleachers.

The weather created delays from the beginning that would complicate the start of the 2015 regular season. Installation of some 5,000 missing seats wear eventually completed in May of 2015. Aside from making state of the art accommodations, the newly reconfigured bleachers would house the new bullpen locations under the bleachers and give every visitor a great view of the game regardless of where he or she is sitting. By the end of phase three, the iconic bullpen locations along the foul lines would also be gone.

Phase two visit on April of 2016:

Taking the official Wrigley Field Tour on another cold Tuesday morning to see the recent changes. This was somewhere midpoint of the five-phase timeline. Future tours will allow more access to all new areas after construction is complete. Due to work in progress, the clubhouse was not available for touring. Overall, the upgrades were seamless with the historic elements of ballpark. A walk through the hallways under the bleachers was especially interesting, an up-close look at a re-purposed space. It was surreal to listen to the tour guide discussing life in the Wrigleyville neighborhood during the 1970’s and 1980s, like something from urban legend. Hearing the tour was like thinking out loud. For anyone who grew up in Chicago, Wrigley Field is the story of us. From the “Bleacher Bums” who all knew each other, going to the home games all summer watching their cubbies, to the guys on the corner of Waveland Avenue & Kenmore Avenue who would all claim a part of that corner to catch the home run ball on game day, we all have a story about Wrigley Field, where we’ve been there or not. “As you look out to the buildings across the street, you will see that most of them have rooftop bleachers available for rental with Wrigley Rooftops,” she said. As I remembered how rare it was to see someone on the roof back in the day, she quickly mentioned that it wasn’t always like this.

This ballpark first opened in 1914 as the home of the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. Chicago Cubs first played here in 1916. The evolution of Wrigley Field has been one rebuild after another over the years. Yet, there is still a timeless connection to this ballpark once known as Weeghman Park. Like the history of baseball that’s been played here, it’s been the mark of time.

Next Year is Here

Detroit Tigers @ Chicago White Sox

2012 Regular Season. Chicago White Sox host Detroit Tigers at US Cellular Field on the South Side of Chicago, their first home game of the new year. It’s a great time of year. Those up north can take a break from the long winter and breath in renewed hope for the new season. On Opening Day, everyone is in first place. Its theirs to lose. For the rest of us hopeless fans, It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Next year is here.

Recently minted 25-man rosters hit the floor running and can go from weathering the climatic shock of the beaming grapefruit or cactus hot sun to working the layers of thermals, stretching, and warming up in more ways than one. The weather during game time held near 65 degrees.

It’s Opening Day on Friday the 13th which is ironic in the baseball world of superstition. On this day, an estimated 38,676 paid. When prices at the ticket window are $75.00 for standing room only, you get in the Chicago way, or the second market. Lots of people not at work here, controlled chaos. The crowd was elbow to elbow, like a scene at your friendly neighborhood nightclub. although the drunk and obnoxious may outnumber the bouncers if something breaks out. It’s “Sweet Home Chicago” no less.

For the most part, Chicago White Sox start the season on the road before settling into the south side. The first game ever played here at US Cellular Field was also against the Detroit Tigers in the 1991 inaugural year, when it was Comiskey Park II. You won’t see that game in any Chicago White Sox highlight reels. Detroit Tigers massed 19 hits and scored 16 unanswered runs. On a good note, Chicago White Sox had some winning moments, later in the nineties, to drown that day out.

2012 was the first year without Ozzie Guillen as Chicago White Sox Manager. He and former White Sox teammate Robin Ventura have a side game of career jeopardy throughout the season. Ozzie Guillen jumped ship, as skipper, to accept the manager position with the newly rebranded Miami Marlins. White sox granted him a release from the one year remaining in his contract, within a couple of days, the news came out, leaked by Ozzie Guillen, that he would be heading for South Beach, departing before the start of the final 3-game homestand in the 2011 season with the Toronto Blue Jays Apparently it was part of a marketing campaign to stage Ozzie’s arrival in south Florida and to usher in a new era. Pitching Coach Don Cooper managed the last three games for the Chicago White Sox.

Former White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura was enjoying retirement life with his family in his oceanfront property in California when Owner Jerry Reinsdorf and President Kenny Williams came knocking on his door, during the off-season, to pre-emptively offer him the job as Chicago White Sox Manager. Meanwhile, the party at South Beach would take a hard turn when Ozzie Guillen made comments favorable to Fidel Castro during 2012 spring camp that infuriated the Cuban-American community in South Florida. In Chicago, he would probably get a little shade at most. In Miami, its equal to hugging the third rail. That was the beginning of the end for the Miami Marlins. A sequence of controversial moves from the front office led to a mid-season free agency yard sale and Ozzie Guillen’s dismissal of his duties when the season ended. Robin Ventura was busy with the growing pains of his new position while steering his team to a record of 85-77. After constant pushback for his laid-back demeanor and the upcoming losing seasons, he eventually saw the writing on the wall and ended his tenure in 2016.     

So, what is the name of that park on the south side? Like other naming rights arrangements, it’s a series of shameless bids focused on the highest bidder as opposed to the ring tone of a pronoun mounted over the main entrance. From 2003 to 2016, the name was US Cellular Field. Now, it’s come down to the current “Guaranteed Rate Field.” Maybe it was a good payout but the red arrow on the logo that points down is not good optics, the most out-of-touch signage. But, the good people at Miami Marlins organization said “hold my beer,” securing naming rights this year with loanDepot. They have dropped big money to enter the world of baseball. They will also be sponsoring award presentations and are the official mortgage company of Major League Baseball.   

Opening day this year is on April 8th to start a 3-game home stand against the Kansas City Royals. They started on the road again for a 4-game set with Anaheim Angels. Chicago White Sox come into the 2021 season as an off-season winner. They were busy on the hot stove making additions to put them in the post season conversation. And, there’s another familiar face at the manager position in Tony LaRussa to keep things controversial as usual. Sometimes, bad guys wear black.

Days of Wrigleyville

Washington Nationals @ Chicago Cubs.

2010 Regular Season at Wrigley Field to meet an old friend and to catch a game in the old neighborhood. I had a great childhood in the 1970’s, many good memories of living so close to the “Friendly Confines.” At one point, my family lived in a third floor apartment on Shefield Avenue, literally across the street from Wrigley Field, behind the right field bleachers. We could see the game from our living room window, everything except the right fielder who we could not see because of the bleachers. I had the good fortune, like some of the other kids in the neighborhood, to make my first money selling parking spots or souvenirs, among other jobs, for local businesses. Once in a while, I’d be lucky enough to get in and see the game for free. My first visit to a Major League Baseball (MLB) game was at Wrigley Field. I just don’t know when that was. Its like trying to remember when you first learned to walk. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the game of baseball. This was my back yard. I also thought it was awesome to live in a city with two MLB Teams. Believe it or not, my interest in baseball didn’t allow me to notice the Cubs-White Sox rivalry until I was 20 years old, when I first visited Old Comiskey Park. In the 1980’s (before inter-league play), the Cubs and the White Sox started to play an exhibition game once a year. That was my crash course into the feud. 

This is the only remaining MLB Park where Jackie Robinson once played, the second oldest Major League Baseball Park (behind Fenway Park 1912), the called shot by Babe Ruth in the 1932 World Series. This was where my sense of history was born. When you walk into Wrigley Field, its timeless. The green of the grass and its architectural marvel stirs the same feelings those fans had in 1914, when this park first opened. Back then, there was also the Federal League and a third team in Chicago named the Whales. They called this home. The Cubs were still at West Side Park where they played the 1908 World Series. Looking back, its hard to believe that the first night game in Wrigley Field was in 1988. Apparently, Cubs Owner P.K. Wrigley bought and stored equipment for lights under the bleachers. He had plans to install lights in February of 1942. But, the equipment would be donated to the war effort in December of 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor. For the next 46 years, lights were never a viable option for the Cubs.

These images were taken in 2010, five years before the multi phase construction and renovations that started in 2015. In 2009, The Ricketts Family purchased the Cubs from the Tribune Group for $900 million. Their vision was to restore a winning tradition. Capital improvements included a Sheraton Hotel, an office building, a plaza outside, subterranean clubhouse expansion, bleacher expansion, etc. In fact, the only elements left standing are the grandstand, the scoreboard, and the iconic outfield wall. The bleachers had recently been expanded just to give way to more progress. For better or for worst, the physical landscape of Wrigleyville has changed. With the World Championship of 2016, the Cubs Organization has enjoyed a renaissance era. This land, originally owned by the Lutheran Theological Seminary in 1891, was perhaps sacred from the beginning. Their fans are a testament of what having faith means.