SBD/April 4, 2014/Facilities

Wrigley Field Celebrates 100 Years As Venue Balances Historic Preservation, Innovation

Wrigley's renovation will preserve or restore much of the ballpark's exterior
The Cubs' home opener on Friday launches the "centennial celebration for Wrigley Field, one of only two major league ballparks to reach its 100th birthday," according to Ted Gregory of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Wrigley offers "views and an ambience unlikely to be found in any other city." But the culture at Wrigley "may be about to experience change." The $500M renovation plan calls for "modernized fan amenities, including expanded concessions, restrooms and concourses and a 5,700-square-foot video board in left field." Cubs VP/Communications & Community Affairs Julian Green said that the plan also would "preserve or restore much of the exterior of the ballpark," and include "clay tile roofs, ornamental grilles and projecting ticket booths." It is a mix of "historic preservation and innovation, that delicate balance Wrigley has struggled with for decades" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/4). In Chicago, Paul Sullivan notes the Ricketts family, which owns the team, spent last year "complaining they were tired of being treated 'like a museum' instead of a business," so the owners in '14 "opted to go rogue ... making Wrigley look more like a museum than a ballpark." The Cubs created "giant banners of eight numbers -- '1-9-1-4' and '2-0-1-4' -- and plastered them on Wrigley's front facade at Clark and Addison Streets." Above those banners is "a long, horizontal banner reading 'IT'S THE PARTY OF THE CENTURY' in capital letters." Several banners showing the "official Wrigley 100 logo are displayed on the outer walls of the distinctive upper deck archways, and six large banners denoting the history of the Cubs' logo are hung outside right field near the statues" of Baseball HOFers Billy Williams and Ron Santo. The "final touch was displays of old Wrigley photos, attached to the old brick outfield walls outside the bleachers." Sullivan: "If you don't understand what product they are selling, you are not paying attention" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/4).

CELEBRATE WE WILL: MLB.com's Phil Rogers noted the Cubs have "lots of cool promotions planned, including a Chicago Federals jersey giveaway on April 23, the 100th anniversary of the Feds' win over the Kansas City Packers in the first baseball game ever at the ballpark, and bobbleheads to commemorate [Ernie] Banks, Joe Tinker, Gale Sayers, Red Grange and even Babe Ruth's 'Called Shot'" (MLB.com, 4/3). In Chicago, Josh Noel noted Goose Island, the city's "longest-tenured beer maker," will be "abundant at Clark and Addison this season for the first time." Until now, craft beer "has been rare at Wrigley Field, leading to a reputation as having one of baseball's least interesting beer selections." The addition of Goose Island "gives the stadium one of its most diverse beer menus in recent years." Both Budweiser and Bud Light will continue to be available from vendors." Wrigley also will launch its "most ambitious cocktail menu to date" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/31).

ONE STEP AHEAD: The AP's Babwin & Seligman wrote it is "hard to think of Wrigley Field as anything but a place of heartbreak." Yet in the "century without a championship, the ballpark has been in first time and time again in changing the way America watches baseball." It was the first to "let fans keep foul balls." The first with "permanent concession stands." The first "with organ music." The first to "clean the park and broadcast games as part of an effort to diversify the fan base and attract women and their kids to a game traditionally more popular among men." But author Stuart Shea said that more important is that the ballpark was "built with an eye to the future: It could be retrofitted and expanded, something that was considered genius" (AP, 3/31).
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