SBD/April 23, 2014/Facilities

Wrigley At 100: Ballpark Remains One Of Ultimate MLB Cathedrals, But Changes Coming

Wrigley Field remains one of Chicago's most popular tourist destinations
Wrigley Field turns 100 years old today with its "status as one of baseball's ultimate cathedrals secure," according to Nick Piecoro in a special to USA TODAY. Wrigley's "appeal has always been in the day-to-day moments of the game ... rather than its jewel events." The park has had its "share of changes over the years, though none has altered the feel too dramatically." Compared with other MLB parks, Wrigley "still has a different vibe, a slower pace," and it "still might be the most intimate park" in the league (USA TODAY, 4/23). In Chicago, Paul Sullivan notes Wrigley has undergone changes through the years, but "whether the alterations have added to the ballpark's charm is up to each fan to decide." It remains one of Chicago's "most popular tourist destinations despite the performance of its tenants" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/23). Also in Chicago, Rick Telander writes, "The world is modern; Wrigley isn’t. Every day that goes by and Wrigley stays old and tiny, the place becomes more special" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/23). CHICAGO TRIBUNE architecture columnist Blair Kamin writes the ballpark is a "quintessential Chicago building: practical, quietly graceful, a creature of function, not fashion." It is a "timeless, flexible beauty" and "brings you close to the action" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/23). MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" broadcast live from Wrigley this morning, and co-host Willie Geist said, "If you come to visit this ballpark, it lives up to that 100 years of history. It’s such a great, beautiful place and you feel all those ghosts in here” ("Morning Joe," MSNBC, 4/23).

SIGN OF THE TIMES: The AP's Don Babwin notes the Cubs are "hoping to add a massive video scoreboard to Wrigley as early as next year in what would be the biggest renovation at Wrigley since lights were installed more than a quarter-century ago." The plan has "stirred plenty of opposition, with many wondering if modern electronics will rob some of the mystique that surrounds the venerable ballpark." The lack of a video scoreboard is a "glaring reminder that the Cubs have some catching up to do." That is "even more obvious this year" with MLB's new replay system. However, many fans are worried that the Cubs' "embrace of technology could change the atmosphere at the friendly confines for the worse." They want to "see the park as they imagine past generations saw it" (AP, 4/23). SI.com's Tim Newcomb noted Cubs VP/Ballpark Operations Carl Rice "doesn't think the nature of the stadium will actually change much" with the renovations. Rice: "As one of the members of the team overseeing the renovations, our goal is to make sure when fans walk into the ballpark, it is the same look and feel." Rice said that the proximity of seats to home plate, the "cozy atmosphere of the tight upper deck hanging over the field and much of the early 1900s charm won’t go away." He added that the original look of the park -- "arches in the upper deck, trusses in the lower deck -- will tie in nicely with any renovations." Meanwhile, Rice is "eager to ditch the nasty chain-link fence that circles the concourses, visible from the exterior and interior, bringing back historic ornate ironwork that was there in the 1930s" (SI.com, 4/22).
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