SBD/May 28, 2014/Facilities

Cubs Unveil New Renovation Plan With Added $75M Price Tag, New Bullpen Location

Bullpens will be relocated underneath a revamped bleachers section
The Cubs yesterday unveiled new images for Wrigley Field upgrades, with the club now saying the project will cost $375M, an increase of $75M over previous estimates. The team has put a renewed focus on three aspects of revenue generation -- constructing hundreds of new seats, five more premium clubs and seven new outfield signs at the 100-year-old facility. A big piece of the project involves relocating the original bullpens down the foul lines to newly protected, climate-controlled spaces underneath a revamped bleachers section. New seats will occupy the old bullpen spaces. Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said the bleachers were most recently upgraded in ’06, but now they will most likely be torn up again to clear space for the relocated bullpens. Kenney added moving the bullpens is something the Cubs players want, in part because the existing bullpens factor into the field of play and become a safety issue for infielders and outfielders chasing fly balls down the foul lines. Currently, Wrigley Field and AT&T Park are the only MLB parks with bullpens fully visible to the fans. In Chicago, the bullpens are part of the ballpark’s charm and for many years have provided a unique connection between season-ticket holders and the relievers sitting along the walls next to those seats. Kenney: “I know some of those fans loved the idea of being able to reach out and touch a player. Like everything else going on at Wrigley, there will be multiple opinions on these changes.” Other projects inside the park will ramp up after the ‘14 season. Kenney said the Cubs are targeting ‘18 for the completion of all upgrades (Don Muret, Staff Writer). 

FIELD OF DREAMS? Kenney noted that the new renovation plan would "add only five seats to the ballpark’s capacity." Cubs VP/Ballpark Operations Carl Rice added that the relocation of the on-field bullpens "would force the Cubs to expand the outfield doors in both areas." Kenney said that it would "not affect the ivy, though there will be some loss to the brick wall so relievers can see out of the bullpens." In Chicago, Paul Sullivan notes the Cubs by the All-Star break in mid-July plan to "break ground on the plaza to begin construction of a 30,000-square-foot underground clubhouse, which Kenney said is not expected to be completed" until the '16 season. He said that the two video boards in the outfield "would be ready for opening day next year." The players' part of the clubhouse would be "built under the proposed plaza in the 'triangle' area west of the ballpark, while new video rooms, batting tunnels and a training room would be next to the remodeled dugout." Kenney said that it would be the "second largest clubhouse in baseball behind the home clubhouse in new Yankee Stadium" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/28). Also in Chicago, Susan Carlson noted the Cubs want to "add 300 more seats to the Budweiser bleachers and new outfield lighting to eliminate shadows on fly balls, which has long been a complaint by players" (NBCCHICAGO.com, 5/27). 

DON'T POKE THE BEAR: In Chicago, Fran Spielman notes Kenney yesterday "renewed" Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts' threat made last year to leave Wrigley Field "with a new wrinkle -- another site in Chicago -- when asked what the Cubs would do if rooftop club owners succeed in blocking the influx of outfield signs." Kenney: “If we don’t control our ballpark, then we have to look at other options and we would work with the city on that. ... We would first look in the city. That would be what would happen, but those conversations have not occurred at any level. ... Everyone believes this project is moving forward." Kenney said that the Cubs have "worked hand-in-glove with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration in recent months to develop the scorched earth plan that includes seven outfield signs, including two video scoreboards and literally dares rooftop club owners to sue" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/28).
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