SBJ/February 27-March 5, 2017/Facilities

Next up for the Cubs, Populous, as architect gets the call for remaining renovations at Wrigley Field

The Chicago Cubs have rehired seasoned MLB architect Populous to design the remaining renovations to Wrigley Field.

The Kansas City design firm joins a group that has been working on stadium upgrades over the past seven years, including D’Agostino Izzo Quirk Architects, the Boston architect tied to Fenway Park improvements, said Crane Kenney, the Cubs’ president of business operations.

Populous returns to familiar ground on the North Side. The company designed Wrigley’s bleacher expansion in 2006 before their reconstruction two years ago, as well as new premium seats behind home plate and down the first- and third-base lines.

Similar to the bleachers, those premium seats are being replaced as part of an extensive makeover of the 103-year-old facility whose cost now stands at $550 million, Kenney said.

Crews work on what will become the American Airlines 1914 Club behind home plate.

Over the next three years, Populous will complete the design of the new American Airlines 1914 Club behind home plate, two additional clubs down the foul lines on the main concourse and a club in the upper deck, plus suite renovations and concessions improvements.

This offseason, construction crews dug a giant hole 30 feet below the grandstands, a space stretching between the dugouts, to build the new home plate club. The seating deck has been repoured and most of the 600 new seats associated with the club will be in place for the coming season. The old dugouts were moved a bit further down the foul lines, and the bullpens have been relocated underneath the bleachers.

The all-inclusive club and its 7,200-square-foot lounge are scheduled to open for the 2018 season. In January, the Cubs announced season tickets start at $440 a game for the home plate club.

All other Wrigley upgrades, including the three other clubs, will be finished by Opening Day 2020, the year the Cubs hope to play host to the MLB All-Star Game, Kenney said. No decision has been made on that year’s game, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said last week.

The Wrigley restoration has been a long journey. Back in 2001, Populous formed the initial master plan for renovations when Tribune Co. owned the team. Those plans were tweaked after the Ricketts family bought the Cubs in 2009 and brought in a new group of architects, including DAIQ, unpaid consultant Janet Marie Smith and local firms VOA and Harboe Architects.

In the early stages of renovations, the focus was primarily on structural improvements and engineering work, Kenney said. After those jobs were completed a few years ago, the Cubs turned their attention to bringing Populous back to design the new premium spaces.

VOA did the initial concept work for the home plate club, said Joe Spear, Populous’ principal-in-charge at Wrigley. Moving ahead, Mark Palmer, who designed the old bleacher renovations, and Steve Rohlfing are part of the Populous team in Chicago, Spear said.

Populous has designed more than 20 MLB parks. Its newest project, the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park, opens March 30 with an exhibition game against the Yankees. The firm also designed Sloan Park, the Cubs’ new spring training facility in Arizona that opened in 2014.

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