CHICAGO–Was able to squeeze in my first visit to Wrigley Field in about four years on a trip to the Windy City and it was both comforting and a little discomforting to see that everything remains the same at the old ballyard.
Comforting because that’s what we expect from Wrigley Field, that it is the same place that it has been for a century, like a visit to the old neighborhood where you grew up. Discomforting because I looked the old structure over with a more critical eye in the midst of the latest ongoing Cubs management vs. rooftop owners feud over expansion and modernization.
And I definitely landed in the middle of the debate. The most humorous aspect of it being that the Wednesday morning Chicago Tribune ran the results of a poll taken with fans about which side they are on. The answer? A lot of people didn’t care which side prevailed and otherwise the vote was split. It was just like a real election where the voters don’t really want anybody to win.
To recap, the Ricketts family (Tom Ricketts chairman) that owns the team is telling the world it can’t compete without new streams of revenue, but they, like everyone else, wish to maintain the character of Wrigley Field. The big beef with the owners of the buildings across the street, who have been feasting upon the product by selling roof seats for years, is that the introduction of a large videoboard might block their customers’ views.
Beyond that the Ricketts have grand plans for the immediate neighborhood surrounding the park. They want to put up a major, modern hotel and sell a bit of advertising signage. Different Chicago zoning committees and the like will all have their say on this. But from the standpoint of a fan at a game Wednesday night as the Cubs bested the Colorado Rockies, 6-3, I was reminded that Wrigley is the toughest park to be in that I know of to find information about not only the game you are watching, but from around the majors.
That’s where the idea of a new videoboard comes in. That would provide much of the info–as well as another place for advertising. If the character of the ballpark is to remain the same that means preserving the ivy on the outfield walls. So you can’t cover the ivy with a videoboard. That means you’ve got to build the board higher than the grandstands–and that’s where the rooftop owner complaints come in.
I was accompanied to this game by my cousin David, who has only moved to Chicago within the last year. This was his first visit inside the park and during the game he actually took a two-inning walkabout to explore every bit of it he could see. He reported back that he felt there wasn’t a bad seat in the house and he really liked the flavor. As everyone does. That’s why it’s the near-impossible task of the Ricketts to keep everyone happy, make prudent and necessary changes, and bring in more money.
Back at the game…the Cubs are not going anywhere this year, but it seems that at least they are a notch better than the Houston Astros and the Miami Marlins. They did make two major base-running blunders that could have been more costly than they were. Starter Jeff Samardzija fixed things. Samardzjia not only pitched very well and got the win, but he blasted a two-run homer that carried nearly 400 feet. Given that he was hitting .071 that was a gift.
With one stroke Samardzjia saved himself. Tom Ricketts wishes he could solve the Wrigley issues with the same ease.