What The Friendly Confines Needs
(and Doesn't Need)
I have been somewhat following the Wrigley Field renovation plans and to a point I don’t argue with some of the things that are needed. The Cubs probably could use accessible batting cages and better locker rooms, although I doubt that’s much of a draw for free agents.
But as a traveling fan, and as a huge fan of Wrigley, I’m more interested in how the Wrigley experience can be improved for the fan. I could argue that it doesn’t need to be improved and that it’s as good as it gets for a fan, but I also think Fenway Park has been tremendously improved with their recent renovation, so I’m not going to complain if some things are added.
As such, here are some things I think could improve the fan experience at the Friendly Confines, in no particular order:
An Upper Concourse. I suppose it’s part of the charm at Wrigley that to get to the upper level, one must travel up ramps behind the Terrace level seating and that you can actually see the field from portions of the ramp. But for the moment Wrigley does not have an upper concourse; only a patio behind home plate and a few areas with bathrooms and hot dog stands. Traversing the upper level must mostly be done in the seating area.
Adding concourse space in the upper level, with bathrooms and concessions, would not only make it a bit more convenient for people in the upper level to find a bathroom or a hot dog, but it should reduce the congestion on the lower level concourse, where there is a much more varied selection of food and souvenirs. Not that it’s overly awful, but it could be better.
Closing Off Sheffield and/or Waveland Avenue During Games. The Red Sox did this with Yawkey Way in Boston, and it works marvelously; not only is there a pre-game area with a street entertainment feel and a sense of baseball-friendly tradition, it also significantly reduces concourse traffic, which was a major problem in Fenway pre-renovation.
It would be trickier to do in Chicago than in Boston. Murphy’s Bleachers, one of the most popular Wrigleyville establishments, is on Sheffield across the street from the ballpark. Would that be part of it? What about the Rooftops? Also, the bucket bangers play their buckets on Sheffield Avenue, I believe, and I wouldn’t want to kick them out; they’re as much a part of the Wrigley experience as the ivy as far as I’m concerned.
But I’m sure it could be done, and the Cubs could make some Chicago staple foods available on the street—Chicago dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, deep dish pizza. Someone say deep dish pizza? Go for it.
A Local Favorite Restaurant Attached. I don’t have anything against the United Club or the Captain Morgan Club, but both of them are national entities and you can find their logos at practically every ballpark in the country. The Sheffield Grill has some cool things like the Stan Burger, but it’s really tight in that joint.
A real boost to a Chicago institution like Wrigley would be a Chicago institution of a restaurant…like Lou Malnati’s, Pizzeria Uno, the Billy Goat Tavern, or Al’s Italian Beef. Something that is as uniquely Chicago as Wrigley itself…and there are plenty of possibilities.
I am not sure where the Cubs could attach a restaurant; they could possibly put it in that lot on the Wrigley block that I believe only the employees use. As someone who loves the food in the Windy City almost as much as the baseball, I would love to see some of my favorite local grub attached to the ballpark.
We’re talking top of the line climate-controlled, indoor and outdoor luxury seating, complimentary top shelf drinks, the works…and charge a premium for people who want to be seen in such places. It’s a win-win…the Cubs make some luxury seat revenue, and people who don’t care about the game as much as the prestige get the worst views in the ballpark. To paraphrase Ferris Bueller, anyone with priorities so far out of whack doesn’t deserve such a fine view of the game.
This could work very well with closing off a street too; fans could enter the Cubs-owned rooftop section directly from the closed-off street, or vice versa.
Urinals. Sorry for the unpleasant image it dredges up, but urinal troughs are an old-style ballpark tradition that I could really live without. I’ve sometimes speculated that the reason the Cubs sell so many Old Styles during games is so that men can brave standing over a sink next to someone while relieving themselves.
Again, forgive the imagery, but I don’t like brushing up against another male while my hands are occupied with a necessary function. I would wait a reasonable amount of time longer to avoid looking up in the air at a ceiling rather than multiple streams.
Those are five things that I would hope would improve the Wrigley experience without touching the classic elements of the Friendly Confines.
While I’m here, there are a couple of things that Wrigley doesn’t need:
A Jumbotron. At Wrigley Field? Yuck. I know the Cubs need a place to advertise to raise money for the renovation. But does anyone besides me cringe at the thought of deafening music being played for every Cubs at-bat? Or cartoon shell games between innings where you try to find which one is hiding Steve Bartman? Or (shudder) the “Kiss Cam”? (I would approve of the kiss cam if they showed Tom Ricketts and Rahm Emanuel sitting together.)
I suppose there are ways to do it tastefully. The Red Sox added a couple of scoreboards that are made to look like the hand-operated one, and I think that’s pretty cool. And you could have a video of Harry Caray leading the fans in “Take Me Out to The Ballgame”.
But while the super colossal hi-def doesn’t generally bother me at most ballparks, it wouldn’t seem right at Wrigley. I’ve seen pictures of the scoreboard sitting atop the right field stands in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and in my opinion it’s a hideous eyesore in an otherwise fantastic ballpark. I don’t like the thought of the damage a Jumbotron could do to the view at Wrigley.
The Rooftops to me are an integral part of the whole scene, and I would rather the Cubs didn't mess with that.
A Parking Garage. Sure, finding parking at Wrigley is a royal pain in the behind. That’s the whole point! You want easy parking? Go to Philadelphia. The magnificent ballpark there is surrounded by a big parking lot and no places to celebrate after the game unless you want to spend $10 a drink at Xfinity Live. I’ll take the Wrigley atmosphere and scant parking any day of the week.
There are great places to park if you want to save money at Wrigley—for people who know what they’re doing. And it should be that way. Weed out the people looking for convenience. You’ll have a more enthusiastic crowd at games.
Part of what makes the Wrigleyville atmosphere great is fans pouring out of the Addison station and arriving on Wrigley Express buses. It makes the area great for street vendors.
What does a parking garage do for ballpark atmosphere? Anyone know the address of a garage at Fenway where vendors sell cheap peanuts or where a street musician plays a mean saxophone? Overpriced concrete garages shouldn’t be anywhere near Wrigley Field. Yankee Stadium can have that.
So those are this fan’s thoughts on what should be improved at Wrigley and what should be left alone, coming from the fan’s standpoint.
Personally, they could leave the ballpark as is and I would remain perfectly happy, but I won’t complain if the Ricketts adopt my plan.
Enjoyed this article? If you’d like more ballpark tips, then sign up for the Ballpark E-Guides newsletter —and get a “Tip of The Week”, Kurt’s commentary, specials on already value-friendly Ballpark E-Guides, even a PDF download: Tell ‘Em Kurt Sent You! All FREE just for signing up for the Ballpark E-Guides newsletter...click here!
(I DO NOT SPAM, and neither should you!)