A History Of Wrigley Field Changes

Wrigley Field, then known as Weeghman Park, opened 99 years ago and the Cubs moved in two years later. It has changed many times over the years; here's a timeline of all those changes.

The Cubs not only have plans to renovate Wrigley Field, now approved in a deal with the city of Chicago, but they will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the park next year, and the 100th anniversary of the Cubs' first game there two years after that. (Here's hoping that they can get the Cincinnati Reds to be the visitor on April 20, 2016, 100 years to the day after they were the opponent for the Cubs' very first Wrigley game.)

Here's a timeline of how Wrigley Field (Weeghman Park when it was first built) was constructed, and the various changes that have been made to it over the years.

  • 1914: Opened April 23 as the home of the Federal League Chicago Whales, with a single deck that seated 14,000. Total cost: $500,000 ($11,608,300 in 2013 dollars), the park was constructed in just six weeks. It was the first baseball stadium to have permanent concession stands, something Weeghman was particularly interested in, as he had made his fortune in the restaurant business.
  • 1915: Seating capacity increased to 18,000.
  • 1923: By then the ballpark was known as "Cubs Park"; new owner William Wrigley increased the seating capacity to 30,000 by by separating the grandstand into three parts, and moving the center section from behind home plate back toward the corner of Clark and Addison. Those gaps were then filled in with more seats, which explains the slightly crooked nature of the grandstand still visible when you look down the first base line.
  • 1927: An upper deck was added; only the third-base side was completed that year, when the Cubs became the first major-league team to draw one million fans (1,159,168).
  • 1928: The first-base side of the upper deck was completed; in 1929 the Cubs drew 1,485,166 fans to the park. That record stood until after World War II when the Yankees broke it; the Cubs would not draw more fans in a season until 1969.
  • 1932: The ballpark was renamed "Wrigley Field" to honor William Wrigley, the team owner who passed away at age 61.
  • 1937: The now-iconic bleachers were constructed, while the season was still in progress, and opened in late July. The scoreboard that still exists atop the center-field bleachers was completed at that time.
  • 1952: Due to complaints from opposing hitters (notably Ralph Kiner, then with the Pirates, and also from the Cardinals), the center-field bleachers were closed to provide a hitter's background. They were opened on just one occasion since then -- for the 1962 All-Star Game. In the mid-1960s this area was covered with Astroturf.
  • 1965: Before this year, the area now known as the Club Boxes had folding chairs for seating; in '65, permanent seats were installed. This upset Bears owner George Halas, who had stuffed extra folding chairs in that area for a larger capacity for football games. Also this year, the iconic marquee at the corner of Clark and Addison was painted red; before this it had been an aqua-blue, as shown on the photo at the top of this post (that photo is from 1962).
  • 1968: The entire lower bowl was demolished, in sections, and the concrete repoured. At the same time, seating in the lower corners was curved to face home plate -- it had previously gone in a straight line down the foul lines, facing the outfield. As a result, seating capacity was actually lowered by about 5,000. Concrete in the upper deck was also replaced at this time.
  • 1982: The Cubs changed the seat-numbering system from an arcane system of tiers and boxes to the current section-numbering system. Also at this time, with the takeover of the team by Tribune Company, the Cubs' practice of selling grandstand seats on a day-of-game basis only ended; all seats except bleachers were now sold in advance, on a reserved-seat basis.
  • 1984: New dugouts were constructed and the home clubhouse was moved from the left-field corner (players used to traipse across the field to it after games) to behind the third-base dugout. The visiting clubhouse was renovated, but not enlarged; to this day, it remains in its mid-1980s configuration.
  • 1988: Lights were installed and the Cubs became the last of the Original 16 teams to play home night games, 40 years after the last previous convert to night baseball (Detroit Tigers). Eight night games were played in 1988; a city ordinance limited the Cubs to 18 night games a year through 2002, and that was revised to a limit of 30 after 2002.
  • 1989: Mezzanine suites were constructed on what had been a catwalk below the upper deck, where the old press box was located. The press box was relocated to the upper deck behind home plate. Both the suites and press box remain there to this day; no changes have been made to those areas.
  • 2005-06: The bleachers were completely reconstructed, adding about 1,800 seats and a suite in center field, which replaced the old hitter's background. Juniper bushes, which had been planted in the entire area in the late 1990s, continued in front of the suite.
  • 2007-08: The entire field was dug up and resodded; the "crown" that had made it difficult to see from the dugouts was removed, the field flattened, and a new drainage system installed that made it much easier to dry off the field after rainstorms.
  • 2012: A party patio was built in right field, replacing the old "bleacher box" seats that had been added in the 2005-06 renovation. In front of the patio, a large LED scoreboard was added, showing statistics, video, and advertising.

And now, starting next offseason, probably the largest and most extensive changes will come to Wrigley Field; you've read about them earlier Monday after the team's deal with the city was announced. They will add to the long history of the ballpark and make it suitable for Cubs baseball, hopefully for another century or beyond.

H/T to Miriam Romain's article about Wrigley Field in the 2008 Maple Street Press Cubs Annual for many of these details.

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