As most of you know, the Cubs, after long, drawn-out negotiations with the city, got an agreement for an expansion of the bleachers. This will supposedly occur this off-season, adding approximately 1800 seats to the existing capacity of the bleachers, and thus the ballpark -- making a sellout figure next year closer to 41,000 than the 39,000 numbers you see now.
I have heard that no permits have yet been issued for such work, but I have also heard that the work is supposed to begin right after the last home game. That'd be a week from Wednesday. It seems like an awful lot of construction to take place in five months' time, considering that the much smaller additions of the dugout and bullpen seats went pretty much right up to Opening Day both years.
You're probably wondering why I'm devoting an off-day entry to this, and there's a good reason. There's more to the expansion than adding seats; because of the nature of the construction, it appears that there will no longer be any standing room area where you can actually see the game.
This may have the result of changing the long-time culture of the bleachers. It's always been possible to just "hang out", to be with friends, to stand and talk for a while and move on, or in some cases, watch the entire game standing (some actually prefer this).
With the new setup, if you want to watch the game, you'll have to sit down.
It was with this in mind that Chicago Sun-Times columnist Tom McNamee joined us in the bleachers last Friday afternoon. McNamee's a Cub fan who used to sit in the bleachers fairly regularly back when the tickets were $1 (yes, you young 'uns, you could get in back then for a mere dollar), so, I think more so than many MSM columnists, he "gets it".
Here's the column, from today's paper. OK, so he could have spelled my last name right, and yes, it was Friday, not Thursday as he wrote, but pretty much everything else there reflects accurately our views, and the situation as it exists now, and will exist come April of 2006.
An era is ending. You've got five more chances to come and see the bleachers as they've existed for sixty-eight years. Don't miss it.