Here's your surprise: tonight, the Cubs offered those of us who are bleacher season ticket holders, a one-hour tour of the new facilities, before the craziness that will be Opening Day tomorrow.
And let me say... I think they did a terrific job. While it is new, there are still many, many familiar things. The old beer shack that David photographed the other day, is now a souvenir hut. The old troughs are in the men's room (grandfathered in), but there are also new and larger restrooms for men and women. There are larger and newer concession stands on the lower level, with a wider selection of food. And there is a huge patio area behind CF (the one thing I didn't get any pics of), where people can socialize and watch the game on TV monitors. There are still a few small areas of standing room, in addition to the areas adjacent to CF where people can stand (that area wasn't touched by the construction).
We were met by Cubs Executive VP of Business Operations Mark McGuire. First thing he asked was, "Is Al Yellon here?" I identified myself and he said that Cub and Tribune execs have been following the progress through David and my photos on BCB, particularly on weekends when they didn't come to the park.
You're welcome. Anyway, he guided us through the whole place, showing us the new corridors through which bleacher ticket holders can now enter the rest of the park (no, sorry, you won't be able to get out there if you have non-bleacher ticket. Bleacher ticket holders will be scanned in AND out of the bleachers if they go to the other side), through the new Batter's Eye suite, and the patio area, concession areas and restrooms. We also went past the "knothole", which WILL be open during games, so people on the street can watch -- that is, if there aren't any paying fans in front of the knothole. It will be possible for a bleacher fan to go to the lower level, and watch the game through the knothole -- though, the fence is covered by what we used to call a "windscreen", now called something else by McGuire, but for the life of me, neither Jeff nor Howard nor Mike nor I could remember the term he used! -- which will make the fence look green when viewed from home plate.
Then we were free to wander, and Howard, Mike, Brian, Jeff & I went to a couple of different areas (since our old bench area no longer exists) to choose our new seat. You can see it below.
One scoop I got today: sometime later in the year, during a roadtrip, the bare gray concrete is going to be painted green. You can see where the old concrete, some of which was left, meets the new. All the new benches are metal -- which is going to be cold in the spring, hot in the summer! The old benches were left in the CF bleachers, though.
All in all, we were very, very pleased to see that they did do this with some thought, with consideration to some fan requests that were made, and with comfort in mind (there are also a couple of wheelchair sections). We'll see how it feels for a ballgame tomorrow, but as of now -- a job well done!
Top: view from the "Batter's Eye"; LF bleachers; view of "Batter's Eye" from RF; "bleacher boxes" (note, some of those seats have partially obstructed views)
Middle: lower-level concession stand; RF bleacher section; wide view of LF bleachers; wide view of RF bleachers
Bottom: another view of RF corner "bleacher boxes"; CF batter's eye showing new TV camera house (room, according to McGuire, for three cameras side-by-side); us in our new home (top: Mike, me, Howard; bottom, Brian & Jeff); wider shot of us in aisle 313, our new right field home
Photos by Al