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The 'New' Wrigley Field: Video Boards Yes, Restrooms No

Some of the things unveiled in the partly-renovated Wrigley Field were good. Others... not so much.

One thing I had decided long before attending Sunday night's opener at Wrigley Field was that I was going to limit my intake of liquids. This is because last week, Cubs stadium operations chief Carl Rice had stated that the ballpark "will be down one men’s and women’s restrooms until late May. Work is underway to replace them with two new men’s and two new women’s restrooms. We have built a temporary lavatory solution in the concourse until the full complement of restrooms are completed."

Well. I didn't see any "temporary solution" -- all I noticed were signs indicating where future restrooms would be located. And I did wind up staying in my seat all game -- but from what I heard from many people Sunday night was that the restroom lines were little short of disastrous. Friends of mine returned from the restroom having missed two innings. Granted, with a full house you're going to wind up with some lines, but whatever those "temporary solutions" are, the Cubs need to come up with them -- soon. The crowd Sunday night is likely to be the largest in-the-house total until the bleachers reopen, especially with rainy weather coming later this week, but it's still not a good thing to realize you'll miss almost a third of the game heeding nature's call.

Monday morning, the Cubs apologized for the problems and said they will be adding portable facilities:

“We want to apologize to our fans for the inconvenience tonight,” Green said. “Moving forward, we plan to supplement the existing restrooms with additional portable units and will continue to monitor wait times.”Green said the ballpark restrooms were not able to handle guests during peak periods.“We have high standards for service and we missed the mark tonight,” Green said.

You can read more about the Wrigley restroom problems in this Deadspin article.

As was the case 27 years ago when lights were installed, the overwhelming thought I had when seeing the video board up close for the first time is, "About time." Yes, it's large -- but the 3,990-square-foot board doesn't overwhelm the ballpark as much as might have been feared. The Cubs have placed green backgrounds on most of the informational screens that stay up during play; the green is a pretty close match to the green of the scoreboard in center field. It'll look closer during day games, as the brightness of the board makes it look far brighter than the center-field board, which has just a few lights illuminating it.

I do have one complaint about something that I thought was going to be rectified with the new boards, including the ribbon boards on the left- and right-field facades.

So fans now have a huge video board in left field and the new ribbon boards, and we are getting less information than we had before with just the LED board in right field.

There was no place on any of the boards that showed "hit," "error," or "passed ball," all of which occurred during this game. Not on the left-field board, not on the ribbon boards, not on the LED board behind the vacant left-field bleachers, I looked at all of them. I had to consult Gameday on my phone for this information. This is not an improvement. Further, although pitch speed is prominently displayed on the video board, my seat location in section 202 is at kind of an oblique angle, it's difficult to read from much of the left-field corner (and will be nearly impossible to see from the left-field bleachers when they reopen).

This kind of information could be placed on the ribbon board, if they weren't so interested in using that for advertising instead of information. Here's what the right-field ribbon board looked like from my seat:

right field ribbon board

Apologies for the blurry look, but that's a long way from section 202. The point is, the green in the middle is information, the bright white on either side is advertising, and many of the ads are simply a single product name repeated over and over. I estimate the ad space here is at least two-thirds, and maybe three-quarters, of the entire area of the board.

Look, I get it. These boards are about revenue. But there's no point in putting them up if they are going to be solely about advertising. Couldn't they leave some space for a full R/H/E linescore? All they showed was the score -- and in numbers far too small to see across the field. In some half-innings they did drop the ads and just gave information, but again, some of it (particularly the "due up" hitter list) was far too small to read. Also, when they did have batter information, they showed BA/OBP/SLG for all hitters. This takes up a lot of room and the board had a lot of space between the three numbers, which were also too small. Maybe this is a work in progress, but I think it definitely needs tweaking.

Also, the little boards at the top of the upper deck showed only advertising or, occasionally, the matchup with team logos. Since we can see which teams are playing on the field, the latter is irrelevant. That would be a perfect place to show pitch speed -- readable from either side of the field -- with room for a sponsor. What a concept! They could sell the pitch-speed sponsorship all season.

Regarding advertising on the video board, of course there's plenty of it. Sponsor names show on the left side -- with lots of empty space. I suppose that's intentional, to set off the sponsor name, but couldn't they leave a bit of open space to show scoring plays?

You're probably interested in the mid-inning content, since that was likely not shown on ESPN. As had been stated earlier, they ran a number of team vignettes that were sponsored by various companies. They also had sponsored trivia games and the "ball under the hat" game -- both of those had run previously on the former message board under the main scoreboard, which has now been removed. Thus I don't see that as being any sort of new content -- it's just in a different place, and bigger.

I was going to try to record video of one of the mid-inning vignettes to show you, but I had two issues with this. First, since my seat is at an oblique angle to the board, that would make it quite difficult to see the video clearly. Further, I had a problem Sunday night that I never anticipated -- the speakers aren't loud enough! It seemed to me that the speakers under the upper deck near section 202 weren't on at all, and thus the only P.A. I could hear was from the three speakers on the side of the video board. Perhaps this is a temporary issue and I certainly don't want to encourage the Cubs to start blasting audio at mind-numbing levels, but at times I had problems hearing the P.A. announcements.

Despite the lack of certain information -- which I hope will be forthcoming, and I do realize there's going to be another video board in right field later this year which could solve some of these issues -- I think having these boards is just fine. They provide needed revenue to the team and, at least to me, don't distract from the experience. It's Wrigley, just with a few new things.

As for my experience at the park, in some ways I felt like I was at a Cubs road game, since I was not in my usual bleacher perch. I saw many bleacher friends and we had these buttons made:

bleacher refugee button

Which my new friends in section 202 liked quite a bit. There are several season-ticket holders in the area adjacent to my temporary location and I enjoyed sharing time with people who aren't normally in the bleachers. It was Wrigley, but different.

I heard some comments about cell service. I suppose that depends on your carrier. I have Sprint and did not have any issues, had a strong 4G LTE signal the whole game. This, also, should be something that improves over time.

I was a bit surprised at the 35,055 figure that was announced as attendance. I had tweeted a 38,000 estimate based on my guess that there were about 36,500 seats with no bleachers, and about 1,500 standing-room tickets sold. Obviously, that's not correct and I'm going to see if I can find out what the actual seating capacity of the bleacherless Wrigley is. Sunday was, incidentally, the first regular-season game in the history of Wrigley Field in which there was no unreserved seating sold. (And no, standing room doesn't count as "seating.")

Two unusual things happened before the game. In celebration of Easter, I suppose, an actual rabbit was scooting around the seats in the left-field corner before the game. You'll have to take my word for this as it was moving around too fast for me to get a photo.

Also, I had gone down to the wall along the left-field line to take some photos when I saw a baseball flying in my direction. I found it in flight and saw it land behind me, where I started looking for it on the ground, as did a few others nearby. We couldn't locate it and then I spotted it. It had landed, on the fly, in a cupholder. Picking it out of the cupholder, I got my first BP ball of 2015, complete with the new commissioner's signature:

bp baseball 4/5/15

In all, I would characterize the new Wrigley as a qualified success. "Qualified" because the video boards worked, as the team had promised, though as noted they need to work on the content. The failure is because the park is still an active construction site and fan amenities, particularly the restroom issue, are much more spartan than usual. Obviously, the latter will be corrected in the long run; in the short run, I think they've got to figure out how to get some portable facilities into the park.

Thanks as always to David Sameshima for his great photos and another big thank you to all of you who contributed to the GoFundMe campaign to help David replace his broken camera body and lens. He'll continue to document the construction project all summer. The next step is for the Cubs to get the bleachers opened, both in left field and later in right, to put up the right-field video board, and also work on the triangle lot is going to continue into next offseason. David also filed this report on all the photos he took.

It was crowded everywhere. Of course this was to be expected. The crowd at Clark and Addison was almost spilling onto the street when I arrived at 4:10 p.m. I did a walkaround to document the activity around the ballpark. Ballpark ambulances were stationed at Waveland and Seminary, and Sheffield and Addison. In the past they were located in the lot just west of the ballpark. The visiting team bus was in its normal location, on Sheffield Ave near Gate D. This year finds garbage trucks parked right next to the visiting team bus. (A commentary?)The ballhawks were back at full strength, at Kenmore and Waveland. Good to see them back.Getting into the ballpark, it was a sea of humanity. It was difficult to take photos, since everyone just had to keep moving. I just ending up taking photos while moving with the crowd. My photos were restricted to the third base side. I was sitting behind home plate and planned to visit with friends who were mostly sitting on the third-base side. I did not want to risk visiting the first base side, since I did not know if I would make it back.Before the game, most of the photos were taken while I was being swept along with the crowd. There was no room to stop to take photos. I did make it over by the area where they are working on the new entrance from the plaza. I did take many photos there.You read above about the long lines for the rest rooms. It was undoubtedly true. Before the game it was hard to tell since the concourse was so packed. It wasn't always so obvious who was in line and who was stuck in the crowd.

This is likely to be the largest crowd until the bleachers open. If they can get some temporary restroom facilities in the park by Tuesday night, the restroom problems should disappear.