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Wrigley Field Construction Update: November 17

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We now know exactly what’s planned for this offseason.

Al Yellon

This construction update is going to be a bit different than most, as it does not include a photo gallery. I posted photos here three days ago and it’s not likely much has changed since then.

What has changed since Monday is the posting of a 2016-17 timeline of construction by the Cubs, which went up Wednesday afternoon. Here’s the list of planned work for this offseason:

Home and Visiting Team's Bullpen Relocation

New Seating Area in the Bullpens' Former Location

Visiting Team Batting Tunnel

Partial Façade Restoration on Addison Street

Structural Improvements in Right Field

Continued Terrace Reserved Seating Replacement

Replacement of Seats Behind Home Plate

The following projects will begin during the offseason with work continuing during the 2017 season:

American Airlines 1914 Club (to be completed by Opening Day 2018)

Concession improvements near Gate F (to be completed during 2017 baseball season)

The following Hickory Street Capital projects will take place during the offseason with work continuing during the 2017 season:

Office Building and Plaza

Hotel

The “structural improvements in right field” are likely in the area where, in the previous update, you saw photos of part of the right-field wall removed. The previous update also showed some chain-link fencing already removed on the Addison Street side of the ballpark, part of that façade restoration (similar to what has already been done on the west side of the park).

It’s my understanding that the office building and plaza should be done by Opening Day 2017, with work continuing on the hotel across from Wrigley for a planned 2018 opening. You can read more about the hotel here.

One thing that is not on this list is the addition of outfield light towers, which have been shown in previous renderings. I assume that will eventually be done in some future offseason.

What I want to focus on in this update is the bullpen relocation, now official. In September, Jake Arrieta had been quoted as saying he (and possibly other Cubs pitchers) would have preferred to keep the bullpens outdoors:

"I'd prefer them there versus being underneath the bleachers in left field," Arrieta said. "I know most guys personally don't like the feeling of throwing indoors. It helps to have a mound covered for other reasons — guys (throwing) in the offseason or being able to get work in if we're rained out or whatever the case is.

"There really is no comparison to being outside to replicate the way you're going to be pitching in a game situation. I'm OK with it. I like it."

The Cubs, Rays, Giants and A's are the only teams with bullpens on the field instead of beyond the outfield.

The Cubs said last year the decision to move the bullpen under the bleachers is intended to prevent injuries to outfielders running over the mound. But Arrieta said Cubs pitchers like the current setup.

"There's not much room toward Waveland (Avenue) as you go back, so it's inevitable that if they did move (the pen) it would go under the bleachers," he said. "But we all would prefer to keep it the way it is."

Injuries to outfielders? Sure, that’s a risk, but the real reason for this move is clear:

Four new rows of premium seats will be built along the foul lines.

Personally, I will miss the outdoor bullpens, which are directly in my line of sight from my bleacher seat (the photo at the top was taken from there last August 3). It’s always interesting to watch the interplay between the relievers who sit there and check out the pitcher warmups when they begin, both for the starters pre-game, and for relievers in the middle and late innings. A couple of years ago, my friends and I watched as James Russell got up during a game one late-July afternoon, picked up his glove and gave hugs to his teammates and even a few fans. That was the precursor to a trade that had not yet been announced (when Russell was traded to the Braves along with Emilio Bonifacio for Victor Caratini, a deal that still might wind up helping the Cubs).

And then there’s watching the antics of Cubs bullpen catcher Chad Noble. Here, he does a little “dance” to Anthony Rizzo’s walkup music (video taken July 15):

Noble also wears that hoodie every single game — no matter how hot it is. I’m hoping that Noble and pitching coach Chris Bosio continue their pregame ritual of throwing a dozen or so baseballs into the bleachers for fans.

These are the kinds of things that bind fans to players and add to the lore and culture of a team. Progress, I get it, more seats means more money, money helps bring and keep better ballplayers, etc.

But I will miss seeing the bullpens on the field.

I hope to have a further photo update on construction progress later in the week or over the weekend.