SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- A week from Monday, baseball returns to Wrigley Field for the 2016 season. Hopefully, the Cubs will be off to a strong start on their six-game season-opening road trip and will be able to build on that as they face the Reds.
I'll be posting more reminders about this as the home opener April 11 gets closer, but the Cubs want everyone to remember that Opening Night will be the first game at Wrigley where everyone will have to go through a magnetometer search. Thus the team is opening the ballpark half an hour earlier than usual, 4:35 p.m. for the 7:05 p.m. start. They suggest you come as early as possible. One advantage is that the early arrivers will be able to see more of Cubs batting practice. You can find out more about the new Wrigley security procedures at this link.
Here are some other new things you'll notice at the ballpark this year.
There will be a new Bleacher Bar right inside the gates at the corner of Waveland and Sheffield (this is likely what was under construction right inside the gate over the winter). The Cubs say this "sizeable bar" will offer an array of beer, cocktails and wine on the main concourse level. There will also be five new display cases in the bleachers showcasing Cubs and Wrigley Field history, a replica ivy wall perfect for photo opportunities and additional décor throughout the bleacher concourse.
The batter's eye suite has been renamed the "Fannie May Bleacher Sweet" (formerly the Budweiser Bleacher Suite). It's billed as a good space for corporate or large group gatherings that offers heating and air conditioning, private restrooms, limited parking passes and all-inclusive food and beverage, including the chance to purchase upgraded dessert packages. Also during the 2016 season, through a number of contests, Pepsi will reward fans each game with the opportunity to sit in four reserved seats in the new Pepsi Batter’s Eye, located in the center field bleachers below the scoreboard (you've seen photos of that under construction in our BCB construction updatew).
On the other side of the park, the Cubs have built a new concession area called the "Marquee Grill" which will be located right behind the sign (still don't know exactly when the marquee will be replaced, but it will be there by April 11).
And, the Cubs have taken advantage of their "legacy partnership" with Toyota to have assigned naming rights to several of their parking lots. The former Brown Lot (on Eddy St.) is now the "Toyota RAV4 Lot," and the Green Lot on Grace St. is now the "Toyota Camry Lot." In the latter, there will be some "premier parking spaces for a limited number of early arriving fans who are driving Toyota cars." You can find a complete map of parking and other transportation options at this link.
Cubs Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg and Billy Williams will throw ceremonial first pitches and lead the 7th inning stretch on Opening Night, and up to 30,000 early-arriving fans will get the traditional opener giveaway, a magnet schedule.
Here are some new food offerings. Gilbert’s Craft Sausages joins the team this year with three offerings at the new Gilbert’s Grill Cart in the main concourse. The Caprese Sausage is a chicken sausage topped with diced tomatoes, chopped basil, mozzarella pearls and balsamic glaze. The Aloha Sausage is a chicken sausage topped with pineapple salsa, lime aioli, hot sauce and crushed potato chips. The Beef and Cheddar is a beef smoked sausage with cheddar cheese, topped with mac and cheese, bacon, caramelized onions and BBQ sauce. All three options will be available during the opening homestand.
Back by popular demand, bleacher fans will continue to enjoy rotating Hot Doug’s offerings this season. The opening homestand features The Barry Foote, which is a corned beef sausage, aka "The Tueben," topped with Russian dressing, shredded Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. The Joe Wallis is a curry bratwurst topped with curry dijonnaise, caramelized onions and smoked gouda cheese. The Champ Summers is a Vienna Beef spicy polish sausage with Goose Island beer mustard and crispy fried onions. I have been asked the following many times: All I can tell you is that there's no word on whether Hot Doug's will expand into the main concourse. (It would be a really good idea to do that, in my opinion.)
It all starts (at home) a week from Monday. Can't wait.