When the Pittsburgh Pirates arrive for the three-game series at Wrigley Field Monday morning, they will be most pleased to see the upgraded facilities for visiting players.
They haven’t yet renovated the visitors’ clubhouse — that’s for next offseason — but there’s a new batting cage, a weight room and a video room, all large and well-lit.
That was just part of the media tour of Wrigley Field’s offseason improvements I was invited to attend Friday afternoon.
Cubs spokesman Julian Green said of the new visiting team facilities, “Many of the visiting players and coaches who have come here over the years commented on the ‘lackluster’ accommodations will find a really great upgrade, but hopefully not too much of a competitive advantage.”
As you can see in photos 16-22, the new visiting player facilities include a video room, a full-size batting tunnel and a weight room. This is in line, Green said, with what most visiting teams get at most modern ballparks. When asked where the Cubs found room for all of this in Wrigley’s small footprint, his answer was one word: “Earth.” You likely saw all the aerial shots of the excavation the Cubs did over the winter; part of that space is now these visiting team facilities.
Also new, as in all ballparks this year, are nets to the outfield side of both dugouts. The new dugouts are quite nice, both sides, as seen in multiple photos above. They were just finishing up attaching the nets both above and in front of the dugouts during the tour.
For those of you wondering about future football games at Wrigley Field, the last three or four rows (depending on section) behind and to the outfield side of the Cubs dugout are set on top of metal risers, not concrete, and are removable. That’s how they will fit the football field in. Green said there are no immediate plans for any football games, but they have a longterm partnership with Northwestern and hope to have some games once the project is complete.
The top of the dugouts are also metal, as opposed to previously being concrete. Thus you will likely hear loud “clang” noises if foul popups hit the dugout roofs, though the nets will likely reduce the potential of these.
We didn’t get to see the upscale 1914 Club on this tour, though you can see the entrance in photo 30, or at least one of the entrances, which was in one of the tunnels going up to the lower boxes on the third-base side.
The concourse was the last stop on the tour, with views of some of the new concession stands. Some will be open as of Monday, others later in the season. One thing Green noted is that now that all food is prepared on-site (below the office building), that eliminates the need for the portable food carts that lined both sides of the lower-deck concourse, and that all concessions will be on the “inbound” side. The elimination of the food carts will have the effect of making much more room on the concourse, making them feel wider even though they haven’t actually been made any wider. This should help traffic flow in and out of the ballpark, and also movement during games.
Green said that the 2018-19 offseason will be the last one of the 1060 Project, the team’s name for the renovation and restoration project that began in the fall of 2014, but added that as would be expected with any 100+ year old building, the work of keeping Wrigley up-to-date will be ongoing.
The Cubs and Xfinity also announced Friday a long-term technology partnership which will provide wifi at Wrigley Field and also in the area around the ballpark, including the Park at Wrigley. It will be operational on Opening Day (and add new hotspots during the season), and you can look for the “WiFiatWrigley” on your phone or other device. The company is also providing wifi, video and voice services to the team at their office building at 1101 W. Waveland.
Photos 1 and 37-38 show the players parking tent going up across Waveland from the ballpark, so the Cubs and the city must have come to an agreement to put the tent back up.
Lastly, Green noted that the construction crews turned the field over to the grounds crew on March 19, so in 20 days they have made the field baseball-ready. It looks great and ready to go for baseball on Monday!
Thanks also to Alyson Cohen of the Cubs for her assistance this afternoon.