The Cubs gave a media tour of Wrigley Field Saturday to show off the changes that have been made to the ballpark, many of which are significant, and I was invited to join the tour, which was led by Cubs VP of Wrigley Field Restoration and Expansion Carl Rice. (And so now you know the reason I have delayed Saturday’s game preview until 4:30 p.m. CT.)
The first part of the tour covered the two new underground clubs, the W Club and the Maker’s Mark Barrel Room. Rice said that the W Club is intended to be more like “the ballpark experience.” It has tables with uniform numbers of players past and present, and is limited to a capacity of 250. Located down the third-base line, it has windows through which you can see the Cubs batting cages which are located where the old pre-renovation clubhouse was located, so fans in that club can see Cubs batters warm up pre-game, or pinch-hitters (for example) during games.
The W Club also includes some game memorabilia, which Rice says will be swapped out at times during the season with new game-used items. This club is located to the third-base side of the 1914 Club, which opened last year, and has seats dedicated to it in the left-field corner.
The Maker’s Mark Barrel Room has more of a “speakeasy” atmosphere, including a bar fronted with barrel staves as well as historic photographs from various eras of Cubs history. This club, which is located to the first-base side of the 1914 Club, has views of the visitors’ batting cages, so those inclined to do so can watch the Cubs opponents warm up when they’re using that area.
The next stop on the tour was the visitors’ clubhouse. If you’ve been on a Wrigley Field tour you’ve probably seen this room. The renovated clubhouse has a similar feel to the old one, only with more space. There’s room for 40 lockers, and of course for most of the season visiting teams don’t have that many players, so for star players (such as Mike Trout, who will be there next weekend), they might be able to stretch out into a second locker. There’s also a new manager’s office and separate coaches room, with the visiting manager’s office actually having windows that look out onto Addison Street.
Last year the Cubs built a new weight room, video room and the previously mentioned batting cages for the visitors, and Rice said that though they couldn’t do everything that newer facilities do for visiting players, they were given guidelines by MLB as to what is desired for visiting facilities and they did as many of them as they could given the space restrictions.
The next stop was the third club, the Catalina Club, located on the upper deck beneath the press box. Rice said this was the highest-demand of all three clubs, probably because it’s the only one from which you can see live game action without a TV monitor. It holds 400 people and is named after Catalina Island, where the Cubs held spring training from 1922-51 (with a couple of breaks for the World War II years).
The new walkway and space behind the upper deck is quite large and the Cubs have mirrored the concession areas you’d find in the lower deck. Both sides have identical concession areas, so the idea is that most people would not have to walk from one side to the other (though there is a very narrow walkway to do so). The dormers that you have seen being torn down and rebuilt during the winter are now complete, except for those at the far end of each side. Those were left open for construction crews and should be completed over the next few weeks.
There is new signage, which is clear and easy to read, to help people find the newly-numbered sections (not aisles, as before). Rice said that seat 1 in every section will be on your left as you walk up the aisle (obviously, on your right if you are walking down toward the field). It will take some getting used to, but it’s the way every other ballpark is numbered and I’m glad the Cubs finally went with this system.
The last stop on the tour was right where I sit, in the left-field corner of the bleachers. They have added a standing-room area there whose capacity is about 75 people. There will be portable concession stands in those areas. I must report to you, though, that despite the wishes of some here, this is not a “party deck” and neither is the area behind sections 202-203, where there is also some room for people who want to stand.
In regard to the structure shown in this rendering:
... Rice said that many of the things that were to go in that structure are in other parts of the ballpark (for example, a new team store that will be on the right field concourse). Once the current 1060 Project wraps up later this summer, they will evaluate what they have and decide whether any sort of structure at all will go on this site. For those who felt this would provide some standing room or places to go during games, there are already quite a few such areas in the renovated Wrigley Field.
In addition, the press box will stay “as is” for the time being, with more evaluation being done especially as the Marquee Network goes on the air next year.
There were, as you can see in some of the photos, some ballpark security folks who were having training sessions during the day Saturday. Wrigley Field was quite busy, with the media tour, these training sessions, and construction workers finishing things up (we on the tour were warned to watch out for wet paint!).
The ballpark looks great, the weather was nice (and is forecast to be nice Monday too!) and things appear ready to go for the 2019 home opener.
Thanks to Alyson Cohen, Nicole Bersani and Carl Rice of the Cubs for their help as always.