MORRISSEY: Time to let go of past at Wrigley Field
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org July 24, 2013 10:32PM
Artist rendering of the Wrigley Field outfield signs and renovations during daytime operations
We couldn’t wait for the grandstanding alderman to go away. We wanted the blood-sucking rooftop owners to stand on the edge of those roofs and prove, in a very personal way, the theory of gravity.
We were sick of suburban mayors offering tax-free land, no-hassle stadium negotiations and, quite possibly, a secret, dedicated highway for Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts. We were tired of Ricketts’ pretending he was interested.
Fine. It’s all over. The City Council on Wednesday approved the Cubs’ $500 million plan to renovate Wrigley Field and the area around it.
Now we get to give our full attention to the product on the field!
Maybe we need to rethink our relief over the purported end to the Wrigley bickering. The Cubs are a bad team that is selling off its most valuable parts for a future it can only hope will be shiny. That shiny future looks to be at least two years away. This franchise never tires of making its fans work, does it?
The first thought was the right one: Getting a resolution on the Wrigley political mess is huge. It was a bigger heaven-and-earthmoving project than the actual renovation will ever be. The negotiations involving the Cubs, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) were about as fun as a stubbed toe.
But the end product should be worth it.
This is going to be a better Wrigley Field for fans, or least the fans who want a clean, comfortable, more modern experience at the ballpark. For the traditionalists who see even one fingerprint on the 99-year-old stadium as a desecration, I understand your pain. But Bob Dylan picked up an electric guitar one day, and though he had to bear being called Judas by the folk-music crowd, it worked out pretty well for him and us.
I used to be in the keep-Wrigley-as-a-museum-piece camp, but then I opened my eyes to the disagreeable seats, the cramped concourses and the nasty bathrooms. The wider my eyes, the more I wanted to see replays and stats on a video scoreboard, too.
The cement and old girders don’t make Wrigley Field; the people in the stands do. Someday, the baseball might. I went to lots of games there in my younger days, and at the time, it never occurred to me that the park was a jewel. It wasn’t until broadcaster Harry Caray arrived and it became an open-air party that Wrigley took on mystical, mythical proportions.
Walking into the park and seeing the field and the center-field scoreboard is the best part of the experience. It’s a fair question to ask how much the Jumbotron in left field will take away from that experience. My guess: not a whole lot, if you give it a chance.
If you hold on to the past, if you wear spats or a powdered wig, then there’s not much anybody can do for you. You’re not going to like the new Wrigley. If you crave information about a hitter in this stats-driven sports world or want to see replays, you’ll like the video scoreboard.
But we’ll see. Just as old doesn’t always mean better, new doesn’t necessarily mean better, either. The Cubs need to follow through on everything they promised. That means nicer seats, wider concourses and a rust-free ballpark. It means that the new scoreboard won’t dwarf the field, the way the scoreboard does at Cowboys Stadium, where people stare at the live action on the massive Jumbotron rather than at the live action on the playing surface below.
The Ricketts family is paying for the renovation by itself, which almost surely means ticket prices will jump in the next four or five years. The payoff for fans, besides a better experience at the ballpark, is supposed to include better teams ahead. That’s been part of the sales pitch, at least, though it’s one I’ve never bought. There are no guarantees ownership will put more money into the baseball operation, and there isn’t much evidence that bigger payrolls lead to World Series titles anyway.
If you’re worried about a squabble-free Wrigleyville, you can still look forward to the distinct possibility of the rooftop owners remaining unhappy. Tunney says that the Cubs’ plan for a pedestrian bridge over Clark Street has been tabled “indefinitely,’’ but if he believes that, he has been sampling liberally from ballpark beer vendors.
Fear not. Tunney isn’t going away, not if there’s a camera around and something to obstruct.