Baseball purists and historians might want to sit down for this one. Wrigley Field has been the home of the Cubs since 1916, but club chairman Tom Ricketts says the team will move to a new location if approval is not granted for more outfield signs — including a huge new video scoreboard.
Originally known as Weeghman Park, it was built in 1914 for the Chicago Whales of the short-lived rival Federal League. Now it’s considered by many to be a historical monument to the game, but there’s no question that the facility located at Clark and Addison streets on the fabled North Side of the city is in dire need of an upgrade.
A restoration proposal has been unveiled which includes improved amenities for both players (a new clubhouse) and fans. The current layout has the smallest and most outdated clubhouse of any team in the major leagues and has the smallest weight-training area of any professional team in the country. The plan calls for an extension of the clubhouse and weight room from behind the current dugout all the way to the left-field corner.
Some seats in the bleachers, behind the famous ivy-covered outfield walls, will be removed to install a “party patio.” New concession stands will also be constructed, along with bigger restrooms, a media centre, a players’ lounge and two batting tunnels. Then there is the new signage, including a 6,000-square-foot video display. Some neighbourhood groups are reportedly unhappy with the scoreboard, including the owners of rooftops which have an unblocked view of the field; they had signed a 20-year agreement with the club in 2004 to keep those views unimpeded. That contract doesn’t faze the chairman.
“I’m not sure how anyone is going to stop the signs in the outfield, but if it comes to the point that we don’t have the ability to do what we need to do in our outfield then we’re going to have to consider moving,” Ricketts said Wednesday morning. “It’s a simple as that.”
The tab for construction has been estimated at $500 million, and is scheduled to begin this year. While Ricketts is probably bluffing about the threat of a move, the very thought of the Cubs playing anywhere other than Wrigley is nothing short of treasonous talk to most Cubs fans — and baseball fans in general. Wrigley is a destination, one of the last two remaining “old-style” parks (Fenway Park in Boston is the other), and is an integral part of the neighborhood as it is a part of the lore as well as the lure. To see it move is unthinkable to many — but apparently not impossible.