Doing a TripAdvisor review of Wrigley Field would, for some, be akin to reviewing one’s mom or spouse. How can one offer an objective critique?
My first game there was in 1960 with my grandfather. I recall our seats (10 rows behind the Cubs dug-out), the battery (Hobbie & Thacker) and the sugar buzz (blue cotton candy, Frosty Malt). I snuck my first smoke there a few years later. I’ve taken in maybe 400 games at Wrigley since, and sat in every section (well, except the skyboxes). I’ve consumed barrels of peanuts and kegs of suds (and have thankfully quit tobacco and blue cotton candy).
There are not enough stars in the TripAdvisor rating universe to do my impressions justice. Oh, it’s been a love-hate relationship at times. Long bladder-testing waits to reach our beloved “troughs”, sitting behind a girder for a play-off game, epic battles over expansion, lousy teams playing in freezing temps, escalating prices.
Still, there is no other feeling like it as you walk up those concourse stairs for your first glimpse of paradise as the emerald green outfield, lush ivy and iconic scoreboard unfold before you. The smell of grilled onions, the crack of the bat, L trains zipping by, honored flags snapping in the wind. Perfect.
So, an objective review of Wrigley is not what you’ll get from me; other TripAdvisor reviewers do a great job. Rather, this is a snapshot in time of Wrigley’s massive renovation, and how it seemed to a die-hard Cubs fan during a game a few days ago.
The main changes in 2015 are the total removal of the bleachers in left and right fields, a huge videotron in left field (another is planned for right field), extending the bleachers outward and new ribbon-type digital signage by the upper deck boxes.
It’s a shock to see a gaping construction site where there was once bleachers. Workers work as the game progresses. But the videotron is an even bigger jolt.
I’m a purist. I still keep score (a dying breed) and keep my old scorecards. I loudly mock people who yak on cellphones when the Cubs are at bat and confront anyone trying to start a wave. I opposed lights at Wrigley but have gotten used to them. I opposed the Toyota sign in left, but it was tastefully done. I opposed the gigantic videotron which just went up but it’s not as bad as I’d feared.
First, it is way too big, dwarfing the old scoreboard like a hulking kid next to a proud-but-shrinking granddad. But it is respectful in other ways. The main color is identical to the forest-green hue of the old scoreboard, and the fonts used are similar, down to the faux “lightbulbs”. Info you see on the old scoreboard is not shown on the videotron. I like seeing not only the pitch count & speed but also the type of pitch. They don’t blast you between innings with inane interviews or contests (yet). The sound is uneven. Still, I like seeing players’ photos, line-ups, etc. I really hope they DON'T put Harry Caray on the big board for "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"...enough is enough.
Dangling under the old scoreboard is a new “shot clock” which measures time between innings and time for relievers’ warm-ups. I’m for speeding up the game but am not crazy about seeing the clock. One of my pals asked what happens if the clock gets down to two seconds? Does the manager dash out yelling for a timeout?
One change affecting almost no one except me is the temporary relocation of the free bike valet to lot next to the McDonald’s, which is very congested and not bike-friendly post-game. Still, it’s a nice amenity for bicyclists like me. Be sure to tip the kid who watches your bike. Tip your beer vendor, too.
Many of the changes in their multi-year plan are overdue: improved johns, concourses & clubhouses. Let’s face it: the place is kind of a dump. Chunks of concrete fall on unwitting fans like foul balls. This investment will extend the life of this baseball institution for decades, so I’m for it. But I hope they reconsider hiding the bullpens away from the fans.
I encourage all Cubs fans and tourists to take in a game during the next few months while this phase of renovation is underway. You can see the old ballyard in a way future generations will not.