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Cubs Mon Apr 12 2010

Wrigley Renovations Have Cubs Fans Ready For Opening Day

WrigleyScoreboard.jpg

When the Ricketts family purchased the Chicago Cubs for a cool $900 million back in early 2009, Tom Ricketts made it very clear that the necessary improvements and changes would be made to make the Cubs a perpetually competitive outfit on the field and that Wrigley Field would be a leader in fan experience. While the verdict is still out for the Cubs on-field performance, the renovations and enhancements of Wrigley itself are apparent and impressive. As the Cubs head into Chicago for their home opener against Milwaukee on Monday afternoon; Tailgate, along with other media members, was invited to check out the new enhancements this past Friday.

Infrastructure

RightFieldBattingPractice.jpg

Wrigley Field is a shrine to baseball and along with Fenway Park in Boston the stadium is a testament and time capsule to the roots and history of America's Pastime. One thing Wrigley has not been in quite some time is "equipped with modern facilities" and to their credit the Ricketts family has taken the bull by the horn and made, with a $10 million investment, some noticeable and nice changes to Wrigley's aged facilities. Probably the most noticeable (if not glamorous) renovations for Joe Six Packs coming through the turnstiles will be what's been done in the main corridors of Wrigley, with tens of flat panel televisions replacing the boxy, circa-late-1980s wall-installed televisions. Another noticeable change is in the men's bathrooms, where the facilities have been upgraded (don't worry, there are still troughs for the "purists") to expedite and improve the experience.

For private parties and premium club members, Wrigley has undergone a very extensive renovation underneath the right field bleachers, with a pedestrian mall/lounge stretching from approximately where the right field foul pole is to the end of the batting cages. Here fans will be able to watch (through mirrored windows) the players warm up and take batting practice before the games. Additionally, the area is equipped with numerous 42" HD flat panel televisions and wall-mounted heaters for fan comfort. For now only sponsors and their guests will have access to the toney area. For the regular ticket holders, the Sheffield Grill will now be open and available to all game attendees two hours prior to the opening pitch.

Food

The boon in new "throwback" stadiums (ie: Camden Yard in Baltimore; Commerica Park in Detroit; PNC Park in Pittsburgh) over the course of the past 15 years has largely been a result of the demand for "urban" stadiums, ala Wrigley Field. Of course with the new stadiums have come new, trendier menu items that, frankly, had left the ball park choices of steamed hot dogs, peanuts, stadium pretzels and Cracker Jacks available at Wrigley feeling, well, a little stale. With the Ricketts family doing their best to provide innovative new menu items, those days are gone. Primary among the menu changes would have to be the addition of High Plains Bison dogs from the Ricketts ranch in Wyoming. Two varieties of bison dogs are available to the fans: a standard all-natural stadium dog and the Goliath-sized foot-long bison dog, replete with a bleu cheese coleslaw and buffalo (bbq) sauce.

BisonHotDogWrigley.jpg
Additionally, the Cubs are introducing the "Big Slugger Nachos" a behemoth pile of chips, chili con carne, cheese, and your customary "nachos fixins." Designed for three to four fans to share, the gooey mess comes in a full-size souvenir Cubs helmet and enough nachos to make Cecil Fielder blush. To mix things up in the club seats, a rotating menu including jambalaya and roast bison (I detect a theme) sirloin will be served. There's also an exceptional vegetarian burger that is made on site and that Tailgate can verify as "mighty tasty."

The Ricketts family haven't yet proven that they can win the World Series (or the NL Pennant) but they have proven already that they're more than willing to offer the fans a vastly improved game day experience at Wrigley and that in itself is a step in the right direction. If the Cubs fans are going to be paying the highest prices for tickets it should be satisfying to know that the owners are at least spending that money to enhance -- with bison, huge HD televisions and nicer bathrooms -- the game day experience.

 
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