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Now things are starting to get fun. Last month when I sat down to write this letter, I was reflecting on the improvements of the past year and the splash the Cubs made by signing free-agent manager Joe Maddon to a five-year contract. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein had recently spoken about how the organization was turning a corner and how he expected the Cubs to contend for the NL Central crown in 2015.
“We’re going to be very involved [in the free-agent market],” Epstein said. “It’s starting to be the right time to add impact talent.”
I think it’s safe to say he wasn’t exaggerating. Christmas came early for Cubs fans when the team landed coveted left-hander Jon Lester, righty Jason Hammel, All-Star catcher Miguel Montero and backup catcher David Ross around December’s Winter Meetings.
Lester, whom the Cubs signed to a six-year deal with an option for a seventh, was the jewel of the offseason pitching market, and several top teams—including the Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers—waged a fierce battle over him. Though those teams have been postseason fixtures in recent years, Lester ultimately chose to come to Chicago and reunite with Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer, the executives who drafted him back in 2002 with Boston.
For years, people have questioned the front office’s plan for the organization, and many wondered aloud if and when they could get a major free agent to buy into their vision. But the Cubs’ plan all along has been to rebuild the minor league system as quickly as possible and add impact players from outside the organization when the time was right.
These recent moves weren’t a deviation. They were a confirmation.
The Cubs’ pitch to Lester, who turns 31 years old on Jan. 7, centered around the lure of bringing a World Series title to the North Side, the unrivaled young talent filling the system and the restoration of Wrigley Field, which will soon provide players with some of the best facilities in the game.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think [the Cubs] were going to win in 2015,” Lester said. “So that’s how I think. I’m never going to say, ‘Well, we’ll be all right this year, and we’ll get ‘em next year.’ I’m going in with the intention of winning in 2015. And that means the division, that means the World Series, that means everything. Like I said, I don’t like to lose. You can call it arrogant, you can call it cocky, whatever you want. But I like to win, and that’s what I’m here to do.”
The baseball world has long been drooling over the Cubs’ preponderance of young bats, from Javier Baez to Kris Bryant to Addison Russell to Jorge Soler. Add that to an already solid bullpen and proven major league players like Jake Arrieta, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Hammel, Lester and Montero, and you’ve really got something.
This month, we only touch on the recent signings, which hit the Chicago area like a tsunami moments before we went to press. Next month, we’ll take a deep dive into all the moves (along with providing our annual minor league prospectus).
It’s funny how fast things change. Last I checked, the Cubs were at 12-1 odds to win the World Series at online sports book Bovada. Like I said, things are starting to get fun.
Speaking of fun, in this month’s issue, we get the backstory on three decades of the Cubs Convention, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary from Jan. 16-18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. We also shed some light on the charitable work the team performed in the last year as part of its 100 Gifts of Service, the club’s most ambitious philanthropic initiative ever. Finally, we get our first chance to talk to new hitting coach John Mallee about his philosophy and what he hopes to achieve on the North Side. With a talented crop of young players now under his tutelage, it’s safe to say the Chicago native is eager to get started.
Here’s the good news: We’re just one month away from pitchers (Lester, Hammel) and catchers (Montero, Ross) reporting to Spring Training. As always, look for us at the convention, where we’ll be renewing subscriptions, meeting fans, and possibly hosting a player or two. See you there.
The Chicago Cubs and WLS-TV/ABC 7 Chicago today announced a historic partnership for television rights to Cubs games. For the first time in the 68-year television broadcast history of the Cubs, baseball games will air on ABC 7. Starting in April 2015, the channel will air 25 games per year through the 2019 season in primetime, daytime and on weekends.
“We are excited to have WLS-TV as our new television broadcast partner,” said President of Business Operations Crane Kenney. “WLS-TV has established itself as a trusted voice in Chicago, and we look forward to a new chapter of Cubs baseball airing on the flagship station of the ABC television network.”
WLS-TV echoed the Cubs’ excitement and said they are looking forward to this new beginning with the organization.
“ABC 7 is thrilled to be a part of this new chapter for the Chicago Cubs organization, and we welcome Cubs fans to the No. 1 station in Chicago,” said John Idler, president and general manager of ABC 7. “Like all Cubs fans, we are eager to celebrate the 2015 Chicago Cubs.”
Kenney added the Cubs will soon announce the home for the team’s remaining games not currently under contract to ABC 7 or Comcast SportsNet, ensuring all Cubs games will be on the air in Chicago next season.
“We will complete our broadcast realignment shortly, allowing every Cubs fan in Chicago the opportunity to watch every game of what we believe will be an exciting and competitive season,” he said.
The Cubs welcomed the Lake View community to their annual tree-lighting ceremony Thursday to celebrate the holidays and conclude the team’s 100 Gifts of Service initiative. The 100 Gifts of Service projects were part of a yearlong program featuring Cubs players and associates engaging in community service in celebration of Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday season. Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins was on hand along with Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, Cubs Charities Chair Laura Ricketts, President of Business Operations Crane Kenney and representatives from many of the organizations that benefited from the team’s charitable acts this year. The large tree, donated by Christy Webber Landscapes, is located in front of the Cubs Store at the northwest corner of the Clark and Addison intersection. We were at Wrigley Field last night to help ring in the holiday season. And look for a feature story on the 100 Gifts of Service project in the January issue of Vine Line.
The Chicago Cubs and Wintrust Financial Corporation Wednesday announced their Legacy Partnership introducing Wintrust as the exclusive official banking partner of the Cubs, Hickory Street Capital LLC and Cubs Charities.
Starting in 2015, the Wintrust sign will be prominently displayed throughout Wrigley Field. The most recognizable position will be atop the left field video board that will be constructed this offseason. The partnership will expand over time and include:
- Primary signage rights above the new left field video board.
- Exclusive ATM provider rights. Fans will be able to use Wintrust ATMs at multiple locations within Wrigley Field.
- Logo placement on the team’s media backdrop.
- Eventual naming rights of the ballpark’s Gate D on the corner of Addison and Sheffield avenues. Gate D will be named “The Wintrust Gate” once its renovation is complete.
- Rotational signage behind home plate.
- A video board feature between innings at every Cubs home game.
- A presenting sponsorship of a game each season, including a special promotional giveaway item for fans.
- A presence at the team’s Spring Training home, Cubs Park, in Mesa, Arizona, with signage in the outfield and behind home plate, promotional space at the ballpark and a promotional date each season.
- A retail lease in the future entertainment plaza and hotel development adjacent to Wrigley Field, through a separate agreement with the Ricketts family’s Hickory Street Capital LLC.
“It was important for us to find a strong local player for our Financial Legacy Partner,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “This Legacy Partnership pairs these two Chicago institutions for years to come, and we know our fans will support Wintrust’s role as a critical partner in helping the team achieve its goals of winning a World Series, saving Wrigley Field and being a good neighbor. Wintrust is a perfect fit for us.”
The Wintrust Legacy Partnership agreement was secured by the Cubs’ agency, W Partners, which was launched in February 2013.
“This is more than a sports sponsorship,” said Ed Wehmer, Wintrust CEO and founder. “This is two Chicago institutions partnering to meet two lofty goals—one to win the World Series for the first time in more than a century and the other to become Chicago’s bank in an increasingly fragmented and competitive market. You can see a lot of parallels in our two organizations.”
Wintrust becomes the fifth Legacy Partner of the Cubs, joining Anheuser-Busch, ATI Physical Therapy, Starwood Hotels and Resorts and Under Armour.
The Cubs are inviting their fans to participate in a holiday toy drive benefiting children at Lawrence Hall Youth Services to conclude the team’s yearlong 100 Gifts of Service. Toys may be donated at the Cubs Store across from Wrigley Field beginning today until December 4 at 5:30 p.m., when the team will once again host a holiday celebration and tree lighting ceremony at the corner of Clark and Addison streets.
Fans and neighbors are invited to attend the tree-lighting ceremony and may bring their new, unwrapped toys to donate at the event. The large tree donated by Christy Webber Landscapes will stand at the northwest corner of the Clark and Addison intersection to avoid conflict with Wrigley Field construction. Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins will be joined by Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, President of Business Operations Crane Kenney and representatives from many of the organizations that benefited from the team’s 100 Gifts of Service this year. These 100 Gifts of Service represent a yearlong program featuring Cubs players and associates engaging in community service in celebration of Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday season.
For fans and neighbors who are unable to attend Thursday evening’s tree-lighting ceremony, the Cubs Store will accept new, unwrapped toys as donations during its business hours of 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Lawrence Hall Youth Services has compiled a wish list of desired toys (attached) that include action figures, board games, dolls, educational toys, puzzles, sporting equipment, stuffed animals, toy cars and more.
“Lawrence Hall’s foster care and treatment programs serve youth who have experienced trauma or neglect,” said Connie Falcone, vice president of development for Cubs Charities. “These holiday gifts will provide much-needed smiles to some very deserving children.”
In addition to the toy drive, fans worldwide can offer a monetary donation to Cubs Charities to support the toy drive and other programs targeting improvements in health, fitness and education for those at risk. Those interested in donating are encouraged to do so on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 2), which is a global day dedicated to giving back. The Cubs will participate in the global #GivingTuesday social media campaign and request fans share both the #GivingTuesday and #CubsCharities hashtags when encouraging donations online. Donations to Cubs Charities may be submitted online at cubscharities.com.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
To strengthen the franchise and provide additional streams of revenue, the Ricketts family and the Cubs organization have broken ground on the most ambitious restoration and expansion of Wrigley Field in the ballpark’s 100-year history. The following story can be seen in the November issue of Vine Line.
Even by American standards, Chicago is a relatively new city architecturally speaking. When a raging inferno wipes out a town’s entire central business district in the late 19th century, it does force planners and architects to start fresh.
The landmark structures that define the Chicago cityscape are all of recent vintage. Navy Pier was completed in 1916, the Wrigley Building in 1924 and the Willis (née Sears) Tower in 1973.
That makes Wrigley Field, which first opened its doors as Weeghman Park on April 23, 1914, one of the most venerable and historic structures in one of America’s great cities. When you walk into the Friendly Confines today, the feeling of shared history and connection to the game’s glorious past is palpable. It’s easy to imagine Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown squaring off against Christy Mathewson or Billy Williams striding to the plate to face Bob Gibson.
“So much has happened in the last 100 years, but Wrigley is still the same,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “It is the same ballpark your grandfather came to. It is the ballpark you’ll be able to take your grandkids to. It has a great history—the clubhouse where Babe Ruth got dressed, where Lou Gehrig played, where the Bears played for 50 years—it’s a building filled with 100 years of incredible memories.”
But the Wrigley Field Ruth played in is actually much different from the ballpark Williams played in. And that one is much different from the one Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Jake Arrieta call home today.
As the second-oldest facility in the major leagues—behind Boston’s Fenway Park—Wrigley Field is uniquely connected to its past. But while people think of Wrigley as constant and unchanging, and speak wistfully of its early days, it has actually undergone a series of enhancements and improvements over the years to keep up with the evolving game of baseball.
The ballpark Brown played in seated a little more than 14,000 people in one deck and had only a small section of bleachers. Williams experienced the modern bleachers and scoreboard, which were installed in 1937, but never played a night game at home.
Beginning this offseason, the world-famous ballpark, which just completed its 100th anniversary season, will take the next major step in its evolution, as the long-awaited restoration and expansion, known as The 1060 Project, is now underway. This privately funded, $575 million upgrade is designed to ensure the viability of the Friendly Confines for future generations of Cubs fans, while retaining the features that make Wrigley Field so special.
The four-year plan—which will include structural upgrades; improved player facilities; new fan amenities; outfield signage, including video boards in left and right field; expanded concessions; new and improved restroom facilities; and much more—will be rolled out in four phases, beginning this offseason.
The goal of The 1060 Project—so named for Wrigley Field’s address, 1060 W. Addison St.—is simple: to preserve the beauty, charm and historic features of Wrigley Field that fans have cherished for a century, while upgrading the overall gameday experience.
“Wrigley is a special place because it’s organic,” said Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. “It’s a part of the neighborhood in a way that no other ballpark is. It’s very much unchanged over the last 100 years, so you feel a connection to previous generations and previous players. To be able to walk through the tunnel and know that that’s where Billy Williams and Ernie Banks—or on the visiting side, all the way back to Babe Ruth—walked. It resonates the same way that baseball does for me, which is that it connects you to your past and connects you to the next generation.”
The 1060 Project isn’t just about modernization, though better food and amenities do require that. It also includes restoring Wrigley Field to its mid-1930s glory, when the ballpark was at its peak. The entire project team brings local and national experience working on historic facilities and respects its responsibility to maintain the park’s unique atmosphere. To get the details right, they have spent years studying and researching historical minutiae. This has required everything from poring over old photographs to studying soil samples.
“The ballpark always was designed to be very light and transparent,” said William Ketcham, principal at VOA, the architect of record on the construction drawings. “As we go back in time, the bottom register of the ballpark will be back to its original finishes of stucco and brick and terracotta with windows in it. The upper register will become iron and transparent grillage again. So the wind will blow through the park, and the light will come into the park in a way that is more historic. The way that it presents itself to the street again will be more delicate, a little lighter. The additions that we’re putting on the outside of the building will be of a vocabulary that is respectful of that tradition of the ironwork that was here in the ’20s and ’30s.”
It’s easy to be inspired by the one-of-a-kind experiences Wrigley Field provides: walking up the stairs and seeing the lush, green field for the first time; tracking the game’s progress via the hand-operated scoreboard; measuring the time of year by the amount of ivy covering the brick outfield walls. Leaving those features untouched while updating the ballpark so it’s prepared to last another 100 years presents its share of challenges.
“We’ve had engineers and contractors looking at every aspect of this building for the last two years documenting existing conditions and how the building is today, and utilizing that intelligence that we’ve learned in the design process, but there are still things that we haven’t been able to uncover,” said Michael Harms, senior vice president of Icon Venue Group, the project management team for the restoration. “We’re going to expose almost every square inch of this building in the phases we’re going to do, and we know there are surprises out there. The solution to that challenge is that we’ve hired a great group of professionals who are going to solve those problems and keep the project moving forward.”
To ensure the integrity of the Friendly Confines is maintained throughout the restoration process, the design team visited a number of iconic, older sporting venues—including Fenway Park, Dodger Stadium and the Rose Bowl—that recently underwent major renovations. No modern sporting facility would be designed like Wrigley Field was—the ballpark was constructed 100 years ago—so everyone working on the project wanted to be as prepared as possible before breaking ground.
“Our experience thus far in working with the Cubs organization and the Ricketts family is they want to do this right,” Harms said. “That’s, frankly, the best thing we could ever hear because we want to make sure everything we do in this ballpark improves the fan experience, restores the ballpark back to history and restores the ballpark for generations to come.”
To help fans better understand the scope of the project, which will be rolled out in four phases, here’s what you can expect at the corner of Clark and Addison in the coming years.
PHASE ONE (2015 SEASON)
The primary focus of the first phase of The 1060 Project will be structural work to prepare Wrigley Field for enhancements and improvements over the course of the construction plan.
During Phase One, major structural steel and deep foundation work will be performed in the concourse on the third-base (left-field) side of the ballpark from Gate K to home plate.
“It’s striking that so many things about the ballpark haven’t been addressed over the years,” Ricketts said. “I think we had decades where the stewards of the ballpark just did not address enough, particularly in the infrastructure of the ballpark. We’re going to address that. We know what we have to do, and we’re excited to get started on it.”
Phase One will also focus on expanding and improving the left- and right-field Budweiser Bleachers. Before the 2014 season ended, the team purchased more sidewalk space behind the ballpark on Waveland and Sheffield avenues to accommodate the expansion. The outer walls of Wrigley Field will now extend to the edge of where the sidewalk used to be.
The plan calls for an additional 300 seating positions in the left- and right-field bleachers and 300 more standing room positions in the bleacher deck. There will be new concession areas under the bleachers as well as group terraces where fans can congregate to enjoy Cubs games and other events.
The Friendly Confines will also get new outfield signage, including a 3,990-square-foot video board in left field and a 2,400-square-foot video board in right field. These will provide fans with real-time stats and information about the Cubs and their opponents during games.
“Wrigley has a very special vibe. It’s a special place,” Ricketts said. “We respect that. We think we understand what makes it so special. All the things that people associate with this beautiful ballpark will be preserved. It will just have better amenities and better services.”
PHASE TWO (2016 SEASON)
To win at the major league level, the Cubs must do much more than draft, sign and develop the right mix of players. They also must provide those players with the kind of best-in-class, off-the-field facilities needed to train players, rehabilitate injuries and prepare for the season. Phase Two of The 1060 Project will feature the improvement and expansion of the home clubhouse to give the team the best facilities in the game. The new clubhouse will be located directly west of the stadium beneath the new plaza, the current site of the Purple and Red parking lots.
“We want our players to have every possible advantage to compete on the most competitive stage there is night in, night out and to put themselves in a position to stay healthy and effective for 162 games, which is increasingly difficult in this modern era,” Epstein said. “It’s hard enough to get yourself ready to play and do it 162 times, but when you have dated facilities that are falling apart and that are limited—we don’t even have a batting tunnel to get players ready for the game—it’s really hard for players to get physically prepared, fundamentally prepared and mentally prepared for the game.
“It’s a good feeling for us to know that the players are going to have the best possible support to go out and compete. That, to me, is the most important part of a new ballpark.”
The current 11,000-square-foot clubhouse will be replaced by a state-of-the-art, 30,000-square-foot space, giving the Cubs one of the largest clubhouses in the game. This new area will include a locker room for players and coaches, a strength and conditioning center, training and hydrotherapy areas, a media center, team offices and a player lounge.
The former clubhouse area will be redeveloped into a new, larger dugout, two underground batting tunnels, an auditorium and additional office space for team officials.
Phase Two plans also include the development of a new home-plate club and a third-base club for premium and season ticket holders. The third-base club will be adjacent to the batting tunnels so fans can get a glimpse of Cubs players taking their practice swings prior to at-bats.
To enhance player safety, the home and visiting bullpens will be relocated from the field of play to an area underneath the expanded Budweiser Bleachers. New seats will be added in the old bullpen areas.
The new Wrigley Field will also have dramatically improved concession options for fans. A new, 30,000-square-foot concessions prep and staging area will be built below the plaza to ensure service levels are best in class and provide for the delivery of quality, fresh food.
The seats and most of the concrete from the left-field foul pole to the main gate under the marquee will all be replaced, and the third-base-side concourse will be completed. Plans include new concessions and bathrooms in the area.
Phase Two also calls for enhancements to the upper level in right field, including a new outdoor concourse along the south and west roofline with additional concessions and bathrooms.
“It would be really wonderful if all of the support we put into the infrastructure makes the gameday experience better for the fans,” Ketcham said. “They can spend more time in their seats watching the game, enjoying it, with better food delivered more comfortably, and be able to look around and say, ‘Yeah, it’s still the neighborhood ballpark I remember from 50 years ago.’”
PHASE THREE (2017 SEASON)
For Phase Three, much of the work will move to the first-base side. This will include a new umpires’ room and an improved visitors’ clubhouse, in addition to improvements to the first-base-side concourse to create a better fan experience.
“My first time here with a visiting team was 1996, and I remember being shocked at the visiting clubhouse—just how small it was,” Epstein said. “I thought it was a joke. I thought someone had walked me into the utility closet and told me it was the visiting clubhouse.”
Clark the Cub will get a new home on the first-base side, and there will be a first-base club space for season ticket holders.
Enhancements to the upper level will shift to the left-field side. The new outdoor concourse along the south and west roofline will be completed in this phase as well.
By the conclusion of Phase Three, the goal is to have the majority of work in the main concourse completed.
“As fans come back to the restored Wrigley Field over the next few years, they’ll see some changes, but what you won’t see is a wholesale difference,” Ricketts said. “You’re going to feel like this is the ballpark you know and the ballpark you love. But what you will see are shorter lines for everything, you will see more information during the game, you will see a cleaner, more open concourse, you will see easier exits and entrances. It will be a much better fan experience.”
The Cubs will also add an upper-deck club for season ticket holders and improve and expand the luxury suites. As an added bonus, suite-holders can now customize their space by choosing from several design options.
PHASE FOUR (2018 SEASON)
Phase Four will finish any remaining work in the main concourse along the first-base line and add a two-story retail and entertainment complex of at least 9,000 square feet in the right-field corner to replace the existing street-level restaurant.
Work will also be completed on the middle portion of the upper level. This will include a renovated press box, new seats, new concessions and new bathrooms.
By Phase Four, the Ricketts family’s neighborhood development project should also be completed. Plans call for an open-air plaza outside the ballpark for Cubs fans, visitors and families in the community to enjoy year-round.
The development will incorporate an office building at the north end of the new plaza space to house Cubs offices, a conference meeting space and retail shops.
Finally, the plan features a premium Starwood hotel across the street from the ballpark. This will include 175 rooms, a 40,000-square-foot health club, retail spaces, and food and beverage options for fans and the community.
“This restoration of Wrigley Field is extremely important,” Ricketts said. ”It is Wrigley-ville.
People move here because they want to live near the ballpark. Businesses open and thrive here because of the ballpark. It’s an important part of this community. But it is bigger than that. It is really the beating heart of the North Side of Chicago. It is the place where the people gather. And so we think the renovation of Wrigley and the preservation of this wonderful ballpark means an incredible amount to the city and its people.”
Though it will be some time before The 1060 Project is completed, the Cubs organization and the project team have already done years of groundwork to ensure Wrigley Field remains the jewel it has always been. It has been said before—and often—but the closest comparison for a project of this scale is Fenway Park. It’s the only baseball facility that can match Wrigley Field in terms of age and historical relevance. Following the work in Boston a few years ago, it would be hard to argue that Fenway Park doesn’t still feel like Fenway, despite more modern touches and advertising signs. It’s just a better ballpark experience for fans and players.
“I got to experience the transformation of Fenway Park in Boston, really witness how that was a win for everyone,” Epstein said. “For the fans, it just improved the experience where it was still the same old traditional, wonderful venue, but just enhanced with modern amenities. It’s a more comfortable experience without sacrificing any of the traditions that made it great for generations upon generations.”
By the time fans stream into Wrigley Field in 2018, the ballpark will look a bit different.
Among other improvements, the bleachers will be enhanced, there will be video boards and advertising signs in the outfield, the concourses will be cleaner and more accessible, and an open-air plaza will take the place of the old Purple and Red parking lots. But the bricks and ivy will still be there, as will the hand-operated scoreboard and iconic marquee.
Preserving the past while still modernizing the ballpark will take considerable time, effort and resources, but it’s also essential to ensure a 100-year-old facility can survive and thrive in the modern era.
“There’s really no way to describe the amount of work that has gone into getting just to this point, where we’re beginning the process of restoring the ballpark,” Ricketts said. “There’s a lot of people who have dedicated their lives over the last several years to be ready for this moment, and they’ll be dedicating their lives going forward for four more years. But when it’s done, it’ll all be worth it. For everybody.”
On April 23, 1914, a new and thoroughly modern ballpark opened up on Chicago’s North Side. When the gates were flung wide on the Federal League’s crown jewel, Weeghman Park, fans were treated to their first look at a beautiful steel and brick structure that was designed to stand the test of time. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t need a little help.
Over the last 100 years, the iconic ballpark at the corner of Clark and Addison has gone through countless enhancements, modernizations and expansions. The game moves fast, and major league teams need to keep pace. In 1914, Weeghman Park had only one level, the press box was on the roof, and the facility seated just north of 14,000 people. Not much of that would fly today.
Since then, Wrigley Field has been updated with everything from a second deck, to a hand-operated scoreboard, to new bleachers, to stadium lights, to an improved field drainage system, to a right-field video board. At every step along the way, the Friendly Confines has retained its charm and feel—and has been better off for the additions. A ballpark doesn’t get to be 100 years old without evolving to meet the demands of its sport.
There are pros and cons about playing in a landmark, century-old facility. On the plus side, there is no more beautiful place to watch a Major League Baseball game than the Friendly Confines, from the bricks and ivy of the outfield wall to being ensconced in a thriving urban neighborhood. But there are things the park is missing too, from both a fan and player perspective.
Most fans wouldn’t argue with more and better food options or a few extra restrooms here and there. The players could use a larger clubhouse facility, a better strength and conditioning center, and underground batting tunnels to use during games. And the front office would love additional revenue from things like new video boards and advertising to help keep the Cubs competitive for the foreseeable future.
Every other team in the fiercely competitive NL Central has opened a new facility since 2001, and, make no mistake, they all have these things.
This offseason begins the next, and most ambitious, step in the evolution of Wrigley Field. Over the next four years, the Cubs plan to preserve the beauty and historic features fans have cherished about the ballpark for decades while updating and improving the gameday experience for everyone.
In Vine Line‘s November issue, we get a first look at The 1060 Project and how the plan will come together between now and 2018. We talked to the people who are making the restoration happen, from Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein to the project team, so fans know what to expect as the ballpark is enhanced.
“Wrigley has a very special vibe,” Ricketts said. “It’s a special place. We respect that. We think we understand what makes it so special, and all the things that people associate with this beautiful ballpark will be preserved. It will just have better amenities and better services and more information.”
We also jump into the 2014-15 offseason along with the Cubs players. After more than seven months of continuous routine and rigorous training, it’s an unusual experience for them to suddenly have so much free time on their hands. We stopped by the clubhouse in the season’s final days to find out how the Cubs handle the transition to the offseason.
Finally, for our monthly Wrigley 100 feature, we look back at one of the most beloved Cubs figures of all time, Harry Caray. The legendary broadcaster and Hall of Famer died in 1998, but he more than left his mark on the franchise in his 16 years in (and out) of the booth.
We’ll spend this offseason keeping you up-to-date on all the details of The 1060 Project in the pages of Vine Line, on the Web and on Twitter at @cubsvineline. Here’s to the next 100 years at Wrigley Field.
The restoration of historic Wrigley Field is officially underway. On Saturday, Oct. 11, the Chicago Cubs and the Ricketts family hosted Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig, former Cubs pitchers Milt Pappas and Kerry Wood, city and state officials, community and corporate partners, and representatives from the project team at the groundbreaking ceremony for Wrigley Field’s long-awaited expansion and restoration, now titled The 1060 Project.
More than 200 people joined the team for the event, which included a ceremonial dig with special Cubs-themed shovels and a backdrop of construction already underway in the outfield.
“After years of working on a solution to save and improve Wrigley Field, we are thrilled to break ground on The 1060 Project,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “This day marks a significant milestone in our quest to provide our players and fans with the best facilities in baseball.”
The 1060 Project will ensure the viability of the 100-year-old ballpark for future generations of Cubs fans, while preserving the beauty, charm and historic features fans have come to know and love.
“When you think of a baseball park that embodies its city, its community and its fans, there is simply no more powerful example in baseball than that of Wrigley Field and the profound bond it continues to inspire with Chicago, Illinois,” Selig said.
The four-year plan—which includes structural updates; improved player facilities; new signage, including video boards in left and right field; expanded concessions; new and improved restroom facilities; and much more—will be rolled out in four separate phases, beginning in the 2014-15 offseason. This privately-funded, $575 million project will create approximately 2,100 jobs and generate $1.2 billion in net new revenue to the local economy over the next 30 years.
“This restoration project is a significant private investment that will create thousands of jobs, ensure Wrigley Field can be enjoyed by Chicagoans for generations to come, and help the Cubs toward their goal of giving their fans a long-awaited World Series championship,” Emanuel said. “With this project, the Cubs are investing in more than just their historic stadium. They will continue to be a good neighbor by investing in the surrounding area for traffic flow, security and public parks. This is a great step for the Cubs and for all of Chicago.”
The 1060 Project team includes Pepper Construction, a Chicago-based firm that has nearly a century of experience on large-scale projects such as the Merchandise Mart, Marshall Field’s and the Shedd Aquarium; VOA, a full-service international architectural firm that designed many high-profile projects in the Chicago area, including Navy Pier, the Old Town School of Folk Music and Prentice Women’s Hospital; D’Agostino Izzo Quirk Architects (DAIQ), a full-service architectural firm instrumental in restoring Boston’s Fenway Park, Dodger Stadium and The Rose Bowl; ICON Venue Group, a project management company that has produced more than $4 billion worth of home venues for franchises in each major professional sports league, and has worked on Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field, Toyota Park in Bridgeview and the Cubs’ new Spring Training complex in Mesa, Arizona; and Harboe Architects, led by nationally known, Chicago-based preservation architect Gunny Harboe, who has had oversight of major restoration projects such as the Sullivan Center, the Chicago Board of Trade and the Field Building.
The primary focus of the project’s first phase, to be completed this offseason, is infrastructure work. The ballpark’s structural steel and foundation will be strengthened, and much of the concrete in the Budweiser Bleachers will be replaced. More than 50 million pounds of new concrete will be poured at the Friendly Confines during the course of the restoration.
The first phase also includes the expansion and improvement of the left- and right-field Budweiser Bleachers. This expansion will provide more room for fans in the concourse, additional concession areas, and new group terraces where fans can congregate during Cubs games and other events. Several new outfield signs will be added this offseason, including a 3,990-square-foot video board in left field and a smaller 2,225-square-foot video board in right field.
Subsequent phases will address the improvement and expansion of player facilities; new bullpens and batting tunnels; new restrooms, concessions, seats, luxury suites, clubs, restaurants, and retail and entertainment spaces for fans; additional commissary space for food preparation; and an improved press box. A separate Ricketts family development will feature a hotel, a fitness club, a retail space and an open-air plaza adjacent to the ballpark.
For additional information about The 1060 Project, please visit www.wrigleyfield.com. And watch for the November issue of Vine Line, which will have a cover feature with details on all four phases of the restoration.
It’s not always easy to stick to your guns. Especially if the decisions you’re making aren’t all that popular.
When Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod first came aboard with the Cubs, they were hailed as conquering heroes who could do no wrong and would soon (and inevitably) carry the organization to the promised land. The Chicago Sun-Times even ran a tongue-in-cheek image of Epstein walking on water.
The new baseball operations men quickly laid out their plan, set a clear course of action and got to work. Their stated goal was to hire the best people in the business, stockpile young talent and build a player-development machine to get that young talent on the fast track to Wrigley Field.
Once the brain trust started making their first moves, the fan base gave them the benefit of the doubt. Not everyone loved seeing favorites like Andrew Cashner, Ryan Dempster and Sean Marshall go, but people figured everything the front office touched would turn to gold. On the plus side, the Cubs picked up first baseman Anthony Rizzo, signed Cuban free agent Jorge Soler and drafted outfielder Albert Almora, among other, less-heralded moves. Despite finishing 2012 with 101 losses, baseball ops stayed the course.
By the time the 2013 campaign came to a close, the voices of dissent were growing louder. The Cubs traded Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano and fired manager Dale Sveum after a 96-loss season. Yet, the front office remained steadfast. While people grumbled, the team acquired players like Jake Arrieta, Corey Black, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm and Pedro Strop; drafted Kris Bryant; and locked up Starlin Castro and Rizzo with team-friendly long-term deals.
Though the win-loss record didn’t improve dramatically in 2014, the Cubs’ collection of young talent—augmented by players like Billy McKinney, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber—hit critical mass. Now it’s undeniable the Cubs are coming fast, and people around baseball are taking notice. National columnists, local pundits and sports pages across the country are lauding the organization’s elite system.
For the past several years, if you were unwilling to look beyond the team playing at Wrigley Field, it was hard to see what the Cubs were building. When the major league team was losing, the idea of “top prospects” was too nebulous to provide much comfort. But once those same prospects started arriving in the bigs, it was hard to deny their energy, enthusiasm and raw talent.
Not every call-up posted huge numbers, but they all made strong impressions. Kyle Hendricks was occasionally dazzling, Jorge Soler demonstrated impact potential, and guys like Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara and Eric Jokisch all showed flashes.
Through everything—all the losses, all the complaints, all the stories about the Cubs’ struggles—the front office never wavered from their plan, even when it would have been easier (and much better PR) to hold onto some of their veteran talent and/or throw money at risky free agents. Now that patience is starting to pay off.
I’m in no way saying the Commissioner’s Trophy should be on its way to Clark and Addison next season. Baseball is far too random to guarantee anything like that. But it’s undeniable the Cubs have built a formidable foundation of talent that is the envy of the baseball world.
In the October issue of Vine Line, Baseball Prospectus’ Sahadev Sharma examines the work the front office has been doing to assemble the top system in the game. We also give readers a sneak peek into a true baseball treasure, as we take a tour through the famous Wrigley Field manual scoreboard with the men who work inside. Finally, we go back to June 23, 1984, when Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg made the entire baseball world and a national TV audience take notice with two memorable home runs in the fabled Sandberg Game.
You can always find news on Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ storied past and the organization’s bright future in Vine Line and on Twitter at @cubsvineline. And stay tuned this offseason—things are about to get fun.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s already time for the final homestand of the season. From Sept. 15-24, Charles Barkley, Joakim Noah, Larry King and more will help the Cubs welcome the Reds, Dodgers and Cardinals to town for a last hurrah. If you’re a fan of the Big Ten, this is the series for you, as the Cubs will be hosting Big Ten Rivalry Week games the entire homestand.
Here are the other guests and promotions you’ll find at the Friendly Confines during the 10-game set.
Final Homestand Recap, Sept. 15-24
Monday, Sept. 15, Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds, 7:05 p.m.
- Special Event: Big Ten Rivalry Week, Indiana vs. Purdue
- First pitch: Shane Davis, Loyola University Chicago men’s volleyball coach
- Seventh-inning stretch: Members of the 2014 National Champion Loyola University Chicago men’s volleyball team
- Broadcast: CSN-TV+, WGN 720-AM Radio, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com
Tuesday, Sept. 16, Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds, 7:05 p.m.
- Special Event: Big Ten Rivalry Week, Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
- First pitch: Charles Barkley, NBA Hall of Famer and current analyst on TNT’s Inside the NBA
- Seventh-inning stretch: TBD
- Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com
Wednesday, Sept. 17, Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds, 7:05 p.m.
- Special Event: Big Ten Rivalry Week, Michigan vs. Ohio State
- First pitch: Joakim Noah, All-Star Chicago Bulls center
- Seventh-inning stretch: TBD
- Broadcast: CSN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
Thursday, Sept.18, Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 7:05 p.m.
- Special Event: Healthcare Professionals Night
- Pregame ceremony: Recipients of more than $330,000 in Diamond Project grants from Cubs Charities
- Seventh-inning stretch: Big Ten Network’s BTN Live host Dave Revsine, analysts Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith
- Broadcast: CSN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
Friday, Sept.19, Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 1:20 p.m.
- Promotion: Cubs Travel Blanket presented by United Airlines (first 10,000 fans)
- First pitch: Larry King, host of Larry King Now on Ora.TV
- Seventh-inning stretch: Nick Digilio, Pete McMurray and Patti Vasquez, WGN Radio talents
- Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
Saturday, Sept. 20, Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 12:05 p.m.
- Promotion: Cubs Tumbler presented by Pepsi (first 10,000 fans)
- Seventh-inning stretch: TBD
- Broadcast: FOX-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
Sunday, Sept. 21, Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 1:20 p.m.
- Special Event: Big Ten Rivalry Week, Maryland vs. Rutgers
- Promotion: Lunch Tote presented by Jewel-Osco (first 5,000 children)
- First pitches: Actors Jason Beghe and Eamonn Walker from Chicago P.D. and Chicago Fire
- Seventh-inning stretch: TBD
- Broadcast: CSN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
Monday, Sept. 22, Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 7:05 p.m.
- Special Event: Big Ten Rivalry Week, Michigan State vs. Penn State
- Seventh-inning stretch: Tom O’Reilly, Cubs Charities Bricks and Ivy Ball auction winner
- Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com
Tuesday, Sept. 23, Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 7:05 p.m.
- Special Event: Big Ten Rivalry Week, Iowa vs. Nebraska
- Seventh-inning stretch: Tom Dreesen, comedian, Chicago native
- Broadcast: WCIU-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com
Wednesday, Sept. 24, Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 7:05 p.m.
- Special Event: Big Ten Rivalry Week, Illinois vs. Northwestern
- Pregame ceremony: Military Take the Field
- Seventh-inning stretch: Wrigley Field grounds crew
- Broadcast: CSN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com