(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes has been named the 2014 Illinois Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
“I’d like to dedicate this award to my wonderful broadcast partner, Ron Coomer, and to the Chicago Cubs fans, the best listening audience in the world,” Hughes said.
This is Hughes’ ninth Sportscaster of the Year honor and his sixth in Illinois, having previously won the award in 1996, 1999, 2006, 2007 and 2009. Hughes was honored as Wisconsin’s Sportscaster of the Year in 1990, 1991 and 1992.
Hughes is entering his 33rd campaign broadcasting big league baseball and his 20th season with the Cubs. The 2015 season will mark his second year teaming with Coomer on the Cubs Radio Network. He and Coomer join their new broadcast home, WBBM Newsradio 780, in 2015.
The award will be presented June 9, 2015, in Salisbury, N.C.
(Photo by David Durochik)
Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday season is in the books. To celebrate the milestone, the Cubs embarked on an unprecedented and ambitious plan for a yearlong celebration. Now that it’s over, we take a look back at how it all came together. The following can be found in the December issue of Vine Line.
Under the best of circumstances, party planning can be stressful. There’s deciding on the menu, stocking the bar, planning activities to ensure revelers have a good time, figuring out what to wear, and compiling an interesting and appropriate guest list.
Now imagine your party swelled to include some 2.6 million people and lasted for 81 days. Daunting doesn’t even begin to describe it.
When the Cubs set out to throw fans the Party of the Century during the 2014 season to celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday, it was a nearly unprecedented task. The only other franchise that had attempted anything near this scale was the Boston Red Sox, who celebrated Fenway Park’s centennial with an amazing one-day blowout on April 20, 2012.
But, unlike their Boston counterparts, the Cubs decided to make their celebration last all season long, thereby embarking on one of the most ambitious and lengthy promotional campaigns ever attempted in professional sports.
Throughout the year, the Cubs tied in most of their activities during 10 different decade-themed homestands to the Wrigley Field 100 theme. They brought in special guests who had a connection with the decade being celebrated, including Pat Brickhouse, the widow of late, great broadcaster Jack Brickhouse, and Lennie Merullo, the last living link to the Cubs’ most recent World Series team in 1945; they wore 10 different throwback uniforms, more than any other team had ever attempted; they created a set of 10 era-specific bobbleheads, from Babe Ruth’s called shot to a Rick Sutcliffe first night game edition with working lights; they offered 10 different historic toys to children on Sundays, like a Cubs Etch A Sketch and a Gracie the Swan Beanie Baby; and they served up historic food and drink options, from a classic Old Fashioned to the famous Vienna Beef Decade Dogs.
This, coupled with an improved team, added up to an increase in attendance over the previous season and some 2.25 billion media impressions—double what the Cubs were expecting—about the Wrigley Field 100 celebration on TV and radio, in print and online, including in nonsporting outlets like The New York Times, The Today Show and Forbes magazine.
So how did it all come together?
* * * *
Though the organization had its collective eye on the centennial for years, the real planning kicked off with an email sent in December 2012, a full 16 months before the key season was set to kick off on April 4, 2014. Cubs Senior Director of Marketing Alison Miller, who had just joined the Cubs from General Mills in July 2012, gathered her team for a kickoff meeting and brainstorming session about Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary. To get everyone in the mood, there were cupcakes, hats and party favors.
“It was an exciting time because you’re sitting around a table throwing ideas around, and you realize the opportunities are almost endless,” said John Morrison, manager of brand activation. “The difficulty was figuring out, oh, there are so many opportunities and so many wonderful things we can do that the players, front office, fans, single-game ticket purchasers and season ticket holders would all love. Let’s really dial this thing in on what are going to be the coolest, most impactful things.”
To generate ideas for the celebration, the Cubs looked for inspiration off the field. Because there were really no other sports teams that had attempted anything like this, the Cubs looked at companies that were adept at celebrating key milestones—first and foremost, Disney.
The Mouse House has always had a keen eye for integrating its promotions throughout the company.
“It’s one thing to have the anniversary, but it’s all in how you integrate it, not only in your advertising, but in your own organization,” Miller said. “Then you’re in meetings, and people are saying, ‘Well, what if we tied it into the 100th, or how can we make this tie into the campaign?’ That’s what I want as a marketing person. If anybody’s thinking of an idea, they’re bringing it back to the campaign.
“Then, as the consumer, you’re seeing a very holistic look from us. You’re seeing anything from the Cubs this year was all tied to Wrigley Field turning 100. Everything from the boxes of tickets that you got, to when you show up at the ballpark, to the giveaways that we did, to the uniforms that we’re wearing, to the food that we served—everything is really synced into one campaign.”
Early on, the brain trust decided the celebration should focus on Wrigley Field, not just the Cubs. That opened up a world of possibilities for the marketing team. Though the Cubs have now played at the ballpark for 98 years, they were not the original tenants. That honor belongs to the Chi-Feds of the old Federal League. And Wrigley has hosted much more than just baseball over the years, including Bears football, boxing, ski jumping, hockey, soccer and concert events.
Once the Cubs settled on the yearlong decades concept, they enlisted Chicago advertising agency Schafer Condon Carter to help them flesh out how they would put the idea into action. The agency came up with the 10 Decades/10 Homestands theme and the Party of the Century tag, and the Cubs were off and running.
The next goal was to get everybody in the organization on board. To make a promotion of this magnitude work, the marketing team needed buy-in from all levels of the organization. This necessitated a number of meetings to get everyone pulling in the same direction, but it also included little things like making sure every team employee received Cubs merchandise with the Wrigley Field 100 logo to wear throughout the season.
“I remember at one of the first meetings, [business president Crane Kenney] was like, ‘Everyone has to get behind the 100th. This is our big initiative,’” Miller said. “That set the tone, but orchestrating that is a lot.
Making sure everyone’s synced up. … That was a little bit more of a challenge, but that’s personally rewarding as well when it all comes together. I think we look back, and it’s like, holy cow, this was a lot that we did. But we pulled it off.”
* * * *
One of the first fan-facing initiatives of the 100th birthday celebration was the Wrigley Field Turns 100 Logo Contest, which allowed people to submit logo designs to be featured on all Cubs promotional items, in the ballpark and on team uniforms throughout the 2014 season. The Cubs received more than 1,200 submissions in February 2013, and fans voted on the designs through April 23, 2013.
The reason this was done so early is because the Cubs needed the lead-time to produce the Wrigley Field 100 merchandise, complete with logo. This included team uniforms, which had to be submitted to the league and manufacturer Majestic Athletic early in the 2013 season. The now-ubiquitous winning logo, designed by Brandon Ort of New Bremen, Ohio, was unveiled in August, but by then, the merchandising machine was already in full swing.
The 10 decade-specific throwback uniforms, which made their debut with 1914 Chi-Feds attire at the 100th birthday game, turned out to be one of the more popular promotions the team ran. Following April 23, the Cubs and their visitors each wore historic uniforms on the first home Sunday of each decade celebration.
Throwbacks have been popular throughout the game in recent years, but, according to Majestic, no team had ever attempted something as ambitious as creating 10 uniforms to be worn by both the home team and the visitors.
“[Majestic] kind of looked at us like, ahh, do you know what you’re getting into?” said Lyndsey Wittemann, coordinator of Authentics and licensing, who was in charge of the season’s retro looks.
The goal was to find uniforms that harkened back to significant events at Wrigley Field during each decade of the ballpark’s history. The marketing team put together a committee, which included Cubs board member Todd Ricketts, to help decide which uniforms to use. Wittemann had to coordinate with Major League Baseball, Majestic and the visiting teams to make sure everyone was on board and the uniforms were as historically accurate as possible.
“We obviously looked into the top moments at Wrigley Field to kind of figure out which one from each decade we wanted to celebrate,” she said. “From there, we would go and try to find some historical images of each uniform, and make sure we had one of every angle and of every component. Then we sent over the images and the years we wanted to do to Majestic. They did their own background research on top of ours and compiled everything all into one uniform and sent a sample out to us.”
This was also one of the more interesting promotions because it actually impacted the players, who found new, historic uniforms hanging in their lockers 10 times in 2014.
“The players absolutely loved the uniforms,” Wittemann said. “A lot of the players actually wanted them for themselves. Many players were like, ‘Oh, this is my favorite. I’m keeping this one.’”
By this point, the marketing team was also cranking out ideas and designs for the 10 bobblehead and toy giveaways. Before producing the bobbleheads, the Cubs needed to work with either the individuals or the estates representing the individuals for each idea to get likeness clearances. For the retro toy series, they had to work with the different toy manufacturers. But all parties quickly realized what a unique opportunity it was to feature themselves, their family member or their product at the Wrigley Field 100 celebration.
“This was really an opportunity for us to showcase all the unbelievable events and historic events and milestones that have taken place at Wrigley Field,” Morrison said. “There was an opportunity here to showcase things we’ve never before had such an ideal opportunity to showcase—and probably won’t in the near future.”
The real trick, according to the marketing team, was settling on just 10 concepts for each type of giveaway.
“To take 100 years of history and only represent 10 moments or figures is a very difficult thing to do,” Morrison said. “There were concerts at Wrigley Field. There have been ski jumps, boxing matches, basketball games, soccer matches. They’re all so unique and neat, and a lot of fans don’t even know these ever existed. So, yeah, there was tons of discussion. Do we do this boxing match, or do we do the Harlem Globetrotters, or do we do the Chicago Sting? We could have done a 50-bobblehead set. No question.
“You’d be surprised, with all the big issues that come across people’s desks when working for a professional sports team, how much discussion about which 10 moments we should celebrate [there was]. How those can quickly get prioritized to the top of the list. It was comical.”
Once the season drew near, it was time to start scheduling visits from the people who made the Wrigley Field 100 festivities so special. Every year, the Cubs bring in guests to throw out the first pitch and sing the seventh-inning stretch at home games. For 2014, they decided each visitor should tie in to the promotion or decade if possible. They still went for A-list celebrities like Chris Pratt and Charles Barkley when the opportunity arose, but they also tried to bring in former Cubs players from each decade or people who had a special connection to the era.
Over the course of the season, the Cubs welcomed guests like Joe Tinker’s family members; Sue Quigg, the grandniece of former Cubs owner Charles Weeghman; Merullo; and former Bears players Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus. Quigg, who passed away during the 2014 season, was on hand for the birthday game, where she tossed a 100-year-old ball her grandmother once threw at a Federals game.
“When you get someone who hasn’t been back here in 30, 40 years, and they step onto the field for that first time, it’s like they’re going back in time,” said Jim Oboikowitch, manager of game and event production. “When [the media] talks to them, it’s just exciting for them, and they’re back in that same spot they were in 30, 40, 50 years ago.”
* * * *
The crown jewel of the Wrigley Field 100 celebration was obviously the 100th birthday blowout on April 23. That was the day the marketing team and the entire Cubs organization breathed a collective sigh of relief that this was actually happening—that they had pulled it off—after more than a year of planning.
Well, perhaps it would be more accurate to say they breathed that sigh of relief on April 24. On the previous day, much of the Cubs team, including Manager of Broadcast Relations Joe Rios, had been up for more than 24 hours helping coordinate the various photo shoots, newscasts and media requests from outlets around the world. But, ultimately, the day was still all about the fans.
“I think when you really had that ‘ah ha!’ moment that this is a special day was before the pregame festivities even started, when lines started to form around Wrigley Field,” Morrison said. “They were wrapping from under the marquee north down Clark. The lines at Gate K were wrapping east down Waveland, and the fans were lined up north along Sheffield hours before first pitch.
“At that moment, I understood, wow, this is important to all these people. It’s not that the newscasters are here, and these historic figures are here. These are the people of Chicago. These are the people that have come to Wrigley Field over the past 100 years, taking their moment to celebrate and take this all in.”
To make the day worthy of the venue, the team brought in former athletes or their relatives, team representatives and dignitaries who helped shape Wrigley Field; actors and grounds crew members dressed in period costumes; the first 30,000 fans went home with replica 1914 Chi-Feds jerseys; a biplane flyover punctuated the pregame festivities; the Cubs released balloons from behind the left-field wall; the crowd serenaded Wrigley Field with “Happy Birthday” after the fifth inning; and everyone went home with a cupcake thanks to Jewel-Osco.
Feedback from fans and the media was universally positive, and the marketing team was able to finally enjoy the moment later that night at the Cubs Charities Bricks and Ivy Ball at the Field Museum. To a person, the only thing the group said they regret is that the Cubs couldn’t bring home a victory to cap the afternoon. The Cubs (dressed as the Federal League’s Chi-Feds) dropped the game 7-5 to the Arizona Diamondbacks (dressed as the Kansas City Packers).
“The 23rd will always stand out because we’re not going to see the 200th birthday,” Oboikowitch said. “You and I are only here for one of these.”
While it’s nearly impossible to explain all the work that went into—and all the people who played a part in—pulling off the Party of the Century at Wrigley Field, it was definitely a labor of love for everyone in the Cubs organization.
“It was certainly daunting to a certain degree,” Morrison said. “But any sense of being overwhelmed is quickly squashed when you step back and realize, as a lifelong Cub fan, I am in a position to evaluate what are all the figures and moments that make up Wrigley Field, and how can we represent those the best to showcase them to people just like me, who grew up fans of the team and of the ballpark.”
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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.
(Photo by David Durochik)
Every baseball season is filled with memorable moments, and this year’s Cubs campaign was no exception. Cornerstone players had bounceback seasons, newer additions stepped up, and top prospects made their big league debuts. To wrap up the year, we asked you to pick your top 10 moments of 2014. From now until the end of the year, we’ll be unveiling one moment per day.
The Cubs celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday—April 23
Reaching 100 years old deserves a little fanfare, and the Cubs pulled out all the stops to properly celebrate Wrigley Field’s big day on April 23.
A number of dignitaries were on hand for the special pregame ceremony, including Cubs alums like Andre Dawson and Ryan Dempster; Bears legends Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers, who called Wrigley Field home until the 1971 NFL season; then-Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig; and representatives of past Cubs ownership groups.
The Cubs took the field wearing 1914 Chi-Feds uniforms as part of the team’s yearlong throwback celebration. The visiting Arizona D-backs sported Kansas City Packers uniforms to re-create the Federal League matchup that took place 100 years ago when the stadium first opened its doors.
Fans dressed up in period costumes, everyone sang “Happy Birthday” during the fifth inning as balloons flew from behind the left-field wall, and Dutchie Caray, widow of beloved broadcaster Harry Caray, led a group of Wrigley alumni in a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.
Though the Cubs/Chi-Feds ultimately dropped the game 7-5, it was certainly a day to remember for fans and alums alike.
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 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.
Robbie Gould knows a thing or two about playing in front of an enthusiastic fan base. The longtime Bears kicker, who has called Chicago home for the last decade, has quietly become one of the NFL’s greatest special teamers of all time. Vine Line caught up with the 32-year-old before a chilly, early-May showdown against the White Sox to talk about the similarities between the Bears and the Cubs, playing football at Wrigley Field and the pressure that comes with his chosen profession.
(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.”
Not only is the restoration process at Wrigley Field in full swing, but fans can now capitalize on its progress. On Monday, Cubs Authentics introduced the Wrigley Field Collection for fans looking to collect unique items from the historic ballpark.
The Wrigley Field Collection will feature authenticated items in limited quantities throughout the season, including bleacher seats, flags, scoreboard tiles, signage and celebrity guest memorabilia, plus items related to Wrigley Field’s restoration and expansion.
The items are available for purchase or bidding at cubs.com/authentics, beginning with a limited number of Wrigley Field flags plus Budweiser Bleacher seats and aisle placards recently removed from the ballpark. Additional items, such as ‘W’ flags flown over the ballpark after home wins and swatch items with authenticated infield dirt, will become available during the 2015 season and throughout the course of the restoration process.
“The Wrigley Field Collection is the best way for fans to secure an authenticated piece of Wrigley Field history,” said Cubs Senior Director of Marketing Alison Miller. “Whether it’s a flag flown at the ballpark during the season or a Budweiser Bleacher seat removed as part of the restoration, Cubs Authentics and the Wrigley Field Collection offer both the team and our fans a chance to preserve the history attached to these great items.”
In addition to memorabilia made available for sale to fans, the Cubs and Cubs Authentics continue to preserve historic elements of the ballpark and game-used gear for the team’s archives. Some items, such as bricks from Wrigley Field’s original bleacher construction, will be re-used in the restored Wrigley Field as possible. Others, such as unique signage or equipment from noteworthy games, are stored securely in the Cubs Archives.
Cubs Authentics can be found at the following locations:
• The Cubs Authentics kiosk, located in the Wrigley Field concourse (in-season only)
• The Cubs Store (3620 N. Clark St.) across from Wrigley Field
• Online at cubs.com/authentics
• Memorabilia also can be purchased over the phone at 773-404-4753 or by emailing CubsAuthentics@cubs.com.
If you want to learn more about the Cubs Authentics program, check out our video from last year.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs and ESPN announced Friday that the 2015 season opener at Wrigley Field has been moved to Sunday, April 5, to accommodate MLB’s Opening Night. The North Siders will host St. Louis, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
This will mark the first Opening Night in Wrigley Field history. With the 2015 Cubs now debuting on Sunday night, the series against the Cardinals will be adjusted as follows:
Sunday, April 5: 7:05 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Monday, April 6: OFF DAY
Tuesday, April 7: 7:05 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Wednesday, April 8: 1:20 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Thursday, April 9: OFF DAY