Wrigley Field gets some upgrades
CHICAGO -- Cubs fans will find more than a touchup paint job when they arrive at Wrigley Field for Opening Day on Monday.
Renovated restrooms, enhanced food offerings and an upscale private club are among the upgrades unveiled by the team's new owners on Friday.
"We spent a lot of time, money and effort in this off season to improve Wrigley," said Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts during a media tour at the 96-year-old ballpark. "[We're] always looking to improve the stadium, looking to preserve the stadium and listening to fans on how we can improve the experience for everyone."
The Ricketts family purchased the team last fall from Tribune Co. and embarked on upgrades both visible and behind the scenes at the nation's second-oldest venue behind Boston's Fenway Park.
The new PNC Club of Chicago was carved out of six existing skyboxes along the third base line and will give 71 fans food and drink service, indoor/outdoor seating parking and club access on non-game days.
There's a more open feel in the lower grandstand following removal of concrete panels. Painted chain-link fencing now allows fans to look outside Wrigley Field while bringing more light in.
Other work included restoration of part of the center field scoreboard to its original condition, its first major work in more than 70 years. A brick wall down the left field line was replaced and repairs were made to concrete ramps and steel structures, part of a planned 10-year maintenance program.
New food options include bison burgers and hot dogs from the Ricketts family's Wyoming ranch. A number of restrooms have been expanded and upgraded.
Cubs players, meanwhile, will enjoy a renovated clubhouse that features a new player lounge, larger weight room and remodeled kitchen in the first upgrade since 1984. The team also hired a nutritional consultant to aid in menu planning.
Team officials did not reveal how much the improvements cost.
"We talked about what could get done in five months during the winter in Chicago and how much difference we could make for players and the fans," said Cubs president Crane Kenney. "It's a new day at Wrigley Field and we're very proud of what we've done."
The new owners have also been in discussions with Toyota to erect a sign of the automaker's logo above the left field bleachers, a move to bring in revenue. Some critics say the sign would infringe on the historical ambiance of the ballpark and the Wrigley Rooftop Association said Friday the sign would violate the landmark ordinance governing Wrigley, agreements between the Cubs and area residents, and zoning law.
A zoning commission and landmarks committee must approve the sign and Ricketts has said he's confident the issue will be resolved.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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