Wait ’till next year

On Opening Day, Wrigley Field upgrades remain unfinished

The new Jumbotron helps describe the feelings of every fan sporting Cubbie blue

Robert Marion Ellerhorst

The new Jumbotron helps describe the feelings of every fan sporting Cubbie blue

We are only through the first game of the season, and the Chicago Cubs already have two losses on their resume.

On Opening Night, April 5th the Cubbies were shut out by the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0, looking like the typical losers we have learned to accept as the underachiever in the NL Central. But what really stood out are the major renovations, or lack thereof, their historic ballpark has undergone since last season.

Wrigley Field has decided to modernize with a brand new 3,900 square-foot video board in left field, to go along with numerous other construction projects to bring Wrigley up-to-date with the ballparks of today.

But as luck would have it, plans to demolish and reconstruct the outfield bleachers were disrupted by a brutal Chicago winter.  Delays to the project mean they are now scheduled to complete the left and center field bleachers by May 11, with seats in right field due sometime in June.

Seats in the outfield were covered with tarps commemorating the late, great Ernie Banks; a good move to turn a negative situation into a classy one. But the sights of cranes, forklifts, construction helmets, and disrepair made it feel more like a junkyard than a baseball cathedral.

The main reason Wrigley was a hot ticket was its old school vibe and the nostalgia of the great memories had throughout the years. The recent renovations actually contradict the main reason people have been going to the stadium despite all of the losing seasons the Cubs have produced.

What’s even worse, fans that attended the Opening Night game had to deal with the limited number of restrooms available due to the construction, standing in lines as long as 45 minutes, with some choosing to utilize their own empty beer cups.

The Cubs have promised to introduce port-o-lets to the park as soon as possible until the bathroom situation is resolved.

But a number of factors other than bad weather are to blame for the construction delays. A good number of well-documented complains and lawsuits from neighboring rooftop owners have pushed back deadlines and due dates, despite the Cubs winning nearly every court case.

The neighbors have complained that the new video board would hinder the views from people sitting in their seats, and that the Cubs are violating a contract the two parties signed back in the day, but the court is leaning in the Cubs favor, allowing them to continue construction.

Different opinions have been shared and some favor the attempts of the team to modernize the field. But others hold a more purist view and think that the new upgrades are a travesty to Wrigley’s legacy.

Jerry Pritikin, a Cubs fan known as a legend to local Chicagoans, with this signature nickname “Bleacher Creature” voices the purist view of the recent changes.

“It’s blasphemous. I wish they had done it after I had died. It’s like someone going to the Grand Canyon and putting billboards all over it,” said Pritikin.

Whatever opinion you might have, you can’t deny that it will never again be the Wrigley Field that we once knew. Going to a game at Wrigley is like being back in the golden age of baseball, where peanuts, cracker jacks, and hot dogs were gourmet edibles, and sportsmanship was the PED everyone used.

Even starting pitcher Jason Hammel commented that the ballpark “looks like Baghdad”, but still believes that “there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

A few years ago, when I was lucky enough to see a game at Wrigley myself, I got a real taste of what true baseball was really like in my parents’ age. With these new changes to the experience, I am just happy that I was able to visit while it was still the Wrigley that everyone remembers.

In more ways than one, this seems to be nothing more than another “rebuilding” season for the team that has been so kind to give the Redlegs a few easy W’s every season for the past century.

Let’s all just be glad that baseball season is finally here, and look forward to the great memories to be made this season!