JAY DAVIS: Friendly Confines could soon be a fancier baseball palace

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It may be snowing in our neck of the woods, but the sun is shining a little brighter in one of my favorite places. It won’t be long now and the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field will be getting a much needed and long overdue remodeling.

This isn’t just fresh paint and new light bulbs either. The City of Chicago and the Ricketts Family (Cubs’ owners) have agreed in principal to let a massive $300 million project start soon. With the inclusion of a 175-room hotel and free parking for 1,000 cars, the entire project come to $500 million.

For those of you who have been to the Friendly Confines, you know that the 99-year-old stadium is a baseball shrine, and it is, but it is a shrine that has long been in need of renovation. Wrigley still has all of its charm and charisma. It is still the best place there is to spend a summer’s afternoon. But it is also out of date. Everything about the place is nearly a century old.

For the Cubs to be competitive with the other 29 teams in MLB, the team needs better off-the-field conditions. A big part of the remodeling will be bigger and better clubhouses, batting cages, dugouts, training rooms and such.

Of course, the aesthetics of the place will been given a major overhaul too. You know the giant scoreboard that is currently atop the centerfield bleacher? The Cubs are planning for a new electronic scoreboard that will be 6,000 square feet. That’s three times the size of the centerfield scoreboard. There are also plans for expansion and updating of many of the park’s amenities, including more electronic advertising.

Right now it is just a “framework” agreement with City Hall. There are many details to be worked out. The Ricketts family, after failing to get public support for taxpayer money, are investing all of the money on their own. Some of the things they want to do are angering the residents of Wrigleyville and the owners of the rooftop bleacher that sit thousands of fans all season long.

That’s where the video scoreboard and electronic advertising come in. The Cubs need to recoup a lot of money that is going to be spent over the next five years.

Tom Ricketts, Cubs’ chairman, said in a press conference that this plan is all about bring that elusive world championship to Chicago.

“If this plan is approved, we will win the World Series for our fans and for the city,” said Ricketts.

The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908 and have not been to a World Series since 1945.

Let’s hope everyone in Chicago gets on the same page as the Cubs and the Ricketts family. Millions of Cubs fans have suffered long enough. Wrigley Field is a little piece of heaven on earth, but fresh paint and elbow grease just won’t cut it anymore.

I’ve had the good fortune to tour the inner workings of Wrigley. The clubhouses are tiny, the dugouts are outdated; I could go on. The visitors’ trainers’ room is only big enough for one player at a time. In fact, it has a one-stall bathroom (and yes, I peed in the same place as many Hall of Famers). Right now the Cubs have to walk from their clubhouse under the bleachers and behind their third base dugout out to underneath the right field bleachers to hit in a batting cage. The place needs a Joan Rivers-like facelift.

If the people of Chicago really would like to be world champions in the 2000s, it is time to have a Wrigley Field that looks like it belongs in the 2000s.

 

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