Cubs players not all in favor of pending Wrigley bullpen move

With the NLCS moving to Wrigley Field tonight, it’s time for everyone to write up feature stories on the 101-year-old ballpark’s renovations, including one of the lesser-reported upcoming changes: the move of the bullpens from foul territory to under the bleachers, scheduled to take place for the 2017 season. And as it turns out, even though this is supposedly for the players’ benefit (relievers less exposed to the weather, no more tripping over bullpen mounds while chasing foul balls), some players aren’t too happy about the move:

“I kind of like it,” reliever Jason Motte said [of the current setup]. “It kind of adds to the old school feel at Wrigley. I’ve always liked that about it. Being down the line, it’s one of those things I’ve never really minded…

“Places like Houston, you’re in a dungeon,” Motte said. “This is one of the only places you can interact with the fans, whether it’s at home or on the visiting side. You get to know the people.”

The real reason for the shift — which will place relief pitchers behind the ivy-covered outfield wall, with only a 12-foot-wide chain mesh fence to see out and for fans to see in — is buried in a single sentence in the Tribune article:

[Cubs spokesman Julian] Green said the switch also will add four new rows of seats on each side of the field where the bullpens are currently located.

Meanwhile, the Trib has another article on how the changes to Wrigley, in particular a new hotel and office building the Cubs owners are building across the street, has the surrounding Wrigleyville neighborhood on “the brink of a new era,” though it’s mostly about how the area has changed itself since the 1980s, when it was “pretty rough and tumble,” according to one local business owner. (My first visit to Wrigley was in 1989, and I remember it being pretty similar to today, only with fewer sports-bar-type businesses, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.) Cubs management says the new public plaza adjacent to the hotel could make Wrigleyville more like New York’s Rockefeller Plaza, which seems both unlikely and a curious goal since Rockefeller Plaza is largely an overpriced tourist trap surrounded by office buildings, but I guess when you’re trying to justify how an office building will enhance the busiest ballpark neighborhood in the U.S., you’ve got to go with what you can.

Ask another architecture critic: Why do Wrigley Field bleachers suck, and how can we fix them?

The assembled architecture critics of Chicago are really not happy with Cubs owner Tom Ricketts’ renovations of Wrigley Field, and they’re going to let him know about it. First we had Edward Keegan harshing on the blocked views and ugly steel beams in Crain’s Chicago, and now the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin has gone after the new video boards and what they’ve meant for the old hand-operated scoreboard in center field:

At night, Wrigley Field’s new video boards overshadow the old scoreboard, disrupting the carefully calibrated sense of place that makes the ballpark a national treasure.

In the darkness, the new boards project while the old one seems to recede. Much brighter than the old scoreboard and bursting with statistics as well as brightly colored ads that appear between innings, the new boards invariably draw the eye. The replays on the left-field board, a welcome concession to modernity, give fans another reason to turn away from the old focal point in center.

Together, the new features render the center-field scoreboard more ceremonial than useful, like an old clock on a fireplace mantle.

Ouch. But good point: Video boards are way more garish and in-your-face at night, and after all are designed to distract your attention away from other things (the center-field scoreboard, the game itself, your phone) to get you to look at their ads.

Cubs president Crane Kenney told Kamin that he’s looking at ways of lighting the old scoreboard better at night so that it’s not overwhelmed; Kamin suggests just using a darker green on the video boards at night and turning down their brightness. It’s all very reasonable, and hopefully the Cubs will make some adjustments. But it’s all a reminder that the whole reason for the new video boards isn’t to let fans see batters’ OPS against lefties during home night games, but rather to get fans to look at advertising during games at Wrigley. And if that’s not what you think Wrigley is supposed to be about, you should have gotten elected mayor of Chicago and appointed different people to the landmarks commission.

Ask an architecture critic: Why do new Wrigley Field bleachers suck?

The redesigned Wrigley Field bleachers are finally complete, and architecture critic Edward Keegan is here in Crain’s Chicago to tell you what he thinks of the new design. Perhaps surprisingly, he doesn’t mind the video boards — the new right-field board is “slightly smaller than the old one and comfortably set as far from centerfield as possible,” while the larger left field board he “won’t quibble with as a 21st century necessity.” But he does complain about the new expanded bleachers blocking the views of surrounding rooftops (not from rooftops, mind you, but of them), and the way the new bleachers structure was designed in the first place:

Seldom noted is the essential early 20th century industrial nature that has always defined the construction of Wrigley Field’s grandstands. Columns are small—and created from elaborate confections of even smaller steel elements. Trusses that support the larger structures—the upper deck, the roof, and the old center field scoreboard—are likewise minimal and elegant in their industrial forthrightness. The Landmarks designation ordinance cites the “exposed structural system” as a protected feature and it should have provided the architects with a guide for the new work.

Instead, the new bleachers and video boards are designed with the bluntness of a highway with columns and beams that are immense in comparison to their predecessors. It’s the design equivalent of the Dan Ryan or Kennedy expressways slicing through old Chicago neighborhoods with complete disregard for their surroundings and their visual impact.

I’m having a hard time finding a photo of the new bleachers in their entirety for some reason, but here’s a photo from Bleed Cubbie Blue showing the big-ass video board support girders. It probably wouldn’t be the first thing I’d complain about, but Keegan does have a point:

IMG_1410.0Anyone who’s been to Cubs games this week care to comment, or share photos?

Cubs owner buys three more rooftops, has brief respite from “Wrigley Field is health hazard” news

Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is continuing to solve his ongoing disputes with neighboring rooftop owners over his video board spite fence by just buying them out: Ricketts picked up another three buildings with rooftop views of Cubs games this month, bringing the total he’s bought to six. (Three holdouts are still suing him over their obstructed views.) As expected, this whole rooftop lawsuit kerfuffle is mostly coming down to how much Ricketts will have to pay to buy everyone out, and as sale terms haven’t been disclosed, we can’t even keep score at home.

Meanwhile, in more Cubsy news, the Cubs’ concession stands have been hit with health code violations, including “MEN’S RESTROOM ON THE LEFT FIELD SIDE IN THE UPPER DECK HAS NO HOT WATER” and “FOUND COLESLAW AT 45F INSIDE THE 1-DOOR REFRIGERATOR.” Which is probably par for the course with these inspections, but Ricketts still must cringe these days whenever he sees a news story with “Wrigley” and “restrooms” in the same sentence.

Cubs took commemorative Wrigley bricks and dumped them in a landfill

Say whatever else you will about the Chicago Cubs‘ Wrigley Field renovations, but they sure are providing some just terrible Internet fodder. Playing Opening Night with the bleachers covered by a giant tarp and not enough working restrooms was bad enough, but now there’s this:

Personalized pavers that once lined Clark and Addison streets near Wrigley Field, home of Chicago Cubs, have been found around Pontiac, purportedly coming from the nearby landfill. The bricks had been billed as “permanent fixtures” by the Cubs organization when they began selling them in 2006.

Yes, the Cubs took several commemorative bricks that fans had bought and paid for, bearing such messages as “NICK BODELL  LOVE FOREVER  GRANDMA 2007,” and threw them in a landfill. And here you thought throwing Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday cake in a dumpster was bad form.

Cubs execs said that they warned purchasers back in March that they’d have to remove some bricks and replace damaged ones as part of the renovation process, which is all reasonable enough. But still, as the kids today say, bad optics, guys.

Wrigley bleachers reopen tonight, new video board operator prepares by smoking crack, apparently

The redone Wrigley Field bleachers are reopening tonight for the Chicago Cubs‘ game against the New York Mets, and how do they look, Bleed Cubbie Blue blog?

wrigley1Okay, I cheated: That’s actually a photo by BCB’s David Sameshima of the right-field bleachers, which don’t open for a few more weeks yet, thankfully. Here’s the left-field bleachers:

wrigley2That looks kinda sorts done-ish, though the construction crews might want to leave those porta-potties there during the game, just in case.

Finally, here’s a view of the new right-field scoreboard, which will be in operation even if the right-field bleachers won’t:

wrigley3That doesn’t look so garish, so long as the background remains green with white and yellow lettering. Which it won’t throughout games, I’m sure, since the whole point of a video board is to show videos, duh, so expect the old-timey lineups to disappear plenty during games for ads and “MAKE SOME NOISE” and the like.

Also, while I’m slightly alarmed to see that the Mets will have the injured third baseman David Wright leading off and playing catcher while the injured catcher Travis d’Arnaud bats second and plays first base — not to mention injured reliever Jerry Blevins starting in right field despite his broken arm — I’m at least happy that the scoreboard operator has anticipated neither team getting any runners on base, as is their respective traditions.

Cubs really need less ironic slogan for Wrigley renovations than “Making the Confines Friendlier”

Putting up some kind of barrier so that fans can’t hassle players for autographs while they’re walking to their cars isn’t all that unusual. Doing so while in the middle of renovations that have left fans without enough restrooms for two months, then slapping a logo on top reading “Making the Confines Friendlier” — that’s so Cubs.

(Incidentally, can anyone tell me who’s actually being protected from whom by this autograph barrier? It looks like it’s on the corner of Seminary and Waveland, adjacent to the “triangle building” site that’s under construction in the background. But I see what look like fans on both sides — do the players walk a gauntlet between the two fences to the lot on the north side of Waveland? And do they have their own restrooms there?)

Cubs add porta-potties to ease bathroom crush, now neighbors complain new sound system too damn loud

The management of the Chicago Cubs is deeply sorry about having only four functioning restrooms for 35,000 people on opening day, leading to lines spreading into the seating areas, some fans peeing against walls and in beer cups, and others leaving the stadium to use the facilities at nearby stores. They’ll fix it soon, they promise, even if it takes installing portable toilets.

Also in need of fixing, meanwhile: The new public address system atop the new godawful huge video board is too godawful loud.

“It was like someone was standing with a bullhorn and aiming it into my condo,” said Katie Miller, who lives about two blocks from the ballpark near Seminary and Cornelia avenues. “You could hear everything. Every single word.”…

[Cubs spokesperson Julian Green] said the team was redirecting two of the larger speakers on the left-field video board Monday to address the sound issues outside the park. … Green said the current setup will not be the permanent arrangement. Speakers in the grandstand eventually will be replaced during a later phase of the ballpark renovation project.

It will all get better eventually, presumably. (The Wrigley renovations are even supposed to add an entire bathroom once they’re complete.) Except for that video board, which is never going to get better ever.

Wrigley opening night features Banks memorial tarp, humongous video board, Cubs fans peeing in cups

Last night’s nationally televised opening night game at Wrigley Field had everything! The Ernie Banks memorial construction area tarp!

That new video board in left field, which from certain angles looked almost bigger than the stadium itself (and from other angles didn’t look much smaller)!Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 8.26.55 AMScreen Shot 2015-04-06 at 8.36.24 AMFans peeing in cups in the corridor because the men’s room lines were half an hour long!

The tarps and the video board were expected; the peeing in cups less so, and frankly hard to understand, given that the Cubs sold 5,000 fewer tickets than usual thanks to the bleachers being closed for construction. (I guess the bleacher restrooms were closed as well, but still.) Maybe the Cubs were just trying to get all of the awfulness out of the way early in the season — they also got shut out 3-0. Everybody will be peeing in the right place once Kris Bryant is allowed to arrive!

Cubs win right to keep building ad boards, cheering fans of televised construction sites

Good news for Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, at last! A judge has refused to issue an injunction against the giant video boards the team is putting up atop the Wrigley Field bleachers, meaning the team can keep building them even if it blocks the views from neighboring rooftops.

That’s got to be a relief from the incessant run of bad press that the Wrigley renovations have been generating in the runup to the Cubs’ home opener on Sunday, and Ricketts can now sit back and rest easy that—

Cubs Pitcher Jason Hammel Says Wrigley Field ‘Looks Like Baghdad’

Well, that was fun while it lasted. Back to the piling on!