Hey Chicago, What Do You Say? – Recent Changes at Wrigley

Eleanor Pontikes The wind was a key player in the Cubs home opener on Monday the 19th. Chicago’s infamous weather caused rain delays as strong gusts of wind pushed storms inland, delaying the banner-raising ceremony and starttime against the LA Dodgers. Of course, dutiful fans toughed it out with ponchos in the stands and were reminded of the rain delays five months prior when the Cubs clinched the title against the Indians. But while the home opener was a fitting reminder of the World Series win, the Cubs franchise has made sweeping changes since last season, causing concern among some fans. Once a losing team with a smaller, yet loyal fan base, the Cubs have grown into a remarkable organization in recent years thanks to owner Tom Ricketts’ investments and the hiring of general manager Theo Epstein and manager Joe Maddon. With their guidance and the acquirement of talented players like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, ending the 108 year old World Series rut was possible. Creating a stadium and program worthy of the elusive championship was a main part in their plan for success. Since their purchase of the Cubs franchise in 2009, the Ricketts family have invested hundreds of million dollars into renovating the 102 year old Wrigley Field and revamping the surrounding area. With the multi-year plan coming to an end, the recent results are dramatic–and more are coming. The bullpen has been relocated to a more convenient spot next to the dugouts, a green space was recently unveiled outside the stadium, bathrooms were updated last year to meet the demands of a major league stadium, a variety of trendy concessions have been implemented throughout the stadium (including the upper level which has lacked amenities in the past), a jumbotron was added to the outfield, and a boutique hotel built by the Ricketts family’s real estate development group, Hickory Street Capital, is set to open in 2018 with a selection of retail stores and restaurants. The multitude of changes is somewhat overwhelming. Ms. Gallagher, who’s gearing up for her first game this season and has yet to see the new changes, says, “I’m excited, but I’m worried that the stadium won’t feel like a neighborhood ballpark anymore.” While Wrigley Field has been around for over a century, it wasn’t situated in Wrigleyville until the 1980s when real estate developers decided to cash in on the Cubs success. Since then, the neighborhood of Wrigleyville revolves around Wrigley Field and the Cubs, creating a close-knit community of dedicated residents, fans, and businesses. One of those people, Ms. Gallagher, remembers ticket prices being so low in her college days that she would get $10 bleacher seats and do homework in the stands with friends. “Granted they were terrible then, and you do that,” she adds. Now that the Cubs are series champs, ticket prices are higher than ever–19.5% higher in fact. Gone are the days of buying tickets on a whim it seems. Senior Jacob Cummis remarks that it’s not only the rise in ticket prices, but the growth of fans that has made acquiring tickets more challenging this year. “I think it’s cool that the Cubs are more legit this year and that they are building new enterprises, but I’m not a fan of the new fans that have popped up.” Like the success of the Blackhawks in past years, many Chicagoans have jumped on the bandwagon of the Cubs’ victory. With the grit and determination of a team like the Cubs, it’s easy to see why so many people have joined the following. And while new bleachers and a jumbotron may be elevating the cubs to a new level on the surface, the work on the field is ultimately what brings in fans and earns a Commissioner’s Trophy at the end of the post season. So, Chicago, what do you say? Will you continue cheering on the best team in the National (And American!) league?]]>