Wrigley Field – Chicago Cubs
The Friendly Confines in Its Second Century
The 1060 project at Wrigley Field continues to progress the overhaul of the famed venue and the results continue to impress. The ballpark continues to be fitted with modern day amenities, but stills holds its historical appeal.
Wrigley Field opened in 1914 under the name Weeghman Park and served as the home of the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. The Cubs became the primary tenant in 1916 and remain there to this day.
Wrigley Field also hosted the Chicago Bears from 1921-1970. Wrigley Field was designated a Chicago Landmark in 2004. Another charming and unique feature of Wrigley Field is the large amount of games played during the day as they all were when the ballpark originally opened. The large number of day games can be attributed in part to Chicago politics, but adds a certain charm as well. Wrigley Field became the last MLB ballpark to install lights, waiting until 1988.
Food & Beverage 5
Concessions at Wrigley Field cover all of the expected ballpark fare. Hot dogs both plain and Chicago style, sausages, pizza, burgers, and chicken tenders are the usual entrees you would expect to see. A Chicago favorite most might be unfamiliar with is the Italian Beef sandwich. If you order it I recommend you request it dipped, sweet, and hot. And grab some extra napkins.
The concourse layout of yesteryear located under the seating bowl works well in terms of concessions as upon entry you are instantly overcome will the wonderful smells from each stand. For those unfamiliar with Chicago style hot dogs they are topped much like a gourmet burger would be, tomato slices, a dill pickle spear, chopped onions, spicy sport peppers, the brightest green relish you will ever see, mustard, and celery salt. Don’t ask for ketchup however and don’t add it yourself either. Ketchup on a hot dog in Chicago is borderline sacrilegious.
The perfect Wrigley accompaniment to Chicago style hot dogs is an Old Style, the beer of the north side. In the past you could obtain an Old Style from almost any beer vendor walking up and down the aisles of each section. Recently is has become more difficult. The difficulty arises from a contract between the Cubs and Anheuser Busch which limits beers sales in the seating bowl to Bud, Bud Light, and Goose Island 312. You can and should still get an Old Style, you will just have to leave your seat and walk to one of the beer stands.
Another unique item for sale is the helmet of nachos, which is exactly what it sounds like; a plastic helmet full of nachos with all the toppings you desire. The helmet of nachos is a bit on high end at $15, but it will be the only trip you make to the concession stand that night and provides you with a souvenir to take home.
A specialty added in 2015 at a stand in the bleachers only is Hot Doug’s sausages. Hot Doug’s was a Chicago favorite until it closed in October 2014. Lines would routinely be wrapped around the building with customers patiently waiting for the unique sausage creations. Hot Doug’s came back albeit in limited fashion in the renovated concession stand behind the iconic center field scoreboard. Three of the favorite selections of Hot Doug’s are available each selling for $9, a polish sausage with beer mustard and crispy fried onions, a chicken chorizo sausage with jalapeno dijonaise & Chihuahua cheese, and a bacon cheeseburger sausage with ketchup aioli, bacon bits, and Swiss cheese.
For 2016 the rest of the ballpark received a specialty sausage stand also in the form of Gilbert’s Craft Sausages. Featuring three choices all of Gilbert’s Craft Sausages are a great choice. The Caprese consists of a chicken sausage, diced tomatoes, basil, mozzarella pearls and balsamic while the Aloha consists of a chicken sausage, pineapple salsa, lime aioli, Cholula and potato chips and finally the Beef and Cheddar is a smoked sausage, cheddar, mac and cheese, bacon, and barbecue sauce.
The atmosphere in Wrigley on a breezy Chicago summer day when the wind is blowing out is almost magical. The large crowd, regardless of the Cubs’ place in the standings, sets the tone. The entire ballpark is alive with people enjoying themselves and as you look around the ballpark. The addition of video boards does not detract from the product on the field and enhances the overall game experience. When a replay review is taking places all of the fans in the ballpark are now able to see the replay as well.
As you look out over the field you see the brick outfield wall covered in the iconic ivy. You see the bleachers full of old school Cubs fans, some wearing Cubs blue and some shirtless and sunbathing as they watch the game. The feature that still stands out the most is the classic hand operated scoreboard. You see tiles missing from the scoreboard where the operators stick out their head to watch the game from one of the most unique vantage points in all of sports. As you look towards right field you see the new smaller video board that displays both teams’ lineups. In left field you see the larger video board displaying the current batter along with in game and season statistics. You also see the bullpens which are located in foul territory down each baseline for now, but they are planned to be relocated under the bleachers during one of the coming off season renovation cycles.
Feel free to sing along as well with the 7th inning stretch; and if you are lucky enough to witness a Cubs win stick around to sing “Go Cubs Go.” Both are traditions of Wrigley that all fans can enjoy taking part in.
Wrigleyville is honestly a neighborhood in flux, as with the ballpark many construction projects and improvements surround Wrigley Field. The area is still the ideal neighborhood for a ballpark to be in the middle of an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants, stores, and homes its just undergoing a modernization process. Picture the neighborhood as a place always full of people and full of life and the image you have in your mind might come close to scratching the surface of the place affectionately known as Wrigleyville. As you exit the Addison stop of the CTA Red Line you are in the heart and soul of Wrigleyville. As you make your way around Waveland and Sheffield you see vendors selling shirts, groups of people entering the rooftops, and fans who have no intention of ever entering the ballpark. Their purpose is to run down home run balls during batting practice and the game.
A few of the options for a pregame meal and drinks include Goose Island, Lucky’s, McFaddens, Slugger’s, the Cubby Bear, Gingerman Tavern, and Murphy’s Bleachers among many others. As you venture a few blocks from the ballpark you will surely find some other hidden gems as well. Another great aspect of Wrigleyville is the proximity to Lake Michigan which is visible from the upper deck seats on the third base side.
Cubs fans are some of the most loyal in all of sports. The team hasn’t won a championship since 1908, but the fans keep coming. With a mentality of wait until next year, the optimism of the Cubs fan is astounding. And the talented young team that is currently assembled on the North side should keep the Cubs in contention for the foreseeable future.
Depending on the seating section you choose, the demeanor of the fans can differ significantly. Sitting in the bleachers can be a bit risky if you’re with the kids. It’s more like a great outdoor sports bar with a baseball game happening. For a family friendly seat choose the normal seating bowl. Cubs fans are welcoming to visiting fans as well with the only slight exceptions being White Sox and Cardinals fans. They do however have a good knowledge of the game and the team’s minor league system keeps generating prospects for fans to be excited about.
Attempting to drive to Wrigley can be a bit tricky as parking is limited and expensive. There are lots at various businesses in Wrigleyville that will sell you parking at a price. Prices vary from $20-$100 depending on the opponent so the best bet is public transportation. If you do need to drive to the ballpark there are various websites that allow you to purchase parking in advance to guarantee a spot. You also have the option of parking in the Cubs free remote lot and taking a free shuttle to the ballpark. This option is a very smooth process arriving to the game but can take some time to return to your vehicle as the shuttle lines can get long after the game is over.
The CTA Red Line Addison stop is located directly behind the rooftop buildings just beyond the right field wall. The Red Line can get crowded before and after games, but it remains the best transportation option, especially if you are coming from downtown Chicago. Wrigley Field is also accessible from the Brown Line but requires more of a walk. If you are a hardy walker, then consider parking just north of Irving Park (shoot for 1800 W Irving Park for a destination), and either take the Brown Line or walk from there. It’s a good way to build the anticipation and get your exercise.
Return on Investment 4
Wrigley Field is an experience any baseball fan should soak in once in their life. Regardless of the Cubs’ record tickets can be pricey during the peak Chicago summer. However, tickets can be found at a bargain during early season games when the Chicago weather isn’t quite ready for baseball. Regardless of the ticket price, Wrigley Field is worth the investment for the unique experience and throwback vibe it provides.
Wrigley Field, day games, bleachers, 7th inning stretch sing along…I could continue but the experience and the memories it creates are the best extras possible.
Another extra is the ability to make it a part of a ballpark road trip, while the White Sox and Cubs are not typically home at the same time, it does happen on occasion. You can always try to work the schedules for the end of a home stand for one team and the start of a home stand for the other team the next day. Wrigley Field can also easily be worked into a trip with Miller Park in Milwaukee, while a doubleheader of Cubs and Brewers is possible in the same day, I recommend making it a weekend experience. After all you need to experience everything else Chicago has to offer.
Wrigley Field is in a category all its own. Renovations are needed, and when a ballpark with history can retain its charm through modernization, a special thing is achieved which is exactly what is transpiring on the North side of Chicago.
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