For over 93 seasons the Chicago Cubs have been playing baseball at Wrigley Field. And for over 93 seasons the Cubbie faithful have been filling the seats. That’s 41,118 seats to be exact. Now the diehard fan might tell you that there’s not a bad one in the house. Certainly, his sentiment stems from fond thoughts of ivy-covered walls, manual scoreboards, white flags with blue W’s and day games in July. Wrigley Field is undoubtly a great place to catch a ballgame. But realistically, Wrigley’s old-timey charm brings with it some old-timey inconveniences; namely, columns and overhangs.
Nicknamed the Friendly Confines, Wrigley Field is one of baseball’s oldest ballparks where fans come out to see the Cubs play whether they are winning or not. Unlike nearly every team in Major League Baseball either having or wanting a new ballpark, the Cubscontinue to play at Wrigley Field without wanting one built. Before the start of World War I, Charles Weeghman bought the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. Weeghman constructed his team a new ballpark in the largely undeveloped north side area of Chicago along Addison and Clark Streets which is now fully developed with businesses, residential areas and local Chicago hotels. Zachary Taylor Davis was hired to develop plans for the ballpark that was initially known as North Side Park until Weeghman named it after himself. Construction of the 14,000 seat ballpark began on March 14, 1914. The ballpark had only a one deck of grandstand in a V-shape, with wooden bleachers in the outfield. Construction on the $250,000 ballpark was completed by April 23, 1914 when the Whales played their first game at the ballpark. Original dimensions at Weeghman Field were 310 ft. (left), 440 (center), and 356 (right). It was the first ballpark to have permanent concession stands. Weeghman Field was home to the Chicago Whales for two years before the Federal League went bankrupt.
Located on the west side of Chicago, the Cubs played at the 14,000 seat West Side Grounds. They had played here since 1893 and by 1915 were struggling to attract fans. After the 1915 season Weeghman bought the Cubs and moved them to his ballpark on the north side for the 1916 season. The first Cubs game at Weeghman Field was on April 20, 1916. In 1920, Weeghman Field was renamed Cubs Park and Weeghman sold the club to William Wrigley Jr. Beginning in 1922 and then 1923, Cubs Park underwent several renovations. The grandstands were moved back 60 feet and wooden bleachers were added, increasing the capacity to 20,000. Major renovations began in 1926, when Cubs Park was renamed Wrigley Field. The grandstand was double decked, the playing field was lowered, and the bleachers in left field were removed. The capacity increased to 38,396. More renovations were completed at Wrigley Field in 1937. Bleachers were added in the outfield and the famous 27 by 75 foot hand operated scoreboard was placed behind the bleachers in centerfield. The most distinct feature was the planting of ivy at the base of the outfield wall. Before World War II, the grandstand in left field was circled so all the seats faced home plate instead of centerfield. Lights for Wrigley Field were originally to be installed for the 1942 season. However because of the United States involvement in World War II and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Phil Wrigley donated the lights to the government.
Since the 1940s Wrigley Field has changed little. In 1981, the Tribune Company bought the Cubs. The company began talking about installing lights after the 1981 season. However, a fan group fought to keep night baseball away from Wrigley Field. On May 13, 1982, Illinois Legislature made baseball after midnight a violation in a facility that had not had night sports played before July 1, 1982. Also that year, an electronic message board was placed under the scoreboard in centerfield. In 1984 when the Cubs made the playoffs, MLB threatened that if the team made the postseason in the future, games would be moved to a location that had lights. Finally on February 23, 1988,
the Cubs decided to install lights at Wrigley Field. The first night game scheduled for Wrigley Field was on August 8, 1988. However, rain cancelled the game after four innings, postponing it to the next day. In 1989, private boxes were constructed on the mezzanine level that was originally occupied by the press box and broadcasting booths. A press box and broadcasting booths were constructed in the upper deck directly behind home plate.
Additions and upgrades have continued at Wrigley Field over the past decade. After the 2003 season, the Cubs added 200 seats directly behind home plate bringing fans even closer to the playing field. Tradition was not lost with this addition, as the brick wall behind home plate remains. After the 2005 season, the Cubs added nearly 1,800 seats to the bleachers increasing the capacity to just over 41,000. For many years, Wrigley Field had been known as having one of the worst grass fields in the game because there was a crown in the infield that extended 40 feet into the outfield. Because of the crown, players would literally be running slightly up or down a hill on the field. After the 2007 season, the entire field was removed and replaced with a new drainage system and a bluegrass playing field. In November 2010, the Cubs unveiled preliminary plans to improve Wrigley Field and its surrounding area. These plans include the construction of the “Triangle” building between the ballpark and Clark Street, a plan that has been discussed since 2001. It would house retail and concessions, and potentially a Cubs museum. A Cubs Alley, similar to Yawkey Way at Fenway Park, would be developed between the Triangle building and Wrigley Field providing a gathering spot for fans to mingle. The plan would also improve and widen the concourses. New clubhouses for both the Cubs and the visiting team would be built underground in left and right fields. The Cubs are willing to finance the project. No timetable has been announced.
Today, Wrigley Field is the last Federal League ballpark standing. Even with lights, Wrigley Field remains one of baseball’s most old-fashioned parks. Wrigley Field has basically remained advertisement free, with advertisements on nearby buildings and a few in the ballpark. The neighborhood around Wrigley Field, called Wrigleyville is filled with fans on game day. Ballhawks as they are called wait on Waveland Avenue to catch homeruns during the game. Fans sit atop buildings behind Wrigley Field and watch the game. Ivy still covers the brick walls in the outfield, the scoreboard is still manually operated, and bleacher bums still sit in the bleachers in the outfield. Flags atop the scoreboard still remind fans whether or not theCubs won the day before, and where they are in the standings. Because Wrigley Field is surrounded by the Wrigleyville neighborhood, parking can be a nightmare for games. It is recommended that fans take the CTA red line train to the Addison stop to Cubs games. Although it has been the exclusive home of the Cubs for many years now, Wrigley Field has hosted more professional football games than any other stadium in the nation. The one thing missing from Wrigley Field today, is former Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray, who used to sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch.