New owners bring new features to Wrigley

April 9, 2010 7:42:52 PM PDT
New ownership has brought changes to Wrigley Field, and the owners hope that fans attending the home opener Monday will discover a better ballpark experience than the Wrigley of past years.

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts fell short of promising that the team would win more games, but he did showcase how his family has spent more than $10 million to improve things that fans and players interact with at the park.

The clubhouse changes include new lounge space, a full kitchen with nutritional consultant, and a new workout space.

Ricketts says the investment is about building on tradition.

"I know that when I re-did my house, I realized halfway through it would have been easier to tear the whole thing down," said Ricketts. "But the fact is that we love Wrigley; it is about preserving Wrigley, and it is just what I signed up for."

Management used the offseason to install new structural steel and concrete throughout the park, as well as renovating the washrooms to allow more people to get through faster, especially kids. The changes were intended to leave intact the more prosaic parts of the Wrigley tradition: for instance, the troughs in the mens' washrooms.

"It's a new day at Wrigley Field," said Cubs President Crane Kenney. "We are very proud of the work we have done in the last five months."

In left field, fans can watch the pros take their cuts from behind one-way glass on the new batting tunnel arcade, a space that can be rented for corporate events. The new PNC Club of Chicago caters to those who can fork out just under $50,000 for a pair of season tickets. The club consists of the space of six luxury boxes that have been turned into one.

"It is really targeting the small and mid-size businesses that can't afford to keep 15 seats for 81 games, but are looking for a luxury experience for their key customers," said Cubs Sales and Marketing Officer Wally Heyward.

Along with a repainted scoreboard sign, food will improve at the park. Many more healthy choices will appear on the menu, including high plains bison burgers, hot dogs, and other items. The bison supplier is the Ricketts family's patriarch.

All fans will also now be welcome at the Sheffield Grill behind left field.

"The focus is more healthy, more freshness, more alternatives for the fans," said Executive Chef David Burns. "We have so much to offer that we want to showcase it to fans."

Tom Ricketts said that the spending of more than $10 million on the stadium in the family's first year of ownership is about showing that a family is now in charge, not a corporation.