Opening Day 2015: Chicago Cubs to debut changes to Wrigley Field

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Saturday, April 4, 2015
Cubs fans counting down to Opening Day
The Cubs promise they will be ready by Sunday, but there is still much to be done before Opening Day.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Cubs will take on the St. Louis Cardinals for their home opener Sunday night. Many fans hope all the changes at Wrigley Field will make this year the year.

With the clock ticking until the gates open Sunday afternoon, construction crews continued to work around and inside the ballpark on Friday night. The Cubs promise they will be ready, but there is still much to be done.

"Still a lot of stuff to clean up, I caught a glimpse kinda walking through. It kinda looks like a mess inside a little bit," said Anthony Heleine, a Cubs fan.

They are still testing the giant video board, which they finished erecting on Thursday. It can be seen for miles. Lincoln Park resident Kevin Ziolo posted a picture to social media that he took from his apartment 2.5 miles away.

"Realistically, I think we'll get used to it. I think it's important for the Cubs to have this though," Ziolo said.

Several Wrigleyville businesses are embracing the construction. Al's Beef is handing out hard hats to customers with a ticket to the game.

"It's just very exciting around this part of town," said Dan Gomez, of Al's Beef.

Many people hope a new manager, a mix of young players and veterans and major renovations to the Friendly Confines will breathe new life into the Cubs this season. After five straight losing seasons, optimism has returned to Wrigleyville and demand for tickets is high.

"A lot of hype in the marketplace, I think the Cubs have done a nice job of promoting themselves," said Steve Buzil, SitClose Tickets.

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts spoke on the $450 million renovation project in an exclusive interview with ABC7 Eyewitness News. He said although it seems like a huge risk, he hopes the changes will help lead the team to a World Series win.

The home opener begins at 7:05 p.m. Sunday. It will be the first night game on Opening Day in franchise history.

Colin Faulkner, Vice President of Sales and Partnerships, said the Cubs plan to release more opening night tickets on Saturday. Fans can purchase tickets on the Chicago Cubs' website.

Single-game tickets for the rest of the season are also on sale. Several games have limited availability, but the team can often release more tickets last minute, so Faulkner said it's a good idea to check the website close to game day.

When fans come to Wrigley Field Sunday night, they will find the left and right field bleachers still under construction, Vice President of Ballpark Operations Carl Rice said. Since some parking spaces were eliminated during construction and there is still equipment set up around the park, fans are advised to arrive early and take public transportation if possible.

Alison Miller, Senior Director of Marketing for the Cubs, said the left field video board will enhance the fan experience at the ballpark. The team asked fans what they would like to see more of at home games. Now they can watch replays, read statistics and information on players, as well as behind-the-scenes video of what's going on with the team on the new video board.

The statue of beloved Cubs legend Ernie Banks will also return to its home at the corner of Sheffield and Addison, Miller said. The statue had to be moved during construction.

Banks, who died in January, will be honored throughout the upcoming baseball season. A tribute is scheduled with his family before the game on Sunday and players will be wearing a patch with his number, 14, all season.

An exciting concert series is scheduled for Wrigley Field this year. Billy Joel, AC/DC, Foo Fighters, Zac Brown Band and Fitz and The Tantrums are just a few of the artists performing this season, Faulkner said.

Connie Falcone, Vice President of Development for Cubs Charities, said many players and other team members have scheduled charity events this year because they want to give back.

In addition to the Bricks and Ivy Ball and Race to Wrigley, Jason Motte, Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and the Cubs' new manager, Joe Maddon, will host Cubs Charities events this year.

Falcone also said an easy way for fans to participate is to buy a raffle ticket at games. They're only $5!

You'll be able to watch a number of Cubs games on ABC7. Our first game is Wednesday, April 8, when the Chicago hosts St. Louis. Coverage starts at 1 p.m.