Time For Changes at Wrigley Field?
August 3, 2004 by Martin Hawrysko • Print Story •
Since the story first broke in mid-July, the friendly confines has been dubbed as the crumbling confines. Of course, I refer to "the shrine" known as Wrigley Field, on the corner of Clark and Addison in Chicago.
How ironic it is that the ballpark has begun to crumble the last several weeks, just the same as the team that plays inside the ballpark, which began to crumble with injuries back in March. Is it also ironic that the crumbling ballpark is 90-years-old, while the team that plays inside the ballpark is well over 90 years, almost at 100 years, since winning a world championship.
Since early June, three known instances have been reported of concrete falling into seated areas, where fans sit. The first incident happened on June 9th, when a fan reported to the city that he saw a piece of concrete falling on the first base side of the field. The second incident, a lot more scary, took place on July 16th, when a chunk of concrete (estimated six inches long, three inches thick) fell, missing a 5-year-old child by only a few feet. The third incident took place on July 21st, when a chunk of concrete, reportedly the size of a human hand, nearly hit a woman as she took her seat prior to the game.
Three separate incidents in a span of two months. The most noticeable observation is the second incident happened five weeks after the first incident happened. With the first incident, the fan observed the falling concrete, and reported it to the city on the same day! The story really never made any surface until the second concrete incident took place.
Now, after three incidents of falling concrete have been reported, the Cubs, forced by the city of Chicago, have gone about to make sure the ballpark is safe for the fans who occupy it during games. Why didn't the city of Chicago or the Tribune company, who owns the Chicago Cubs, do anything immediately once they became aware that concrete had fallen?
The fact that a city and an organization failed to act upon notification that concrete did indeed fall should be damn scaring to any person who ever attends Wrigley Field. If a chunk of concrete fell from the inside of a ballpark that is already 90-years-old, why was it ignored? Why would any individual believe it may not happen again?
Now that three incidents have occurred, in which luckily, nobody was hurt, the Cubs have been forced by the city of Chicago to install protective netting above certain seats, to protect fans from any falling concrete. Deemed as only a temporary solution, the city of Chicago cites that if the netting was installed and approved by city inspectors, then home games at Wrigley would be allowed to take place. The nets were installed, inspected, and the Cubs were given permission to play this past weekend while they hosted the Philadelphia Phillies.
Upon hearing the idea of protective netting being used to solve such a problem, I rightfully asked myself, is the netting seriously suppose to support a heavy chunk of concrete that happens to fall from a high distance up? If I'm going to a Cubs game at Wrigley anytime soon, you better damn well believe I will be looking up many times. Perhaps, while looking up, I may notice Spiderman climbing from net to net.
On a more serious notion, I impose a further question. What if a chunk of concrete happens to be small enough to fall between the netting's holes and still clunks someone on the head? Even if it is that small, with the speed it travels from falling from such a high distance, that will still be enough to severely injure or kill someone. While the odds probably are low, I would still estimate they are high enough to still be a potential threat.
And allow me to clarify one further notion. I realize the nets are very high up above the seats, but if I was at the ballpark, and I somehow manage to notice a huge chunk of concrete lying above the netting, do you think I would surely just forget about it and continue to concentrate on the rest of the game?
My point being, the ballpark is old, cramped, and potentially dangerous. It will not last forever. Eventually, sometime within the next couple of years, I would imagine, major renovations will have to be done. I see no reason why the Tribune company would ever have to touch the actual field, walled ivy, or scoreboard. Those should rightfully be untouched. The grandstand, between the right and left foul poles, I could see being torn down and replaced, or renovated.
I personally like the idea. Many new ballparks today are in one way or shape replicas of Wrigley Field, and I have heard no complaints. Imagine sitting in brand new seats, within a new structure, replicating the old grandstand, while enjoying the sight and tradition on the same field. The Tribune company, unfortunately, will do whatever it can to get as much public money as possible. However, I will argue that the Tribune company does not need the money, as they are already a very prosperous organization, and should never have to cry poor.
A renovation project would take at least a year, which would require the Cubs to play home games at ... a big gulp now ... U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the White Sox. Remember, the Yankees a few years ago played a few home games at Shea Stadium, when their stadium had a few problems. It is not the end of the world, if the Cubs had to play at U.S. Cellular for a season. Would it not be worth it once the Cubs' own ballpark is finished and its brand new, nice, and most importantly ... safe?
Wrigley Field is a cash cow already. After the ballpark was to be renovated or re-built, would the people who go there now seriously stop going just because it's not the grandstand isn't over 90-years-old? I don't see that happening. If the Cubs were to renovate or re-build the grandstand of Wrigley, I see only positives taking place.
The Tribune can construct a replica of the old grandstand, while at the same time placing more seats to enlarge the number of capacity. Club houses that right now are almost too small, can be built to give the players more room, more public restrooms can be available, and the entire building would be modernized. How could anyone not like that?
With me being from the south suburbs of Chicago, I have been in both ballparks. And to be honest, I sort of like U.S. Cellular better. It is modern, it is bigger, and the parking sure is a hell of a lot easier to find and manage than it is at Wrigley. Is now a good time to mention that I am a Cubs fan?
The Yankees are in the early stages of what will eventually move them out of Yankee Stadium to a new stadium across the street. Why not the Cubs? Right now, the problem at Wrigley is falling concrete? What will the next problem be? As the ballpark continues to get older, more potential hazards are going to occur. Why not avoid them, and really treat Cub fans to something special?
With the chances that the Cubs, realistically, probably will not win a World Series anytime soon (this coming from a true, yet realistic Cubs fan), might a new or renovated ballpark be the next best prize for Cub fans?