Giddy fans exchanged high-fives, grown men whipped out well-worn baseball gloves and the new Wrigley Field bleachers in left and center field came alive Monday night for the first time this season.
“It’s the best place to party,” said Jeff Gorski, 34, a season ticket holder from Wicker Park. “It’s not stale like the grandstands. It’s the place to be. (And) I like to heckle so …”
The grand opening of the renovated bleachers enthralled Cubs players as well as fans before Monday night’s game against the Mets.
“I am excited and I am sure (the fans) are too,” Cubs pitcher James Russell said. “I just remember all the fun people have out there. Just pounding beers and yelling at whatever left fielder is out there.”
The bleachers were built in 1937, and this season’s renovations are the most dramatic since. The right-field bleachers are scheduled to open June 11, when the Cubs face the Reds.
Capacity in the bleachers will increase by about 500, which will offset the loss of seats in the bowl during other phases of the renovations. Capacity at Wrigley Field will remain 42,495, according to Carl Rice, vice president of ballpark operations.
The extra room in the bleachers, which resulted from the Cubs’ purchase of sidewalk space on Waveland and Sheffield avenues, also will enable the team to move the bullpens behind the outfield walls by 2017 and allow them to devote more space for food preparation.
The Cubs have created two new standing-room-only sections in left field that they are calling “the well,” which sits just behind the ribbon video board on the left-field wall, and “the porch,” which is under the new video board in left-center.
The Cubs removed three rows of bleachers to create “the well,” which can hold 50 people in three sections, although one group or business can reserve the entire well for a game. The porch sections will accommodate about 100 and will feature their own bars, with the video board providing shade for that area. The left-field porch will have televisions showing the game attached to the bottom of the video board.
Tickets for each section will be sold separately, although for the next few home series, the Cubs will allow anyone with a bleacher ticket to explore the porch for free. Separate tickets will be available for the well. Season tickets are not available in either section.
The right-field bleachers will have a porch area behind the benches. There will also be a new concession area in center field called “the platform,” which will feature more concession options and wider walkways for fans to navigate.
“I like it … looks good so far,” said Bob Radek, 39, of Chicago. “I like this whole area up here (in center). Lot more room up here and a lot more room on the concourse too.”
Radek said he has been coming to Wrigley Field for 30 years.
Season-ticket holder Cecile Marbella on new bleachers
Cubs season-ticket holder Cecile Marbella on new left-field bleachers.
“I had no idea what to expect, that’s why we wanted to be one of the first ones in here, just to see what it is like,” he said. “It looks like it is going to be the same old vibe out here. The bleachers are the bleachers.”
Jill Anderson of Palatine said she was hoping to catch her first home run ball Monday night in the left-field bleachers.
“I have been a Cub fan my whole life and season ticket holders for four years,” said Anderson, wearing a No. 10 Ron Santo jersey. “I like what I see so far. The concrete is cleaner, everything is cleaner. I love the bar stools (in the well area). I love the jumbotron.”
Cecile Marbella of Evanston said the sight of the bleachers brought back fond memories of her childhood.
“I’m excited. As long as I get my seats up here, I’m good,” she said.
Marbella noted that with her seat directly below the video board, she wouldn’t be able to see the screen.
“But that’s OK,” she said. “I just hope it’s not too loud.”