Knot whole story

Wrigley's new viewing area won't allow fans to peek in on games

By Paul Sullivan
Tribune staff reporter
Published February 8, 2006, 10:57 PM CST

A sneak peek into the Cubs' $13.5 million Wrigley Field bleacher project on Wednesday revealed some distinct changes that weren't discussed in the team's original expansion plans.

At his first news conference regarding the bleachers since construction to add 1,800 new seats began in October, Cubs executive vice-president of business operations Mark McGuire announced the open "knothole" space in right field won't offer a view from Sheffield Avenue during games, that the Batter's Eye Suite in center field won't be accessible to regular ticket-holders and that the reserved "bleacher box" seats in the right-field corner will be priced at $60.

McGuire also said the project is on schedule and everything will be ready for the Cubs home opener April 7 against St. Louis.

He said the organization is confident the new bleachers will be "well-received" when fans get a look at the finished product.

"We're trying to re-create a culture that existed before, [one] that we appreciate a great deal," McGuire said.

Here's a brief synopsis of some of the changes in store for Cubs fans at Wrigley Field this year:

Knothole view: The new section in the right-field wall replaced a solid metal gate and originally was supposed to offer fans outside the park a free ground-level view from behind a chain-link fence on Sheffield. Local restoration architect John Vinci, a consultant on the project, said in December the idea was to "give something back to the people." But McGuire said Wednesday "the person on the sidewalk who hasn't bought a ticket isn't entitled" to a free look at the game.

"The feature is really intended to be a plus for a commuter as he or she walks from their homes to the L," McGuire said. "They will be able to walk by any time, any day, and look into the ballpark."

Except when a game is being played.

McGuire said the team is considering installing a wind screen over the knothole fence on game days. Fans inside the bleachers, walking through the area on their way to concessions, will be able to view the action through a chain-link fence, much like the Bullpen Sports Bar at U.S. Cellular Field.

Batter's eye: While attempting to get community support for the project in September 2001, the Cubs sent a form letter to neighborhood residents announcing the plans. Among the attributes referred to in the letter was a "Batter's Eye Restaurant" that would allow bleacher fans a "chance to view the game through tinted glass while eating in a new enclosed area in center field."

But McGuire referred to the new structure Wednesday as a "suite" for 75-100 fans and revealed it would be sold as a luxury suite.

"It's really a group party area, like a large mezzanine suite that will be used for group entertainment on game days," he said. That means groups can rent it for a game, but fans buying bleacher tickets will not be allowed inside.

Bleacher boxes: During the recent Cubs Convention, McGuire revealed the plan for 250 "bleacher box seats" in the right-field corner.

On Wednesday he announced tickets would be priced at $60, or $20 more than the highest priced regular bleacher seat. Unlike the bench seating in the bleachers, the "box" seats will have backs on them.

Like the dugout boxes and bullpen boxes, these "premium" seats will not go on sale until around March 15, about three weeks after individual tickets are sold.

Rooftops and ballhawks: The tops of most of the surrounding apartment buildings still can be seen from inside the park, and with the exception of the building next to Murphy's Bleachers, most of the rooftops still can see much of the ballpark.

"Our belief is that the rooftop business will thrive," McGuire said.

The ballhawks, however, may be an endangered species. Unless they plan on using stilts and fishing nets, the fans who stand on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues waiting for balls to leave the park won't get much action because the additional rows of bleacher seats are high enough to keep most balls inside the park.

According to the fan blog on, 39 home runs left the ballpark last year, or about one every other game. The Web site also claimed 756 balls left the park during batting practices, or about nine per home date.

Look for those numbers to drop drastically.

Smoking: McGuire said the team still is studying the city's new no-smoking ordinance to see how it affects the open-air areas in the bleachers and the roof-deck patio facing the intersection of Clark and Addison. Smoking has been prohibited in the seating area for several years.

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