Even-friendlier confines at Wrigley Field?

By Mike Spellman
Daily Herald Sports Writer
Posted Thursday, February 09, 2006

When construction began on the 1,800-seat bleacher expansion at Wrigley Field immediately following the 2005 season, Cubs officials had a simple aim.

“Our goal was that if you’re sitting in the grandstand seats and look out and see the (new bleacher) seats filled with fans, you will be hard-pressed to notice a difference,” said Mark McGuire, executive vice president of business operations.

Tuesday, McGuire and his staff held an open house to show the progress. And frankly, looking at the partially completed work through falling snow, it was difficult to tell if that will be the case.

Some of the highlights from McGuire’s Q&A tour:

•The 1,800 new seats mean 145,000 more people can visit Wrigley each year, bringing capacity to about 41,000. The $13.5 million includes more concessions and washrooms.

•All except the first three rows of the juniper bushes in center field will be replaced by the “Batter’s Eye Lounge,” a 75- to 100-seat enclosed area that McGuire described as a “a group party area, a large mezzanine suite that will be used for group entertainment.” It will feature tinted glass, angled so that reflections will not get in the batters’ eyes.

•A walkway (20 feet at its widest) will extend from both foul poles, but because of the bleachers it will be difficult to see the field from it.

•About 250 box seats in right field — seats with backs — will sell for $60, compared to $40 for bleacher seats. The right-field box seats will go on sale about March 15. Wheelchair seating will be available.

•To see the field from the new “knothole” along the right-field sidewalk, plan on doing it when there isn’t a game.

Here’s how McGuire described the knothole concept: “There will be two gates. There’s a gate on the street wall, which is a gate you can see through, and then there will be some sort of chain-link gate on the outfield wall that you can see through. In between is a corridor where fans are allowed to go through that corridor from the bleachers to the regular grandstand.”

In other words, if you look through the knothole from the sidewalk on game day, most likely you’ll see the backside of paying customers watching the action from the corridor — perhaps through a wind screen.

“Frankly, we’re not believing that the person on the sidewalk who hasn’t brought a ticket is entitled to any view,” he said.

•Some bricks from the old exterior wall will be used in the new wall, which extends 8 feet onto the sidewalks along Waveland and Sheffield avenues. The plan calls to have ivy growing on the exterior walls.

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