New glimpse of Wrigley Fence provides unobstructed ballpark view from Sheffield Ave.

By Ryan Crawford / MLB.com

06/01/2006 4:50 PM ET

CHICAGO -- What used to be a solid gate is now a 13-foot tall, 10-foot wide window into one of baseball's most historic parks.

The opening, known as the "knothole," is a mesh-fenced area in the right-field corner under the Wrigley Field bleachers that allows fans passing by on Sheffield Avenue to get a glimpse inside the 92-year old stadium. Cubs management made the change during renovations to the bleachers this offseason.

For baseball fans unable to see a game inside of Wrigley, it's an opportunity to sneak a peek at the field.

"I just wanted to see the grass, you know," said Mark Craig, a long-time Cubs fan but first-time Wrigley Field visitor. "It's kind of cool when you walk into a stadium you've never been in before. It's kind of an awesome sight."

Fans said the knothole, which remains open during games, allows those outside to feel like they're inside.

"It just makes you feel a part of the game," said Donna Craig, Mark's wife. "I've never seen anything like this at any of the other stadiums."

New Busch Stadium in St. Louis has a mesh fence behind a patio in left field that allows fans to peek at the park, and AT&T Park in San Francisco has knotholes, too, along the Portwalk. The idea behind the change at Wrigley is to let visitors on non-game days have a chance to see inside the stadium. "You can't see everything that's going on," Mark Craig said of Wrigley. "But you can see enough to encourage us to buy tickets."

The knothole doesn't appeal only to the first-time visitor, however. It also has been embraced by regular attendees.

"This is my sixth game in the bleachers [this season] and I've walked by it before a couple of games and it's so close to the field. Almost no one ever gets to stand on the field, unless you're a big wig or a player, so being able to see things from that perspective is great," said Mike Murphy, 47, whose first game at Wrigley was before he was born. Murphy said his mother caught a foul ball while she was still pregnant with him.

In addition to the knothole, the bleacher renovations added 1,800 more seats, a Batter's Eye Suite in center field that can accommodate 75-100 people and be reserved on a game-by-game basis, new wheelchair seating, new restrooms, new concession stands, and Bleacher Box Suites in the right-field corner. So far, many of the fans have enjoyed the changes.

"I started coming to games when the bleachers were made out of wood," Murphy said. "Anytime they talk about changing things you wonder if how you see things will change ... but it's really hard to tell there's been any change at all. You really have to look at it. That's one of the reasons I'm really happy about it."

Murphy also said the added fans in the stands were a positive.

"More people get to come out to the bleachers now," Murphy said. "We get 2,000 extra people. It's a good thing."

More isn't always better. Some fans say the bleachers have become too crowded.

"It's bad -- too many people right now," said Keith Krohn, 46, of Beach Park, Ill., who has been sitting in the bleachers for years. "They closed off the family section and there are more drunken people now. We're surrounded by idiots now."

"When I tilt [my head] up it's like, 'Oh my God -- look at all these fans,'" Krohn said.

The family section was moved from the left field bleachers to the other side of the foul pole in the left field corner.

The renovations have alleviated some problems with concessions.

"I really like what they did in the back," Murphy said of the concessions area. "It's not nearly as crowded. The concessions are easier to get to -- that's a huge difference."

With all the changes in the bleachers this year, the most important thing is that Wrigley Field still feels like the friendly confines they're accustomed to.

"On the whole, everything that's been done here has been done really well. The Tribune Co., for all their other faults, can't be faulted for that," Murphy said. "Now if they could just get another pitcher and a decent right fielder."

Ryan Crawford is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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