February 9, 2010 1:56 PM
By Paul Sullivan
If there indeed are rats roaming the underbelly of Wrigley Field’s bleachers, as White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen claims, they may be mingling with Cubs fans this year.
The Cubs are following the lead of Boston, opening up the space underneath the right field bleachers for corporate pre-game events, and for bleacher fans who may want to come down during the game and watch the action on flat-screen TVs.
A pane of one-way glass will separate fans from the right field batting cage, allowing them to watch b.p. in the area which Guillen claims has been a long-time haven for rats.
A few years ago, Boston added TVs and food stands to the unused area underneath its right field bleachers, and it proved to be a big success. The bleacher area is one of several changes in story for Wrigley Field in the first year of the Ricketts era.
Cubs marketing chief Wally Hayward took reporters on a tour of the construction on Tuesday, and addressed some of those changes:
The Ricketts spent much of their opening press conference talking about the need to improve the bathrooms, and followed up on their promise. There will be a 30 percent overall increase in bathroom capacity, according to stadium manager Carl Rice, along with improvements in the womens bathrooms. The men will also have more room, but the look won’t change much. “Don’t worry,” Hayward said. “The troughs are still there.”
Bleacher advertising appears to be on its way, though nothing is set in stone. The Cubs did a mock-up signboard in left field over the winter, and though they eventually took it down, they’re likely to use that spot for an advertising sign. Hayward said the Cubs are still talking to current and potential sponsors. “We’re looking at options there, and on the on-deck circle as well, which is a high-visibility television shot, with various clients,” Hayward said. The ads would block the Horseshoe Casino rooftop ad on TV shots from home plate.
The back of the scoreboard is currently undergoing renovation, but there will be no advertising on it besides the neon “Cubs” sign that’s been there for decades.
The rectangular, granite slabs on the sides of the outer walls are being taken down, beginning with right field, to eventually be replaced by fencing. The Cubs are doing it for aesthetic reasons, opening up the park and offering fans inside a view of downtown. “It really opens up the ballpark to the neighborhood,” Hayward said. “I’m not sure whose idea it was to put those up, but I think in the summer when you have the sun coming in, it’s really going to brighten up that part of Wrigley Field.”
The Sheffield Grill restaurant in the right field corner will be opened up for fans on game days. Previously, the grill was reserved for corporate events, which will be moved under the bleachers. Tickets are on now sale for the yet-to-be-named super suite in the left field corner, which is selling $24,300 per seat season tickets in pairs of two, four and six. Only 71 tickets will be made available, and the Cubs hope it’s a viable alternative for companies that want to entertain a few clients at a time, and not 10-15. “This is really targeting small companies, entrepreneurs that don’t have the demand to entertain that many people for 81 games,” Hayward said. The Cubs will announce the naming rights soon.
The old brick wall down the left field line is being replaced with new bricks. Hayward said the old bricks will eventually be auctioned off. The height of the wall will remain the same in all areas, gradually rising from the end of the bullpen to the left field corner.