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Where Do We Go From Here?: Part 1

Hall of Fame BaseballAs we wile away the winter days, waiting for the start of Spring Training, let’s examine some important issues facing the Chicago Cubs, both near-term and long-term.

In the first installment of WDWGFH, let’s look at one of the Cubs’ biggest long-term issues — the Friendly Confines, Wrigley Field. To get right to the point, Wrigley as it currently exists has to go.

In visiting numerous stadiums around the country, it has become obvious to me that Wrigley has long outlived its usefulness. I freely admit that it is a beautiful park and a historical link to the past that continues to enchant baseball fans (and even non-fans). I also know that is a historical landmark, so it’s not like Theo can just send in the bulldozers and wrecking ball and turn the joint to dust and rubble by making some phone calls.

But still, something has to be done. Wrigley Field, for all of its ivy-covered, sun-soaked charm, is a dump. It’s a crumbling, uncomfortable, outdated dump. I’ve heard it said that Wrigley is a wonderful place as long as you’re in your seat, and I agree with that assessment.

If you are trying to get to your seat or leave when the game is over, or if you need to visit the restroom or buy some nachos, then Wrigley’s warts become glaring. The concourse is cramped and dank, like the basement of Jame Gumb in “Silence of the Lambs”, and you can’t see the action when you’re there. The restrooms are just plain gross (do they still have those troughs to piss in? eww). There is nothing for little kids or non-baseball fans to do other than sit in their seats and marvel at the apartment buildings and wonder what “Eamus Catuli” means.

If you’ve been fortunate to visit the parks in San Francisco or Pittsburgh (as I have), you would instantly know what Wrigley is missing. Those stadiums are small and intimate where it counts, in the seating area. But behind the scenes the concourses are large and afford views of the playing field. The restrooms are modern and clean and plentiful. There is plenty to see and do if you have no interest in the game. These parks are way better than Wrigley, they just aren’t dripping with history (yet).

So what we need is our own PNC Park or AT&T Park. How do we make it happen? Look to the Chicago Bears for an answer. Solider Field is also a historic landmark, so the Bears’ solution was to keep the shell of the original stadium and got the innerds and replace those with a modern stadium’s innerds. Sure, it looks like hell on the outside, but it serves its purpose.

The Cubs should seek to preserve Wrigley’s essential features — the outside facade of the stadium, the bleachers and scoreboard — and get rid of everything else. Build a modern stadium within the existing framework and you have a win-win — a new stadium that still feels like Wrigley. The Cubs would have to play elsewhere for at least one season while the work is being done, but there is that “other” stadium down south (gulp). Look, sometimes you gotta dance with the devil. At least Cubs fans wouldn’t have to travel hours to watch their team play in a college football stadium, like Bears fans had to do in 2002.

It’s high time that the Cubs embraced the 21st century and give their fans a pleasurable place to visit. If we’re going to have to put up with the product on the field, at least allow us to do so in comfort.

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