On Tuesday, July 7, 2015 my friend Beth and I attended the Cubs-Cardinals night game thanks to the awesome people at TicketCity. It was an opportunity for me to experience Wrigley in all of its renovated glory. Much of the charm of Wrigley Field comes from its rich history and tradition, and it was fair to wonder firsthand how those changes would affect the fan experience. I am here to tell you attending a game at Wrigley Field is better than ever.
What I learned at the Cubs-Cardinals Game:
The new scoreboard in left field is awesome.
Like many longtime Cubs fans I had some concerns the new scoreboard would take away from some of the charm of Wrigley Field. I worried it might be an eyesore, or that it would somehow diminish the hand-operated scoreboard. It turns out I needn’t have worried.
The scoreboard looks amazing, and doesn’t take away from anything. The videos in between innings are great, and I really liked seeing highlights from the other games from around Major League Baseball that night. I know during the NHL playoffs they showed Blackhawks goals on the screen, and during one rain delay they simply put on the telecast of the Blackhawks game. Where I come from, rain is a good thing.
Keeping score at the game is easier than ever
On the one hand, it kind of feels like a waste to have a big scoreboard in right field that pretty much only shows the lineups for both teams. On the other hand, after each plate appearance they flash the symbol for whatever just happened on that scoreboard. If you are keeping score and you aren’t sure what happened or how to score it, the correct answer will appear on the scoreboard.
As a brief aside, I grew up keeping score with my dad, and I have wound up teaching Beth and other friends I have gone to games with. I like it because it keeps me engaged in the game, and because it feels like I am upholding a tradition. Also, it is kind of just a habit. Besides, maybe someday you can show your grandkids the scorecard from the day you saw that no-hitter, or Anthony Rizzo’s three-home-run game.
The bleachers look great
I haven’t yet sat in the bleachers, but I have heard good things. They look new and nice, a far cry from the old bleachers. Even the entrance to the bleachers looks better than before. In the past I would only sit in the bleachers if I could not get tickets someplace else, but after the renovations I would be happy to see a game from there.
I’m never using an unrenovated bathroom again.
Much was made of the bathroom renovations at the start of the season, when unfinished bathrooms led to ridiculously long lines. I admittedly wasn’t at any of those games, but I would argue it was worth the wait. I went in the renovated men’s room behind home plate, and while there are still troughs in the restroom, the walls were white, the lights were brighter, and everything just felt more clean. Next time I go I will walk past the old bathrooms if I have to so I can use one of the new ones. I can also report Beth said the ladies rooms had the shortest lines she had ever seen at Wrigley Field.
The first base side is better.
I am obviously not complaining. We got great seats for the game right behind the Cubs dugout. We could see nearly the entire field and we were in the shade the entire time, which is extremely nice when the weather is hot. Even so, all other things being equal, I would rather sit on the first base side. When you sit on the first base side you are facing the brand-spanking new electronic scoreboard in left field. It is not like I am too lazy to turn my head, but I know I missed some of the cool stuff on the jumbotron because I was facing the field and not looking at the scoreboard. I probably wouldn’t pay more to sit on that side, but I will search for tickets on the first base side next time I go to a game.
The CTA bus is a good way to go.
My preferred method of travel to Wrigley Field is to take the Metra train to LaSalle Street Station and then hop on the Red Line to Wrigley Field. In fact, that is how I got to the game last month. The problem is the last train leaves LaSalle Street station at 12:30. If there is a delay, or extra innings, or if I want to go have some laughs with the cute girl I met at the game, making that train could be an issue.
Since my friend Beth lives in the city anyway, it made sense to drive to her place and take the bus from there. It worked out great, and was almost as easy as taking the train. With bus stops right across the street from Wrigley Field, it could not have been more convenient. The bus was pretty crowded after the game, but not overly so, and the time passed quickly. I will definitely consider taking the bus the next time I go to a game.
Deep dish pizza is not as good at the ballpark.
To be fair, I am a bit of a pizza snob. I was really tempted to get a beef sandwich, but opted for the pizza in part so I could write about it. While I feel I made a mistake, it is entirely possible most people will like the Giordano’s pizza at Wrigley Field better than I do. At the very least, the hand-tossed pizza looked good enough to satisfy any kids you take to the game.
That being said, I recommend you pass on the deep dish pizza. If you really like deep dish pizza, go to an actual pizza restaurant. If your only opportunity at Chicago-style pizza is at a Cubs game, that pizza is better than nothing, but you are better off eating something else. Especially because:
Nothing can beat grilled onions.
One of my favorite traditions is going to the food stand behind home plate for a Diamond Dog (now called a Dugout Dog). I like all of their footlong options, though lately I have gravitated towards their buffalo dog. I still got one at this game, but the Polish sausage with grilled onions stole the show. It was the first thing I bought when I got to Wrigley Field, and it will be the next time I am there, too. I don’t know how you can walk past the hot dog stand, smell the grilled onions and not stop for a hot dog or Polish. They are ridiculously good.
Thomas Ian Nicholas still exists.
According to Wikipedia, the Rookie of the Year and American Pie star has sung Take Me Out to the Ballgame for exactly two Cubs games. It just so happens Beth—who is a huge Thomas Ian Nicholas fan—and I have attended both of those games. He actually did a very good job. In my humble opinion, the ultimate test of Take Me Out To The Ballgame is if the singer yells “let’s get some runs!” after the song. He passed that test with flying colors.
I was never one of those Cubs fans who clamored for improvements to Wrigley Field. I was perfectly fine using troughs in dark, dingy bathrooms. I never wanted a huge electronic scoreboard, and I was content avoiding the bleachers. All of these renovations have improved Wrigley Field for the better, and make me confident things will continue to improve. With a young up-and-coming team and a ballpark that walks the line between tradition and modernization, it is a great time to be a Cubs fan.