When the Chicago Cubs open their season at Wrigley Field next month, players and fans alike may feel a bit like a homeowner who lives in a house where workers are tearing apart the kitchen.
Members of the media were led on a tour Monday of the bowels of the Major League Baseball's second-oldest ballpark, which has become a forest of beams and pipes on a dirt floor amid a massive renovation. Many of the steel girders that will support the ballpark's huge new video board are still lying on the ground beyond the left-field wall because record cold in February made it difficult for steel workers to do their job.
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But Cubs officials said the concourse will be open for business and the video board will be working come the team's opening day game on April 5 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
To get everything done, Cubs officials will ask the city for permission to work around the clock, said Crane Kenney, the team's president of business operations. And while the team has said for weeks that the bleachers won't be open until May, on Monday officials said that only the left field and center field bleachers will open in May. The right-field bleachers won't be open until June, officials said Monday.
"It is going to be a little dusty and a little dirty this year," Kenney said.
On Monday, Wrigley looked a bit like those old grainy photographs of the ballpark as it was being built in 1914. But unlike 1914 when the whole park cost $250,000 to build, what's happening now is the first phase of a project that will cost $375 million to renovate the stadium itself and a total of $575 million when a nearby hotel, plaza and office complex are complete.
During Monday's media tour, Carl Rice, the Cubs' vice president of ballpark operations, discussed some challenges of renovating a park that is both part of the history of baseball and a historic landmark that must be treated carefully — right down to the famous ivy-covered outfield wall.
"We had permission from the city to replace (part of the wall), so we took it down brick by brick, one by one, analyzed which brick is of a good nature, kept that and put all that brick in place and we are now in the process of reattaching the ivy to the wall," said Rice.
New outfield signs — four billboard-type signs and two video boards — have generated the most headlines and triggered a legal fight between the Cubs and the owners of the rooftop venues across the street, who say they'll cut into their views of the ballpark. Two weeks ago, a federal judge refused the owners' request to halt construction, saying they hadn't provided evidence that the signs would hurt their business.