The Cubs held a conference call Tuesday afternoon to address the rumors about Wrigley Field’s status for Opening Night and provide an update on The 1060 Project.
The Cubs will open the 2015 season against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field on Sunday, April 5. And the left field video board will be operational.
The left and center field bleachers are on schedule to open May 11, the right field bleachers in mid-June and the right field video board should be installed by the All-Star break.
Carl Rice, Vice President of Ballpark Operations, provided a detailed update on Phase One and discussed why The 1060 Project may take five years to complete. When the Cubs first unveiled the plans to expand, restore and renovate Wrigley Field, the team said it would take five years to finish.
Tuesday was the team’s last official update before Opening Night. The Cubs plan to provide more updates about the project throughout the season, especially as they get closer to getting the bleachers ready for occupancy.
Julian Green and Carl Rice read from prepared statements and did not accept questions.
Before I get started I would like to take an opportunity to address some wild and baseless accusations that have surfaced in the last week.
First: We are playing baseball at Wrigley Field Opening Night, Sunday, April 5.
Second: At no time has Major League Baseball intervened in our construction project. They are not concerned, mad or disappointed in the team or the pace of construction. Rather, they have been supportive of our efforts since this project got underway last year.
Third: There have been no discussions with the Chicago White Sox about playing our home opener at U.S. Cellular. Because we made the decision to play baseball at Wrigley Field throughout the life of the construction project at no time did we consider U.S. Cellular Field as an option.
Fourth: The rumors about the upper deck and grandstands not being safe are absolutely false and are simply reckless. This has been the most disturbing and reaching an all-time low for Wrigley Field rumors and myths. Our fans can be assured that as responsible stewards of this ballpark we’ve invested tens of millions of dollars each year on maintenance, there is no higher priority than to assure our fans enjoy baseball in the safest environment possible. And following our completion of significant infrastructure work this off-season we have prepared the ballpark for the next 100 years of Cubs baseball. We’ve said time and time again, we will not cut corners on this project. We are going to do this project right and responsibly. Certainly as many of you know, the City of Chicago will not put its stamp of approval on anything less. This is the approach we are taking with the bleachers.
Since the project started last October many of you know that we’ve been transparent. I said to many members of the media then we had a very aggressive timetable and we would need both a cooperative local government and a break from Mother Nature to complete all the work by Opening Day. When the city sewer work on Sheffield lagged into December last year rather than the projected October and we experienced a record-cold November, it became pretty clear our caution was well-founded. So we communicated near the end of November that the bleachers would not be ready by Opening Day. We reiterated the same messages at our Cubs Convention in January, so this is not a case of misjudging weather or other factors, rather being transparent from the start and adjusting and providing updates as we progressed throughout this project.
This is a very complex restoration project to complete. With that, with only having 26 weeks of an off-season to get things finished with a very, very tight timeframe to operate this is why The 1060 Project is a multi-year project which requires us to work on multiple areas of the ballpark each off-season and including some of that work ending up happening during the actual baseball season. We are fortunate to have owners who are committed to getting this project done right. The Ricketts family is investing about $50 million more to the expansion project than originally planned. And that additional investment and work may take us up to five years.
Again, as we said we are going to do this right and responsibly so we may adjust the scheduling on various parts and phases of the project to determine when work can be done during the baseball season. When this happens we will communicate openly as we did with the bleachers in November.
As for the Phase One construction, we made significant progress over the past few weeks as we are working to prepare Wrigley for Opening Night. As Julian stated, we will be ready for baseball on April 5.
Today I want to share an update on the overall progress, giving you an idea of what fans can expect when they come to our ballpark on Opening Night.
The Bleachers and the Video Boards
I want to start with an update on the Budweiser Bleachers and video boards and where we’re at as we stand here today. We remain on track to open the left field and center field bleachers for occupancy on May 11. The right field bleachers will be ready for occupancy by mid-June.
The left field video board will be ready to go and operational on Opening Night. And the right field video board will be up by the All-Star break.
The Budweiser sign in right field will be up by Opening Night. It’s going to be in a temporary position and will be moved to its permanent location on top of the right field video board once that video board has been installed.
The Outfield Walls
Beyond the ongoing bleacher expansion work our fans will be happy to know the outfield walls are intact with ivy attached. Fans may notice some gaps on the ivy on Opening Night as we had to do a lot of work on those walls this off-season. But as many of you know with last year’s successful outfield wall replacement, we expect to see the ivy back in full bloom by mid-summer.”
The Left Field Concourse
The left field concourse is just about ready for our fans. There will be some additional work that we are going to continue doing during the season, but as we planned we will be down one men’s and women’s restrooms until late-May. Work is underway to replace them with two new men’s and two new women’s restrooms. We have built a temporary lavatory solution in the concourse until the full compliment of restrooms are completed.
The Left Field Concessions
As planned, we will be down one concession stand in the left field concourse. However, the original portable concessions will be back and will help supplement the service in the main concourse additionally with this stand being down.
Elevator and Terrace Reserve Seats
Due to the ongoing work on the elevator located at the northwest corner of Wrigley, near Gate K, we identified a sightline impact to approximately 75 seats from the terrace reserve area. We are working directly with those that purchased tickets to those seats to help accommodate relocations to enjoy the experience of the ballpark.
The Plaza Area
Moving outside the ballpark, work continues in the plaza area. The foundational work in the plaza will be completed by Opening Night. Work will continue throughout the season in the area to build the framing for the new clubhouse and subterranean basement. Excavation work is already underway for this. Daily hauls of dirt and debris will continue for the next few months. By the end of the season we intend to cover the surface, covering the clubhouse and the sub-basement structure so we can build out those areas.
Traffic and Parking – The Red and Purple lots are gone that’s the location we are using for the new clubhouse and office buildings. So we really strongly encourage public transportation and using our free remote parking service. The remote lot located at 3900 N. Rockwell and accessed off Irving Park will be operational on Opening Night and at all night and weekend games during the season. And as part of that service we will continue to provide a free shuttle transportation to and from Wrigley. The Blue and Brown Lots will not be available for any cash parking this season. The resurfaced Green Lot on Green Street will be open for our fans during the entire season. Residents with permits in the Green Lot will be able to continue to use lot on non-game days. The bike check service will continue this year. It will be located just north of The Cubs Store on the west side of Clark Street directly across from the Wrigley Field marquee. Pedestrian access around the ballpark will also be slightly changed. Access on Clark Street will be limited to one lane of traffic in each direction and the pedestrian access will be only on the west side of the street. Waveland Ave. from Clark to Sheffield will remain closed to traffic with pedestrian access on the north side of Waveland only. Residents with cars and vehicles on Clifton will still be able to exit on Waveland Ave. heading west to Clark St. Sheffield Ave. will remain closed to traffic with pedestrian access to the east side of Sheffield only. Traffic aids will be stationed at all these locations and at the intersection of Clark and Waveland to help direct traffic flow. Group and public buses are also going to be affected by the construction project. For our fans who are using public and private transportation there are a few changes to those staging areas that have been used in the past. Group Charter and Coach buses will unload and pick up on Irving Park. Pace buses will be staged a little further down Clark St. between Waveland and Grace. And the CTA is still going to provide the same level of service with the same drop off and pick up points that they’ve had in the past.
When Cubs fans come into the ballpark … We heard last week that Major League Baseball scheduled Fall Out Boy to open for the National Telecast. The band is going to perform three songs on the field as part of our pre-game festivities. Due to the scheduled pre-game performance, we are going to open Wrigley a little early that night. The gates will open at 4:35pm CDT. Once again, for Opening Day only, Opening Night, gates will open up at 4:35pm CDT. All of the gates will be available for entry and exit on Opening Night and throughout the season. When the bleacher project completes, we will be able to open the bleacher gates. Again, all of the gates, Gate D, Gate F, Gate K all of them are fully operational and will open for entry and exit on Opening Night.
All ticket windows will also be open at the ballpark on Opening Night and throughout the season. Please note, we will no longer be selling tickets at The Cubs Store once the ballpark opens. The box office will be the official spot to get tickets.
WiFi and Cell Service
Cellular service will be available throughout the ballpark for fans in 2015. We are working with all of the cellphone providers to enable our fans to use their cellphones at any opportunity during the season. We are hoping that all of the providers have finished their installations by Opening Night. As everyone knows and we talked about before even at the Cubs Convention, WiFi has been a challenge at Wrigley Field. Fully remedying the situation will take some time and the system will be down for a majority of 2015. We understand this will be an inconvenience for some of our fans but we made the decision to make this temporary reduction so we can substantially improve the service in the long run.
Wrigley Field Statues and Personalized Pavers
As part of the efforts to preserve historic features of Wrigley some of the statues were removed and transported to Michigan for restoration work. The Ernie Banks and Ron Santo statues will be in place by Opening Night. The Harry Caray statue will not be returning for the 2015 season as its location is still part of ongoing construction.
While some Wrigley Field personalized pavers have already been removed on the ongoing construction, there are also some that have remained in the same location and will be accessible during the 2015 season. It was determined the best long-term solution and location for the pavers is outside the Budweiser Bleachers on Sheffield and Waveland. Our plan is to replace and relocate all personalized pavers following the 2015 season. We anticipate the new pavers will be in place by Opening Day 2016. The original pavers will not be available for distribution and we will communicate specific locations once the design lays are finalized with those personalized pavers. Personalized paver owners are receiving letters this week which provides them this update on the status of the individual pavers.
So as we prepare for this weekend’s home opener, let me assure you of this. Our goal is to ensure that the ongoing construction does not lessen the fan experience or impact the course of the game on the field. We are going to consistently monitor the noise, the dust, the construction activity and make adjustments as we go. The key objective is making sure we get this done right and we are delivering the ultimate in a guest experience. We are excited to receive fans Opening Night and kick off a great season of baseball at Wrigley Field.