Wrigley Field’s iconic bleachers may not be ready for Opening Night


As the Chicago Cubs prepare for the Major League season opener against the St. Louis Cardinals, the team could be without some of Wrigley Field’s iconic bleachers for the Sunday night game.

Speaking at an event of Cubs bloggers on Tuesday, president of business operations Crane Kenney referenced some of the delays the project has experienced–some expected, some not–as the club hopes to get the project done before the opener against the Cardinals.

"“I think there is a chance that some of the bleachers are not open for opening night,” Kenney told the group, according to a transcript posted by Wrigley Renovations, a blog dedicated to the estimated $600 million Wrigley Field renovation project. h/t Jon Greenberg, ESPNChicago"

The winter weather, cold and windy as Chicago is famous for, was something that was planned for. Infrastructure concerns, such as the need to replace a water main after digging up behind the bleachers on Sheffield Ave. has slowed the project. Inability to use heavy machinery due to high winds shut things down for a day as well.

Here is a large piece of Kenney’s answer to a question about the renovation timeline, as transcribed by the Wrigley Renovations Blog.

"“The bleachers … one of the things that was necessary was a new water main. Because we ended up paying for the sidewalk and the parking lane, we needed to have the water line under the ground upgraded and capped. That was supposed to be completed October 6, and what the city ran into was, a much more antiquated pipe system, and that still isn’t done. So that’s one issue we didn’t anticipate not being done, and they started that before our season was finished. So that’s a wrinkle. Our cold and wind we anticipated, but I think there is a chance that some of the bleachers are not open for opening night. We have a contingency plan to make sure we take care of our fans. One of the things we know about April is the average attendance is in the 30K range. So, are 5,000 fans going to be accommodated in the ballpark? We don’t want that to be the case and we are working hard to make up that time, but, we have to have a backup plan, in the event some of the bleachers aren’t available opening night. I think the good news is that this is a project we have well-engineered. So the engineering around this isn’t hard, the water line issue is an issue, but we are building this for the next 50 years. We certainly don’t want to miss the first homestand, but if you do, you move on and certainly the bleachers would be open right after that.”"

With frigid April weather the norm in Chicago, normal attendance that time of year is around 30k for the Cubs. But with the anticipation of next season, Joe Maddon‘s first game as Cubs skipper, and opening against the Cardinals? The organization can’t anticipate having room to accommodate the misplaced fans.

The most notable change to Wrigley Field in this phase of the renovation will be the two videoboards–one in left, and a smaller one in right–which are expected to be ready by the opener, per the team. The Cubs have already selected a firm to construct the boards, and have hired a person to run the operation from the pressbox.

The team also has approximately 70 games that lack a TV partner after the deal with WGN expired last season. There is a chance the two could renew a short-term deal to correlate with the Comcast Sportsnet Chicago deal that runs through 2019.

"“We hope to have deal in place by the end of the year,” Cubs VP of communication Julian Green said. “Everything is on the table. Talks with WGN are ongoing, that’s still a possibility.”"