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Ballpark Profile: Wrigley Field

Ballpark Profile: Wrigley Field
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Name: Wrigley Field

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Opened: April 23, 1914 (as Weeghman Park)

Architect: Zachary Taylor Davis

Cost: $250,000

Capacity: 41,268

Surface: Merion bluegrass

Wrigley Field, AKA The Friendly Confines, is the gem of the National League. Just two years younger than Fenway Park in the American League, Wrigley is nearly 50 years older than the next oldest ballpark, and the only surviving ballpark used by the short-lived Federal League. 

For so many of these profiles, I've said how the retro parks can't really match what Wrigley and Fenway have always had. There is just a certain magic to seeing a game here. 

The basics: The park was originally built in 1914 for the Chicago Whales of the Federal League (it was called Weeghman Park). The league folded, and the Cubs took over in 1916. The park was expanded several times over the years (at one point the entire structure from the 3rd base dugout all the way around behind home plate and out to the right field wall was jacked up and moved about 50 feet south. Don't ask me why or how. But the only part of Wrigley/Weeghman that is still standing where it originally stood is a small section along the 3rd base/left field line. Although there's really not much of the original park left.)

Skipping forward a bit, we come to the 1941, when Wrigley Field is set to be one of the first parks in major league baseball to have lights for night games. Wanting to be at the forefront of this new technology, in November 1941 PK Wrigley had his team develop a plan to have lighting installed at Wrigley for games starting in 1942. Less than a month later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the United States was plunged into WWII, and the materials earmarked for the lights at Wrigley were donated to the war effort. It was not until August of 1988 that night baseball finally came to the north side of Chicago. (Feel free to use that fact to impress your father-in-law, or anytime talks about how great it was before Wrigley got lights.)

Through the 1990s and into the 2000s, Wrigley began to show its age. The Tribune corporation, who owned the Cubs, spent very little on the team and even less on the ballpark. Which resulted in this 90 year old ballpark looking, well, 90 years old. The famous example being large sections of concrete falling from the upper deck into the lower seating bowl.

Nets were installed to catch chunks of falling concrete

Still the fans came, and Wrigley became a destination unto itself: it did not matter how the Cubs were doing, 40,000 fans would show up every day for the experience of drinking beer at Wrigley Field. (And, I can tell you, it's a very good experience.)

There was talk about building a new, state-of-the-art ballpark in suburban Chicago, taking the iconic red marquee and green scoreboard from the old place, and having a "New Wrigley Field" in Rosemont. Fortunately, along came the Ricketts family, who purchased the Cubs and pledged hundreds of millions of dollars into the restoration of Wrigley Field to its original glory. 

They did a masterful job. Every element was handled in a tasteful, historically-accurate-but-forward-thinking way, and -- while there is a bit about the new Wrigley experience that feels a bit . . . commercial, the tradeoff is a fantastic ballpark restored to the gem it should be.

Wrigley sits nestled into the Wrigleyville neighborhood, and -- while the blocks immediately surrounding Wrigley have become more commercial, with a few tall buildings and a brand-new hotel across from the iconic red marquee -- if you walk a block in any direction, you'll be on a quiet, leafy neighborhood street surrounded by brownstone apartments.

It's hard to reasonably argue that there is a better place in the world to watch a baseball game. Sure, fans of particular teams and ballparks can make their case, but empirically speaking, given the neighborhood ambience, the newly-refurbished facilities, the location in the middle of one of the great American cities, the history (did we mention that Wrigley is the site of Babe Ruth's legendary "called shot" homerun in the 1932 World Series??), Wrigley is the place.

Were you there when The Babe called his shot? Or do you have any other thoughts on Wrigley Field? Comment below for a chance to win a FREE PRINT from Ballpark Blueprints!

 

10 comments

  • Richard Wherley: October 01, 2020

    COVID has taken away a lot of cherished people , events, and Businesses from us but it will never take away memories such as the ones spent in beautiful wrigley field. Great blog and looking forward to stepping foot back in there with our loved ones enjoying daytime/playoff baseball.

  • QVZiJezcjaU: September 29, 2020

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  • wjKmYqBPabvzNFdu: September 29, 2020

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  • Gerard Doolan: September 24, 2020

    What a magnificent stadium. Love to win a blueprint prize.

  • AJ: September 23, 2020

    Now if they only had just let that dang goat come in we wouldn’t be known as the loveable losers…

  • Mike Kowols: September 16, 2020

    My favorite park in baseball. It’s weird to think that I won’t see a single game there this summer. I think they did a great job with the renovations. I’m not a huge fan of the video boards, but I love the extended upper deck concourse. The plaza is pretty neat too.I think it’s great how the space is used by the community throughout the year. I also think it’s great that they were able to massively upgrade the player facilities. The old clubhouses were definitely not up to par.

  • Ward: September 15, 2020

    I agree on your assessment of the Ricketts renovation. Loved the old place but the upgrade was done masterfully. Love the blog, thx

  • Jan: September 15, 2020

    We decided get tickets to a game last minute when we were visiting Chicago. Not sure if we enjoyed the game itself or celebrating a win in Wrigleyville that night more! Thanks for a sharing its beautiful history!

  • Steve Cecil: September 15, 2020

    Beautiful print of a beautiful park. Thanks for the history lesson!!

  • Shane: September 15, 2020

    “ Cost: $250,000” wow that is nuts!

    Great tidbits here. I definitely learned a few things. The Whales is an obscure thing and I never knew about the fact that the Cubs actually wanted to be one of the FIRST to have night games! Also, most people would guess that the called shot was at Yankee Stadium. Thanks for bringing new light to an old park!

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