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This Old Ballpark: Wrigley Field’s 1060 Project

Jeffrey Syken

In the “Windy City,” Chicago, team sports are taken seriously. So too are the traditions that surround them. Perhaps this fact is nowhere more evident than in the “Friendly Confines,” – Wrigley Field, home of the National League’s Chicago Cubs. One of the original three “Jewel Box” baseball stadiums built in the “Deadball Era” of Major League Baseball, it was first known as “Weeghman Park” and was home to the “outlaw” Federal League’s Chicago Federals (a/k/a “Chi-Feds” and, later, “Whales”). Chicago restauranteur and self-made man Charles Weeghman hired Zachary Taylor Davis, Architect of the “Baseball Palace of the World” - Comiskey Park (1910), home of the American League’s Chicago White Sox. Nestled in the North-side neighborhood of Lakeview (a/k/a “Wrigleyville”), Charlie Weeghmann asked Davis to design a stadium that could accommodate 14K fans and be ready for the 1914 season. Built in record time, Weeghman Park was not as grandiose as Comiskey Park (costing about half as much to build), but it was immediately embraced and endeared to Chicago’s die-hard baseball fans.

With the demise of the Federal League in 1915, Weeghman purchased the Cubs and brought them to play at the stadium he had built for his now defunct Federal league team. In 1920, William Wrigley, Jr., bought the Cubs and renamed the stadium “Cubs Park.” In 1926, the ballpark’s current name; “Wrigley Field,” was adopted. Wrigley, a chewing-gum magnate, started making changes to his namesake ballpark, some minor, others major (i.e. adding whole sections and lowering the playing field in the early 1920s). Tangentially, he built a “Wrigley Field Los Angeles” for the Cubs minor league team and, starting in 1921, brought the Cubs to Santa Catalina Island off the California coast, which he had purchased, for spring training. In 1937-38, there were significant changes/additions to Wrigley Field including the erection of the famous hand-operated scoreboard in center-field. The scoreboard is still hand-operated – a Cubs tradition (fans wouldn’t have it any other way). Also, the famous Boston Ivy covering the curvilinear brick wall in the outfield was planted, another Wrigley Field tradition.

Fast-forward to 1981 when the Cubs and their ballpark were purchased by the Chicago Tribune Co, Unable to hold night games due to a lack of lighting infrastructure, one of the first things the new owners set-out to do was install a modern lighting system lest MLB’s threat to force the Cubs to play their home games elsewhere be implemented. But change doesn’t come easy to Wrigley Field and it was only after much controversy that night-games finally came to Wrigley Field on August 8, 1988. Another controversy were the rooftop bleachers atop buildings adjoining the ballpark that sprang-up in the 1990s. After much legal and political wrangling, a revenue-sharing agreement was reached and, ultimately, the Cubs’ new owners, the Ricketts family, bought-out many of the rooftops. The Ricketts bought the Cubs in 2009 and immediately set-out to bring the edifice up to 21st century standards while maintaining its historic integrity. Thus was born the “1060 Project” - named after the ballpark’s official address (1060 W. Addison). This would be a multi-phase, multi-year, multi-million dollar effort that would entail major structural rehabilitation/reinforcement and the addition of new outfield bleachers, suites, clubs, dugouts, bullpens, a retail complex, hotel, public plaza, residential development etc. The effort paid-off, and now the Cubs no longer have difficulty attracting and retaining players while the fans are lining-up to get in.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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