With the postseason approaching, the Chicago Cubs are announcing and planning some changes to Wrigley Field.
This year’s playoff games will mark one last run for Wrigley Field’s distinguished home and visitor’s bullpens. The bullpens have long been located down the foul lines, which is something of a rarity in Major League Baseball, but has always been particularly associated with Wrigley Field. Currently just three other ballparks–AT&T Park, the Oakland Coliseum, and Tropicana Field–have their bullpens down the foul lines.
While the signature feature has always been a way to put fans closer to the action, the Cubs are planning to move the bullpens before next season. The plan will call for the bullpens to be placed under the bleachers, with the Cubs setting up in left field and the visitors in right field.
By moving the bullpens, the Cubs will be able to add several rows worth of seating down both foul lines. The team is intends to stick with this proposal, even though it is not universally popular among the players. More from DNAInfo Chicago:
It’s also not entirely endorsed by the players. The Cubs’ Jake Arrieta told the Tribune’s Paul Sullivan earlier this year that warming up on the field “simulates the game feel,” adding, “There really is no comparison to being outside to replicate the way you’re going to be pitching in the game situation. I’m OK with it. I like it.”
Arrieta even suggested a delay in moving the bullpens, and there’s precedent for that. Manager Joe Maddon said the Cubs didn’t enjoy playing 3 p.m. starts, and the team largely abandoned the practice this season, even though it was a hard-won perk with the City Council.
Despite a recent report saying the bullpen changes could be put off a year, team spokesman Julian Green confirmed Monday that the plan is still on, with no thought of any delay.
The Cubs cited, among other factors, the reduced risk of injury to outfielders, who will no longer have to work around the bullpen mounds while chasing down fly balls.
While that is one major change in the works for inside Wrigley Field, there has been an announcement regarding a change that will happen outside the ballpark. The plaza planned for the outside of Wrigley Field a working title: The Park at Wrigley Field.
According to an announcement from Hickory Street Capital–which, like the Cubs, is controlled by the Ricketts family–branding for the 50,000 square-foot area will be made available through naming rights. Hickory Street Capital will work with WME-IMG to find a corporate partner.
The Park at Wrigley Field stands to be as close to a stadium naming rights partnership as we’ll see at the 102-year-old ballpark, which is one of 10 in Major League Baseball without such a deal. Whatever brand ties itself to the area outside the venue may be one of the most visible corporate names on the expanding Wrigley Field campus.
The benefit of selling naming rights to an area outside the park as opposed to the stadium itself is that proceeds from the deal would not be subject to MLB’s revenue-sharing rules. That is why Hickory Street Capital, not the Cubs, is overseeing the development of the plaza as well as Hotel Zachary, a 175-room, 238,000-square-foot hotel going up across Clark Street from the plaza.
The Park at Wrigley Field is one of several developments to have moved forward in recent weeks. Last month Hickory Street Capital announced that the future hotel outside Wrigley Field will be named Hotel Zachary, in honor of ballpark architect Zachary Taylor Davis.