We end 2018 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Ballpark Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #6: Wrigley Field upgrades reach a major milestone.
We are definitely in the era of ballpark renovations in Major League Baseball. Fenway Park’s decade-long makeover was certainly a model, but the long-term upgrades to Wrigley Field are equally impressive—and received a big boost with a club opening in 2018.
In 2018, the Cubs unveiled the American Airlines 1914 Club. Located under the grandstand with new seating behind home plate, the American Airlines 1914 Club is the opposite of a sports bar: with only five televisions, a high-end menu, all-inclusive pricing and a cocktail-focused bar that might have a surprise or two under lock and key, it’s certainly unlike the bleacher culture found in most of Wrigley Field.
The American Airlines 1914 Club has a capacity approaching 700, according to Cubs officials, and it was designed not necessarily as a place to linger during a game, but rather as a place to linger over a cocktail and some food before the game, as well as a place to grab a quick snack during the course of the game. Season ticketholders (who are paying between $32,400 and $56,295 per seat) have a private entrance to the club, which sits below grade. Indeed, the Cubs needed to go 11 feet or so below grade to clear out space for the American Airlines 1914 Club. That, however, sets up a dramatic entrance to a space unexpected in a ballpark. After entering the ballpark at the VIP entrance near the iconic Wrigley Field marquee, guests will make their way across the concourse and then enter the club area at the top of a staircase. Think of it as finding the lush speakeasy in the back of the drugstore, with a design featuring plenty of dark woods, high-end accents and brickwork to match the rest of Wrigley Field. The ballpark scene of 1914 definitely would not have included an experience like American Airlines 1914 Club—but imagine if it did.
Other changes at the Friendly Confines in 2018 included new dugouts, upgraded WiFi, overhauled concourses and the opening of Hotel Zachary across the way.
The extreme makeover of Wrigley Field is set to conclude in 2019, including an extended upper deck with new concessions and restrooms, a complete overhaul of the visitors’ clubhouse, new club areas, and an expansion of the bleachers.
These upgrades were all designed to fit within the Wrigley Field design aesthetic: True, an upscale club would have never been planned by Charles Weeghman in 1914, but he was a businessman at heart—and there’s no doubt this modernization plan would have been met with his wholehearted approval.
Here’s our Top Ten of 2018 to date: