When a new ballpark needs a significant overhaul just a decade after it is built, including a sizable reduction in capacity, it’s not a good sign. Making the investment necessary to do so, however, might be worth it. Such is the case with U.S. Cellular Field.
I didn’t make it to a game at U.S. Cellular Field until after the major changes took place – shortening the upper deck, adding a better roof, changing from blue to green seats, etc. – so I can’t really give an accurate before/after comparison. What I can say is that any remaining complaints about the facility and its location seem overblown. No, it’s not in the sexiest location and isn’t flashy. But in its current state it is a very nice ballpark.
It’s easy to get to The Cell from downtown Chicago via the CTA’s red line (Sox/35th Street stop), and it’s easy to have a good time once you are there – though it helps to have a lower level ticket so you’re not limited in your ability to enjoy everything the parkl has to offer.
A Tip of the Cap
- – Nice external architecture that blends modern design with historical touches such as arched windows and steel.
- – The deck area in center field that is open for anyone who can find a spot to sit or stand.
- – The Fundamentals Deck in left field that lets kids showcase their skills and learn how to play the game.
- – The growing number of sculptures in the outfield concourse.
- – The use of bushes and plants as part of the batter’s eye
Swing and a Miss
The segregation of the upper and lower decks is a major downfall of U.S. Cellular. The game of baseball meanders with ebbs and flows, and it’s nice to be able to meander around yourself as the game progresses and at least check out different vantage points around the concourse. No such luck if you grab an upper level seat here. Seems odd, especially for a baseball-only facility.
First, take the CTA to the ballpark from downtown. It’s convenient and you can still have time to enjoy Chicago which is a great city in summer. Second, get lower level tickets due to the previously described segregation of levels. Finally, once inside, spend some time in the outfield area. There are statues honoring White Sox history, multiple food options, and a large multilevel wooden deck area where anyone can grab an open seat or stand around.
Overall Rating: B
- Setting (C+): A ways out from downtown via the train, very close to the interstate, and not surrounded by much in the way of food or entertainment options. Externally there is a decent view of downtown, inside that disappears. It is worth noting that I found often-heard rumblings about the park being in a rough area rather hyperbolic – it seemed pleasant and safe to me.
- External Appearance (B+): A unique and modern look is provided by the beige concrete topped with a dark-colored roof. The reflective windows add a nice photographic element. The home plate entrance is enhanced by a plaza dedicated to the 2005 World Champions.
- Internal Appearance (B): Not sure about before the changes, but the current use of green and black for the park’s main colors works well. The statues in the outfield concourse make for nice photo ops with the main grandstand as a backdrop. I know the pinwheels atop the scoreboard pay homage to the past, but they still look a little out of place and don’t fit with the overall aesthetics.
- Atmosphere (B+): Seemed typical. The crowd was into the game and I had an enjoyable experience as a visitor.