Compared to the modern parks built nearly a century later, the Friendly Confines come up short on features and amenities. Restrooms and concessions are horribly outdated; you get a ticket that says nothing about an obstructed view yet sit down to find a pole between home plate and the mound; you can’t really move around the park for a different perspective. As a facility alone, Wrigley does not rank among baseball’s best. But in terms of overall experience, it provides one of the most magical in all of sports.
The location in a residential area of Chicago’s north side is part of what makes Wrigley a treasure. It’s a blast to walk through a neighborhood and basically stumble upon a Major League ballpark or to arrive right behind the outfield via the L. The first and most famous external feature you notice is the large red marquee above the home plate entrance reading “Wrigley Field, Home of Chicago Cubs”. Once inside, the colors of Wrigley stun you on your first visit. The grass seems a bit greener than elsewhere, the ivy on the walls pops out, and the apartment rooftops beyond the outfield walls are alive with fans. The large center-field scoreboard that is still operated by hand adds to the nostalgia, and the flags above show the divisional standings for all of baseball.
Given that you can’t really walk around the entire interior of the park, where you choose to sit can make a big difference in the experience. The outfield bleachers are a great place on a warm summer day, while the upper deck on the first base line offers a great view of sunset during night games.
With new ownership in place it will be interesting to see how the Cubs proceed with trying to modernize Wrigley without destroying its antique charms – can they do it as well as Boston did with Fenway? A key question might be how much of the past Cubs fans are willing to exchange for a better chance at seeing a winning team.
A Tip of the Cap
- The old-time scoreboard in center field
- The ivy and brick
- The W and L flags flown to represent a Cubs’ win or loss in a completed game
- The seats that are surprisingly not too tight given the age of the park
Swing and a Miss
The inner workings of the ballpark need work. Behind the beautiful seating area is an overly cramped concourse and outdated facilities.
Trip to the Mound
Overall Rating: A-
- Setting (A): Uniqueness of location in a residential neighborhood is enhanced by rooftop seating across the street and people standing in the streets waiting for home run balls that clear the bleachers.
- External Appearance (C+): The red marquee is famous and looks great when you arrive. Outside of that, the exterior is not overly attractive.
- Internal Appearance (A+): Something about the view of the playing field from any seat is mystical. Looking out from the upper deck offers the best overall view. Bricks, ivy, the green scoreboard, etc.
- Atmosphere (A-): There is an old-time, pure feel to sitting in Wrigley. Though it sometimes seems a significant portion of the fans aren’t that into the baseball – for them attending a game isn’t so much about the Cubs as it is being seen there. Nothing wrong with that, but it leads to a less than dynamic atmosphere when the Cubs (as quite often is the case) are not in contention.