Nicknamed the Friendly Confines, Wrigley Field is
baseball's second oldest ballpark, where fans come
to see the ivy covered outfield walls, the classic
hand-operated scoreboard and the marquee outside the
homeplate entrance. Stepping into Wrigley Field
today is like stepping back in time. Fans come out
to Wrigley Field whether the Cubs are winning or
losing. The history of Wrigley Field dates to before
the start of World War I when Charles Weeghman bought the Chicago Whales of the
Federal League. Weeghman constructed his team a new
ballpark in the largely undeveloped north side area
of Chicago along Addison and Clark Streets which is
now fully developed with businesses, residential
areas and local Chicago hotels. Zachary Taylor Davis
was hired to develop plans for the ballpark that was
initially known as North Side Park until Weeghman
named it after himself. Construction of the 14,000
seat ballpark began on March 14, 1914. The ballpark
had only a one deck of grandstand in a V-shape, with
wooden bleachers in the outfield. The $250,000
ballpark was completed by April 23, 1914 when the
Whales played their first game at the ballpark.
Original dimensions at Weeghman Field were 310 ft.
(left), 440 (center), and 356 (right). It was the
first ballpark to have permanent concession stands.
Weeghman Field was home to the Chicago Whales for
two years before the Federal League went bankrupt.
Located on the west side of Chicago, the Cubs played
at the 14,000 seat West Side Grounds. They had
played here since 1893 and by 1915 were struggling
to attract fans. After the 1915 season Weeghman
bought the Cubs and moved them to his ballpark
on the north side for the 1916 season. The first
Cubs game at Weeghman Field was on April 20, 1916.
In 1920, Weeghman Field was renamed Cubs Park and
Weeghman sold the club to William Wrigley Jr.
Beginning in 1922 and then 1923, Cubs Park underwent
several renovations. The grandstands were moved back
60 feet and wooden bleachers were added, increasing
the capacity to 20,000. Major renovations began in
1926, when Cubs Park was renamed Wrigley Field. The
grandstand was double decked, the playing field was
lowered, and the bleachers in left field were
removed. The capacity increased to 38,396. More
renovations were completed at Wrigley Field in 1937.
Bleachers were added in the outfield and the famous
27 by 75 foot hand operated scoreboard was placed
behind the bleachers in centerfield. The most
distinct feature was the planting of ivy at the base
of the outfield wall. Before World War II, the
grandstand in left field was circled so all the
seats faced home plate instead of centerfield.
Lights for Wrigley Field were originally to be
installed for the 1942 season. However because of
the United States involvement in World War II and
the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Phil Wrigley donated
the lights to the government.
the 1940s Wrigley Field has changed little. In 1981,
the Tribune Company bought the Cubs. The company
began talking about installing lights after the 1981
season. However, a fan group fought to keep night
baseball away from Wrigley Field. On May 13, 1982,
Illinois Legislature made baseball after midnight a
violation in a facility that had not had night
sports played before July 1, 1982. Also that year,
an electronic message board was placed under the
scoreboard in centerfield. In 1984 when the Cubs
made the playoffs, MLB threatened that if the team
made the postseason in the future, games would be
moved to a location that had lights. Finally on
February 23, 1988, the Cubs decided to install
lights at Wrigley Field. The first night game
scheduled for Wrigley Field was on August 8, 1988.
However, rain cancelled the game after four innings,
postponing it to the next day. In 1989, private
were constructed on the mezzanine level that was
originally occupied by the press box and
broadcasting booths. A press box and broadcasting
booths were constructed in the upper deck directly
behind home plate. After the 2003 season,
the Cubs added 200 seats directly behind home plate
bringing fans even closer to the playing field.
Tradition was not lost with this addition, as the
brick wall behind home plate remains. After the 2005
season, the Cubs added nearly 1,800 seats to the
bleachers increasing the capacity to just over
41,000. For many years, Wrigley Field had been known
as having one of the worst grass fields in the game
because there was a crown in the infield that
extended 40 feet into the outfield. Because of the
crown, players would literally be running slightly
up or down a hill on the field. After the 2007
season, the entire field was removed and replaced
with a new drainage system and a bluegrass playing
The biggest transformation at Wrigley Field since
the opening of the bleachers in 1937 began following
the 2014 season. A $575 million project, named the
1060 project, began at the ballpark, that
essentially overhauls the entire facility. Nearly
every part of Wrigley Field will be upgraded over a
five year timeframe. Before the start of the 2015
season work began in the outfield as the existing
bleachers in left and right field were demolished.
The Cubs pushed the exterior wall of the ballpark
back onto Waveland and Sheffield Avenues in order to
expand the bleachers, widen the concourse and add
more concessions. Originally slated to be completed
by the start of the season it has been delayed until
late Spring, leaving the entire outfield closed for
the first two months of the 2015 season. This
project adds 300 seats to the bleachers. The most
striking addition to the ballpark is in left field,
a 95 foot x 42 foot HD videoboard. Another 2,250
square foot videoboard will be added in right field.
However, the traditional hand-operated scoreboard
remains in centerfield.
The entire renovation project at Wrigley Field is
not to be completed until 2019. Other parts of the
project include upgrading the steel infrastructure,
a new roof to replace the existing wooden one and
returning the facade to its original 1930s look. A
two story retail and
entertainment complex will be
added to the right field corner of Wrigley Field at
the corners of Addison Street and Sheffield Avenue.
The clubhouses will be expanded, batting cages will
be constructed and the bullpens will be placed under
the bleachers behind the outfield walls.
Additionally all of the concourses will be expanded
and the restrooms/concession areas will be upgraded.
On an area between the ballpark and North Clark
Street and West Waveland Avenue, construction of an
office, retail and hotel complex will be built. This
entire renovation project allows the Cubs to
continue to play at Wrigley Field into the
Wrigley Field is the last Federal League ballpark
standing. Even with lights and now its modern
videoboard, Wrigley Field remains
one of baseball's most old-fashioned parks. Wrigley
Field has basically remained advertisement free,
with advertisements on nearby buildings and a few in
the ballpark. The
neighborhood around Wrigley Field,
called Wrigleyville is filled with fans on game day.
Ballhawks as they are called wait on Waveland Avenue
to catch homeruns during the game. Fans sit atop
buildings behind Wrigley Field and watch the game.
Ivy still covers the brick walls in the outfield,
the scoreboard is still manually operated, and
bleacher bums still sit in the bleachers in the
outfield. Flags atop the scoreboard still remind
fans whether or not the Cubs won the day before, and
where they are in the standings. Because Wrigley
Field is surrounded by the Wrigleyville
neighborhood, parking can be a nightmare for games.
It is recommended that fans take the CTA red line
train to the Addison stop to Cubs games. Although it
has been the exclusive home of the Cubs for many
years now, Wrigley Field has hosted more
professional football games than any other stadium
in the nation. The one thing missing from Wrigley
Field today, is former Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray,
who used to sing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame"
during the 7th inning stretch.