Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Seriously, the Player Facilities Are Terrible

While you’ve undoubtedly noticed a marked lull in Wrigley Field renovation stories around these parts lately, I assure you, it isn’t for lack of obsession. I am still of the mind that this story is among the two or three most important things going on in the Chicago Cubs’ world right now, but, the thing is, all is quiet on that front. After the whole Joe-Ricketts-Obama-Attack-Ad-Emanuel flap, all sides have seemed content to lie low, and let things die down.

And they’ve lain extremely low for weeks now. Actually, it’s been over a month.

They’re still lying low, by the way, but a recent Wall Street Journal piece serves as a reminder of just how dire the need to renovate at Wrigley Field is. The focus of the piece is the visiting clubhouse, and the appalling lack of space and amenities for teams coming to Chicago to face the Cubs. From the WSJ:

The scene Monday afternoon was typical. Some players sat at their lockers, with few other places to go before batting practice began. Others crowded around the lone table in the center of the room to play cards. Reporters lined a narrow hallway, sliding past one another like passengers crossing paths in the aisle of an airplane.

The clubhouse, which was last renovated in 1990, is more notable for what it lacks than what it offers. There is no cafeteria, no TV lounge, no video room and no couches. The only indoor batting cage is under the bleachers in right field. And while players are free to use the Cubs’ weight room, the visiting clubhouse offers only a stationary bike ….

For teams like the Mets, who visit only once a year, the history and beauty of the field itself is worth the hassle. “It’s one of those hallowed ground type places,” Bay said.

But players still privately grumble about the place. Last September, Sports Illustrated asked 308 players to rate the facilities for visiting teams at each ballpark. Wrigley Field was the most common choice for worst in the majors, receiving 34% of the vote.

The article is worth a read for a sense of how the visiting facilities are viewed by opposing players.

Before you say, “who cares about the visiting team?” Stop. Think. Setting aside the fact that the dank, cramped, antiquated visiting facilities are merely a reflection of the overall dank, cramped, antiquated facilities, including those for Cubs players, the visitor’s clubhouse is the first, and perhaps most important, impression that players on other teams have of Wrigley Field. Guess who’s on other teams?

Future free agents!

If the Chicago Cubs hope to be a regular competitor at the premium level of the free agent market – and, given the CBA changes, I assure you, they do – they’ve got to do everything they can to make a good impression on free agents. Chicago, to some extent, sells itself. Playing for the Cubs, to some extent, sells itself. The money the Cubs can offer will sell itself. But Wrigley Field? It’s a mixed bag. It’s beautiful and historic in so many ways, but its player facilities are woefully inadequate. And if you’re a free agent who has spent years’ worth of visits to Wrigley being miserable, there is only so much that a January tour of the Cubs’ clubhouse can do to change your mind about what it would be like to play there 81 games a year.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

37 responses to “Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Seriously, the Player Facilities Are Terrible”

  1. notcubbiewubbie

    like all the people say wrigley field is a shrine; so is the alamo. new ballpark on waveland golf course please.

    1. ETS

      If we put a golf simulator in the club house maybe Beckett can make a start.

  2. Yor

    Never heard of a “mixed back” before. I think that’s what I wake up with when I sleep wrong.

  3. Johnr42

    “But Wrigley Field? It’s a mixed back.” – Perhaps “Mixed bag” is what you were going for here.

  4. Dan

    Meh, old news. I don’t understand why there’s no plan in place yet to build better facilities for all players. In todays world, they have underground subways, underground shelters, underground mines… I don’t understand why they can’t expand under Wrigley. The organization is building facilties outside of the country. Just a big UGH to me.

  5. hansman1982

    I would like to see Ricketts step up and start fixing what can be fixed with whatever money we can fix them with. In my mind, that probably isn’t much as most of the $300M they are offering to pony up would come from loans or bonds which would be much cheaper if they had the other $300M sealed up.

    Also, draftees know what the facilities are like and what would lie ahead when they become free agents. While I am sure it is a small factor, if you had facilities that blew them away it would be a slightly easier sell to lure them away from places like Vandy.

    1. Scotti

      It doesn’t make sense for the Family to pony up until the other finances are settled. That would be like putting new parts into an old beat up car. You only do that if you are sure that you will get value from the investment. FWIW, fixing the clubhouses is part of the expensive renovaton and not a simple fix.

  6. Joker

    For those of you who say facilities do not matter, let me mention two things: University of Kentucky basketball and University of Alabama football.

    Both of these programs have multi-million dollar facilities that put most professional clubs to shame. Their sole purpose is not player comfort, but marketing. It’s all about how you sell yourself to potential recruits.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that the example isn’t valid – recruits in college sports are the same as professional free agents. They all want to be wanted, improve their situation, and to be pampered. Wrigley (for all its history and “ambience”) just is not the marketing pitch the Cubs can afford to be making to most FA’s. We HAVE to renovate soon or move on.

    1. mikaylaaa

      funny you say this. i live in lexington and one of the big debates recently was what to do about rupp arena, where the cats play. its big and historic in a way, but there aren’t enough seats for students and the facilities there aren’t half as nice as other schools are offering. they ended up deciding just to renovate and keep it where it is. hopefully they can figure out a way to do the same with wrigley!

      1. Joker

        I lived in Lexington for 5 years until coming to the Nashville area in 2010. Rupp was and is still a viable option as a full time arena because it’s huge and not landlocked so the renovations and expansion make sense. It’s harder for the Cubs and Wrigley, I will admit. UK, however, dropped millions on the Craft Center (and the new players dorms) knowing that it had to step up its game to remain a premier player in the college basketball world. Alabama football already has the nicest training facility in the US (pro or college) and are going to tear it down to IMPROVE on it. They get it.

        I think the Cubs get it too, hence all of the planning and political manuevering. If you can’t redo the cages, clubhouses, etc in Wrigley, do it in a seperate area near Wrigley. Make it less about the field, and more about the complex. To me it’s a no brainer.

        1. mikaylaaa

          completely agree. the wildcat lodge was already one of the best athletic dorms in the country, and the one they’re building now is incredible. that being said, its a lot easier to recruit when you have a guaranteed winning team. i guess the cubs have to go more along the lines of “you could be the first” haha

  7. CubFan Paul

    Did the Illinois assembly vote whenever that was over a month ago before the session ended? I’ve been waiting for something to come from that

  8. Deez

    If the money’s right, who wouldn’t want to play in a sh!thole!?

    1. Scotti

      Anyone who gets offered similar monies to play in a professional environment.

  9. 23

    Is it true that a few suburbs have approached Ricketts about having Wrigley built near Chicago? I’ve heard 3. I know one is Arlington Heights, and one of the others was Rosemont.

  10. Rev. Bud Green

    Why try to polish a turd puting 300 million or more in to Wrigley is a wast of time and $

  11. Serious Cubs Fan

    Brett/Luke

    July 2nd is approaching fast, which is the beginning of international free agent signing period. Have you heard any rumbles of who the Cubs are pursuing? Or who should we be rooting for them to sign?

  12. Kevin

    Wrigley is beautiful, it’s one of MLB’s treasures and people plan vacations just to go there. That said, I believe it’s time to move on and move into the 21st century. Wrigley needs a mojor overhaul, if not totally rebuilt. New retro looking staduims have so much to offer, why not seriously consuder it? The first option is to rebuild on the existing site and replace everything inside the foul poles. This option would require playing somewhere other than Wrigley during construction. Let’s see how creative architect’s are designing a new ballpark with such a small footprint. Option 2, less desireable, build elsewhere with a much larger footprint allowing the comforts other new stadiums offer.
    We are years away from contending so now’s the time to start.
    The city of Chiago is broke as is the State of illinois. To ask for financial assistance now is probably not in the best interests of all parties involved. I believe the best the Cubs can do is to have the amusement tax reduced in half.

    1. Scotti

      Kevin, the Cubs have never asked for (nor do they need) the amusement tax cut. All they ever asked for was for it to be capped at the 100% sellout/highest ticket prices in the game level (i.e. the only way for the city to make more is if there is a massive investment in the park–one the team has never asked the city to make). Rahm talks about “future tax revenues” but those revenues never happen without investment.

  13. Martin

    There’s a baseball stadium in Chicago built with a huge footprint and a ton of amenities for fans–all 21,000 who show up to the games.

    Leaving Wrigley (both the stadium and the area) would do significant damage to future revenues, as many fans who go through the turnstiles each year come in specifically to see Wrigley. There’s a lot that can be renovated in the current footprint (especially if the team continues to buy up the surrounding real estate, so the only real option for the team is to do massive upgrades in the current stadium.

  14. Internet Random

    In re: lie/lay/lain…

    Nice work. (Some of us notice.)

    1. TWC

      Sometimes I wonder if Ace does that just for his own entertainment.

  15. Leroy K.

    I was a wrigley field supporter for a very long time. I mean very long time, but in the last couple years, I tend to lean the other way, wishing we could play more night games, like all the other teams. I truly believe it puts us at a disadvantage.

    1. Cubbie Blues

      That’s not the stadium’s fault though. That problem lies with the City.

      1. MikeL

        And yet they hold concerts late at night when the Cubs are out of town…..it boggles the mind sometimes.

  16. rocky8263

    When free agents sign they will spend their free time in the home clubhouse, game room/hangout room across the hall or the weight room next to that. While not perfect, it’s much improved over the Tribune era facilities. These were remodeled in the off-season. And Zambrano is no longer bogarting two lockers freeing up needed space.

  17. MikeL

    Rocky,

    The concern is that, some players might not even consider the Cubs offer because of what they remember during the time in the visitor’s clubhouse. Even Cole Hamels has said that Wrigley is one of the best places in baseball to watch a game, but he also thinks it is probably one of the worst places to play. Which is one of the reasons why I don’t think they are going to even come close to signing him this off season….but I don’t think they are going to pursue him anyway.

  18. Eric S

    I know Ricketts is trying to get the state/city to front some money on a huge renovation project $300 million in total. But why can’t at the very least Ricketts front the bill to enhance the facilities for the players first and foremost so we can avoid this back and fourth with the city? This way the players don’t have to wait for the long drawn out battle to end, and they’ll have better facilities and the fans will be happy seeing a good product on the field. Then after this is done, Tom can go get his city money to create the atmosphere he wants.

    1. JB88

      This is Negotiating 101. Once the Cubs break ground on any project, they lose any leverage they possess because they have demonstrated that they have a willingness to spend the money to go forward with the project. You always secure your money/concession/agreement/whatever before you take action.

  19. Kevin

    I guess nothing will get done! Reality 101

  20. Tony

    I just took a tour of Wrigley this past Sat. The visitors clubhouse was pretty cramped. It has 4 showers. Most players get ready at the hotel and just bring their cleats with them. I think the entire stadium is in need of an overhaul!

  21. Kevin

    Anything less than a complete overhaul is a waste of money. The triangle building doesn’t solve any problems. Use that extra space to build the left field stands deeper and higher. Time to finally get rid of the obstructed view columns. Am I alone here?

    1. Josh

      I agree and disagree with you. The Triangle Building is set to in not a waste. It would make Wrigley a year-round tourist site and be place to a Cubs HOF and show off our great history. It would also add some amenities and a restaurant.

      Now I think all the player amenities need to be overhauled. Especially in the Cubs clubhouse. We need to join the 21st century in that aspect of the stadium. It would only help the on field product and make Wrigley a much more attractive destination for free agents. I suppose we should do it for the visitors as well because as Brett said, it is often a first impression for visiting players and it would drastically improve Wrigley in the eyes of todays major leaguers and managers.