Wrigley Field renovations progressing nicely

Team entering latter stages of five-year plan to overhaul Wrigley Field

January 14th, 2018

CHICAGO -- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts hasn't forgotten the feeling that haunted him as his Cubs were seeking success, not enjoying it.

"When we won the [National League Championship Series] in 2016, they handed me this giant trophy," he said. "The National League pennant trophy weighs like 60 pounds. One of the guys from FOX said, 'Here's something for your trophy case.' I'm going, 'We're the Cubs, we don't have a trophy case.' "

Ricketts was wearing a year-old World Series ring when he faced a ballroom full of fans on Saturday at Cubs Convention. He would have loved to have added a second ring in October but is proud of a third consecutive trip to the NLCS. He's also pleased that the team is entering the final stages of a five-year overhaul of Wrigley Field.

The historic stadium has been a major construction zone each of the past four winters. There will be more work to do in 2018-19, but that mostly will be in the upper deck and peripheral areas of the park, unlike projects to add video boards, move the bullpens under the outfield bleachers and the ongoing work to shift dugouts further down the foul lines.

The three offseasons have seen major excavation projects commence immediately after the Cubs' final home game. The first project created a foundation for the home clubhouse, the second was for the 1914 Club behind home plate.

The team has dug down 22 feet adjacent to the left- and right-field lines this winter to create the footprint for the Maker's Mark Barrel Room and the W Club, which will be completed after the upcoming season.

The Park at Wrigley and a team office building including restaurants and bars opened last year. The work outside the walls will be complete when the Hotel Zachary opens in April at the northwest corner of Clark and Addison.

"By the end of this offseason and next, our initial plan [will be] complete," said Ricketts, whose family bought the team from Tribune Company in 2009. "That doesn't mean we're done, because it's a 100-year-old ballpark. There will be something else we have to fix after that. But it will be great to have the major construction done a year from now. We'll get the upper-deck renovation done after the 2018 season, and that will really help the ballpark a lot."

Ricketts said the dugouts are being moved largely because they needed to be upgraded, but said the move also will allow the team to add some premium seats.

"The dugouts are shifting about 25 or 30 feet," Ricketts said. "The fact is we had to redo the dugouts. We had to make them better. [They're] pretty old-school. Doing that gives the players more room, and doing that gives us more seats where we can put the fans closer to the action. It also allows us to build in camera wells. … It's a win-win-win for everyone."

Ricketts joked about how the cramped visiting clubhouse will soon be the only part of Wrigley Field that hasn't changed.

"One thing that hasn't changed is the size of the visitor's clubhouse," Ricketts said. "When somebody says something about it, I like to say, 'If it was good enough for Lou Gehrig, shouldn't it be good enough for you?' I believe we are adding hot water this year."

Other business discussed

• The Cubs will extend the home-plate netting at Wrigley Field to run all the way to the end of both dugouts, according to president for business operations Crane Kenney.

Ricketts said it has long been the team's plan to extend the netting after construction of the new dugouts. "It was always part of the plan and renovation," he said. "Obviously it's for safety, fan safety. Their experience is the most important thing to us."

• The Cubs continue to explore the possibility of opening their own television network after 2019, when their contract with NBC Sports Chicago ends.

• Ricketts believes the biggest reason for the slow player-acquisition market is that many teams are saving their aggressiveness for the 2018-19 free-agent class, which is expected to include , Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, , , Charlie Blackmon and possibly .

"It's been a very interesting offseason," Ricketts said. "There's just a lot of teams keeping their powder dry for next year. We'll see how it shakes out."

• Ricketts said there has been no movement toward a reunion with Sammy Sosa. Speaking in general terms, he said it's tough to embrace players who haven't admitted their use of performance-enhancing drugs.

"I think we can put ourselves in their shoes and be very, very sympathetic," Ricketts said. "[But] I believe players from that era owe us a little bit of honesty. I kind of feel like the only way to turn this page is to put everything on the table. … We'll see what happens in the future."

• The Cubs announced that they have added two elevators in the main concourse between ground level and the upper deck.