By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) The Cubs and the city of Chicago began the first phase of a $500-million rehab to Wrigley Field and the surrounding area Monday.
The city has constructed three-foot curbs from the left-field foul pole down Waveland Avenue to the corner of Sheffield Avenue. Another curb will be installed in the next few days on the right-field (Sheffield) side of the ballpark. These retention areas will allow the teardown and reconstruction workers room to operate.
The curbs come out eight feet from the sidewalk, reducing the street that had two lanes into one lane. For now, traffic can still go both ways on Waveland and Sheffield. The Cubs’ plan in the first phase of this massive undertaking is to tear down many sections of the bleachers and then rebuild them with walls and seating built up three feet higher from where they exist presently.
The new bleachers will handle an extra 300-400 new seats (plus some standing room), raising the bleachers’ capacity to around 4,000 seats. More importantly, the new back walls will be able to handle the weight and height of the seven new signs that the city sanctioned in July. The construction on a new jumbotron video board and other signage is expected to be erected by Opening Day in 2015. The Cubs will only put up as many signs as advertisers buy.
On the legal side, rooftop owners who are in partnership with the Cubs have sued the team and the city for the right to retain their original sight lines, per the 20-year agreement they signed with the Cubs in 2004. But with the city’s approval, the Cubs will continue moving forward.
The rehab of the bleachers is the only major project the Cubs will pursue in the 2014-’15 offseason. Total reconstruction of the ballpark and areas around Wrigley Field will take four offseasons to complete.
The new capacity of Wrigley Field will be 42,495, up from the current 41,895. The Cubs had lost some seating with bleacher changes and a LED board construction before the 2013 season. This new rehab regains the seating lost at that juncture of bleacher changes.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.