By Greg Wahl
The 2012 Cubs season has officially started, and if you don’t already have your game plans together, now’s the time. While Wrigley Field has its abundant charms, it also has its limited conveniences, including the difficulty of obtaining tickets and accommodations for larger groups. If you’re planning a North side baseball outing with modern amenities in mind, or with a group to accommodate, the Wrigley rooftops are an ideal alternative. The rooftop experience is something like watching a game in a nice bar with an actual view of the game, cleaner restrooms, and (usually) shorter food/beer lines. Gather some friends and pick a date, or start nudging the boss to get the summer office party plans rolling. Anyway, there are 16 rooftops to choose from, so here’s the breakdown.
The rooftop experience can vary, depending on building location and width, seating style, and amenities. Most rooftops serve a casual menu of dogs, burgers, and other traditional, meat-centric favorites, while some menus are a little more game-day gourmet. All-inclusive prices vary depending mostly on the visiting team and day of the week, generally around $80-$200. Depending on how the Cubs’ season goes, ticket deals may crop up later in the summer. Seating is almost always first come-first serve, so prepare to line up a little early (and make sure you’re in the correct line – it’s not always obvious).
Price range: $150-$225
A little on the pricey side, but the experience at 3639 is more VIP-level, similar to the luxury suite at modern stadiums, and the views are stellar. Guests can arrive an hour prior to the game, which is a bit earlier than most. The fourth-level covered terrace offers café tables and lounge seating in the shade, while the party happens on level five. If you’re willing to pay a little more for the rooftop experience, 3639 is the place to do so.
Price range: $80-$150
Beyond the Ivy consists of three buildings, all on Waveland near the northwest corner of the field. The 1010 Waveland location has sightlines closer to center field (with a slight scoreboard obstruction on the left side) and is the most spacious of the three properties. The 1038 facility is more modern, and the 1048 building has more of a traditional vibe. Beyond the Ivy menus, like most rooftop menus, lean heavily toward meaty Chicago-style, and rotate depending on the stage of the game.
Price range: $85-$199
Brixen Ivy, located just west of the third base foul line, was the first building at Wrigley built for the purpose of rooftop viewing. Good for smaller groups numbering in the 25-40 range. Food is off the grill with various items catered by Taste of Paris. Beer selection includes some better options, including Brooklyn Lager and Goose Island 312.
Price range: $79-$249
Down the Line is a double-lot building with good views down the first base line. Restroom limitations sometimes lead to longer than normal wait times, however, and scoring seats may involve some competition. Doors open an hour before the game, and lining up prior to opening is recommended. The food is good and there are several beer options, including Summer Shandy, which tastes especially good when accompanied by baseball.
Price range: $75-$325
Built from the ground up in 2010, Ivy League has five levels, and has the most “mod” looking interiors of all the rooftops. Ticket prices can be steep here, and seating can be a challenge. The beer selection is good, and the food offerings are fairly standard, buffet-style.
Price range: $79-$179
This is the one with the “Eamus Catuli” sign (which translates roughly as “Let’s Go Cubs”). It was established in 1988 as the first official rooftop club, and remains the only private club among the rooftops. The sightlines are very good, but the building is a bit smaller than other rooftops, with limited outdoor seating and indoor viewing (saving of seats on the roof is discouraged). Perhaps due to its “private club” designation, the LVBC serves beer until the ninth inning.
Price range: $50 (individual tickets currently available only for April 7)
The rooftop above the bar at Sheffield & Waveland is available primarily for group events, though occasionally individual tickets are made available (check the website for updates). Tickets are inexpensive, and the amenities are relatively low-key, with canned beers and serviceable burgers and dogs. The building exterior is recognizable for its lit-up Harry Caray sign, which the WGN cameras can’t seem to get enough of.
Price range: $75-$300
These adjoining rooftops in right field foul territory are relatively new, completed in 2008. The facilities are more like an upscale sports bar, and seating isn’t too much of a challenge for game viewing. There’s a VIP option available for every game, adding around $50 to the regular ticket price, which includes access to an upgraded Suite, premium food and beverages, and a 1 ½ hour pre-party. The upgrade also allows boozing until the end of the ninth inning.
Price range: $90-$200
The food here is a standout, with a larger array of items and catering by Goose Island Brewpub. The drinks selection caters to beer connoisseurs accordingly, with several micro brews available. Skybox has stadium seating, which can be limited, so early arrival is recommended unless you prefer to roam the premises house party-style.
Price range: $79-$275
Wrigley View’s building was built in 1999 (then known as the Rooftop by the Firehouse), and recently received a $2 million remodeling job. The rooftop features stadium seating, with wait staff serving snacks throughout the game. The building is located in left field foul territory, but the outdoor seating area and Sky Deck Bar offer wide, open views of the field (it’s the only rooftop with views of the scoreboard and home plate).
Price range: $75-$250
Another trio under one name, the Wrigleyville Rooftops all have the same or similar amenities and menu. The food selection is a step up from the usual (courtesy of Vines on Clark), with steak, salmon, a soft-serve sundae bar, and a decent selection of imported beers. The Hall of Fame suite offers a spacious, restaurant-like indoor area to relax or take a break from the sun
Greg Wahl, CBS Chicago