What's working and not working well at Wrigley Field
The Wrigley Field renovations took a major step forward on the recently completed homestand.
In left field, the newly rebuilt bleachers reopened. In right field, the Cubs turned on the second of their new videoboards.
These new steps forward were welcome ones for the Cubs, who suffered some backward stumbles over the winter and spring, some of them in their control and some not, such as a water-main break and the effects of a cold winter.
However, they did get caught with their paints down -- figuratively -- when a lack of bathroom space caused major lines on Opening Night, forcing the Cubs to wheel in portable toilets for subsequent games.
Then there was their curiously ham-handed handling of the media rollout of the bleachers, as they gave an exclusive preview to one outlet at the expense of all others and then held general media availability when manager Joe Maddon was doing his always-entertaining pregame talk.
But seeing the end product is always better than watching the process, and the end product -- or the end of this early phase of the renovations -- is a success, with some qualifiers.
Let's take a tour.
Veteran bleacher denizens who are there to watch the games haven't witnessed much change. The view is the same, and the seating area has been expanded upward.
There are a couple of new group areas. The left-field porch offers standing-room and bleacher seating under the video board. It figures to be a popular spot.
The jury is still out on the moat-like area in front of the bleachers in the left-field corner. The Cubs are calling it the "left-field well." Standing room is available along with seating in stools. Fans below a certain stature in height might have to do stand on their toes to peer over the wall and see the action. This area of the bleachers clearly is modeled after the Green Monster seating at Boston's Fenway Park.
One feature that struck me as odd is how narrow the exits look in the middle of the bleachers. There is space for one person at a time, as long as that one person keeps his or her arms and elbows in. From afar, the exits look like tiny slits.
No doubt the sound system needed to be improved at Wrigley Field, and the Cubs are on their way.
Sometimes, and in some places of the park, the sound is fine. At other times, the sheer volume can knock you off your feet.
Hopefully the Cubs can find some balance here.
The most interesting phenomenon is watching the fans as much as it is watching the content on the videoboards.
When the Cubs started talking years ago about adding jumbotrons, those who were against them were vociferous in their opposition.
But as I walk around the park or watch from the press box, almost all fans seem to have their eyes glued to the boards whenever historical footage or replays are shown.
The addition of the right-field board has enabled the Cubs to display baseball statistical leaders before games and lineups of both teams during games.
Perhaps a tweak or two on each board is needed, but it's nice to see they have entered the 20th Century 15 years into the 21st.
Here's another area that time should remedy. Heading down to the interview room and clubhouse after games, I find that the ramps jam up quickly with exiting fans, and by the time I hit the concourse it's a non-moving mass of humanity, worse than I've seen in years past.
On the bright side for the Cubs, a better team has brought out bigger crowds.
The right-field bleachers will reopen in June. If I'm going to give the entire Wrigley Field experience an early-term grade, I'd give it an A-minus or B-plus.