Board games: Wrigley experience elevated

New video screen in left field to give fans what they want this season

Board games: Wrigley experience elevated

For years, when the time comes to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field, fans have grown accustomed to turning around, craning their necks and trying to get a peek at who's in the booth serenading them.

For the first time in the ballpark's illustrious history, they now have someplace else to look, something that'll be a feast for the eyes.

On Opening Night, a significant portion of Phase One of the Cubs' 1060 Project is near completion, with a 3,990-square-foot video board in left field that team officials on Friday said "looks phenomenal."

The marketing staff has spent a year talking with fans about their visions for the new-look Wrigley Field, and they are wary of the fine balance between updating the ballpark experience and overwhelming fans who are used to Wrigley's classic feel.

"It's a video board," said Cubs senior director of marketing Alison Miller. "We still have a scoreboard. Wrigley has had a scoreboard for over 75 years, hand-operated. That's not going anywhere. That's still where fans will go to see the score and see balls and strikes. We're not planning on replicating that content on the board.

"The board will be where you go to see replays and where you go to see stats. … We asked [fans], 'What do you want to see?' And they said replays, they want to see stats, they want history. We're fortunate that we're a team of 137 years of history. We'll show a lot of history both of the ballpark and just Cubs history."

Fans also said they want to see "behind-the-scenes content," so the marketing department spent two weeks at Spring Training filming players in a variety of settings. Fans just might learn between innings that a reliever can play an instrument or that a Minor League callup has a unique talent.

There is also specific content the video board will not show. Fans won't be encouraged at any time to cheer or make noise. They won't be encouraged to kiss on camera, either.

"That's not Wrigley," Miller said. "We have extremely intelligent baseball fans. They don't need to know when to cheer or when to stand on their feet. And we've said we're very much walk before we can run."

With the extracurricular events planned for Sunday, the timing of the board couldn't be better. Fall Out Boy will perform live on the field before the 7:05 p.m. CT nationally televised first pitch against the Cardinals, and the pregame festivities will feature an extensive tribute to the late Ernie Banks, including a three-minute video.

"We're very conscientious about what makes this place unique," Miller said. "Our intent of the board is to be additive to your experience, definitely not detracting from what people experience when they come to Wrigley."

Construction crews have faced a brutal Chicago winter, and they have spent the recent weeks posting the steel infrastructure that will hold the panels that were installed this week.

The electricians fired up the board on Thursday and, after a series of color tests were completed, the Cubs' marketing staff loaded the content and ran through live rehearsals in which cameramen on the field practiced angles.

"It's been fascinating," said Cubs vice president of ballpark operations Carl Rice. "Two weeks ago, we had six inches of snow on the ground. The weather's been very fun, but expected. It's Chicago. The late snow has been interesting, and even this week, we've had the wind gusts and rain. All things being equal, the board's up."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.