Banks tribute among special events for Opening Night

Wrigley Field gates to open at 4:35 p.m. CT; Cubs encouraging fans to arrive early

Banks tribute among special events for Opening Night

As the Cubs say hello to their new-look ballpark Sunday, they'll take the opportunity for one final goodbye to the team's most iconic player.

With construction going on -- including the installation of the much-hyped left-field video board -- plus a nationally televised game, a new ace on the mound and new skipper in the dugout and a pregame musical performance, there's just about as much hoopla surrounding this Opening Night as any before.

But a main focus of the evening will be the tribute to the late Ernie Banks, who died in January at age 83. His family will be on hand, with his sons, Joey and Jerry, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch and singing during the seventh-inning stretch. There will also be a moment of silence, a three-minute pregame video tribute on the new board and shorter video tributes between innings.

"Everything from him getting the Medal of Freedom with President Obama to really old stuff, like him singing with some of his teammates or just old interviews," said Alison Miller, Cubs senior director of marketing. "We've got some really great content."

The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 7:05 p.m. CT. Award-winning Chicago-born rock band Fall Out Boy will perform three songs live on the field before the first pitch.

"Wrigley Field has always been a magical place to me," Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz said in a statement. "In some ways I can chart milestones of my life and growing up there -- from going to see Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandberg play, to going with the my dad to one of the first night games they ever had there, to the first time I took the 'El' there on my own for a game with my friends."

Additionally, the left- and right-field bleachers -- still under construction, and scheduled to open in mid-May and mid-June, respectively -- will be tarped with 10 1,200-square-foot photos of Banks. The bases used Sunday will be adorned with Banks tribute jewels, and will be auctioned to benefit Cubs Charities, along with the game-worn jerseys that will bear a commemorative No. 14 patch throughout the year.

Each fan attending Opening Night will receive a commemorative No. 14 pin in Banks' honor.

"We wanted to try to figure out a way to do something that's celebratory," Cubs spokesman Julian Green said. "That's the important piece in terms of the thinking going into it. We went through the mourning period, mourning and grieving. Now we're talking about the celebration of his life. I believe that what we've put together will be a great celebration for those fans who knew him personally or knew of him or had the opportunity to watch him play or see him on TV."

Gates will open at 4:35 p.m., and fans are encouraged to arrive early and take public transportation. With construction work on the new clubhouse and plaza area continuing through the season along Clark Street, the Red, Purple, Blue and Brown parking lots will not be available, and Waveland Avenue from Clark to Sheffield will be closed to traffic. The Cubs do offer free parking at 3900 North Rockwell and have free shuttle transportation.

"For the most part, the difference is the fact that everybody has the perception that there's a lot of inconvenience going on," said Carl Rice, the Cubs' vice president of ballpark operations. "But I do think that for Opening Night, people should get here early."

Access on Clark Street near Wrigley is limited to one lane of traffic in each direction. Group charter and coach buses will unload and pick up on Irving Park Road, and the CTA will provide the same level of service at the same drop off and pickup points. Bike-check service will continue north of The Cubs Store on the west side of Clark Street.

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.