Wrigley Field renovation under way

Bleacher upgrade under way at Wrigley

CHICAGO -- Normally, all is quiet at Wrigley Field once the Chicago Cubs' regular season ends, but it's been a noisy offseason as crews renovate the ballpark's bleachers.

Officials say construction is on schedule and the bleachers will be ready by Opening Day, April 7, 2006, when the Cubs play host to the St. Louis Cardinals.

MLB.com was given a sneak peak at the renovation work on Nov. 10. Most of the bleacher seats are gone, and new concrete foundations are being poured for the new seating. The Cubs are adding 1,800 seats to the outfield bleachers and the seating area will extend from foul pole to foul pole. The family section and group section that were in the corners of left and right field will be relocated, and the new sites for both will be announced before individual tickets go on sale Feb. 24.

The 10 rows of juniper bushes that were in center field as a hitter's backdrop have been removed. In 2006, there will be four rows of bushes and above that, a new lounge, which will be behind dark glass so as not to bother the batters. There will be wheelchair seating in the bleachers as well as new bathrooms and concession stands. The Cubs also are considering a new sound system.

The scoreboard and the seats directly below it will not change. Fans who drive by Wrigley need not worry about the scoreboard clock. All power was shut off, so the hands are frozen at 7:55.

The bleacher entrance, which was at Sheffield and Waveland avenues, is gone, but Turner Construction Co., which is handling the renovation project, plans on re-using as many of the bricks as they can. Dave Puls, who is superintendent of the project, also worked on the renovation of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

The brick walls that support the ivy are intact and will remain, although there are support beams installed as a precautionary measure.

One addition that will benefit visitors who can't get a ticket on game day or who may be visiting the area when the team is out of town will be a wire mesh fence in the right-field corner, which will provide a knot-hole view of the ballpark.

Wrigley Field has been the Cubs' home since 1916, and the bleachers and scoreboard were constructed in 1937 when the outfield area was renovated to provide additional seating. It is the second-oldest ballpark in the Major Leagues to Boston's Fenway Park.

The Cubs' other major construction project which calls for restaurants, a gift shop, parking, and offices to be built on Clark Street between Addison and Waveland, will begin after the 2006 season ends.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.