WRIGLEY FIELD — Do you feel that in the air? Wrigleyville is abuzz with Opening Day preparations.
The jolt of enthusiasm from the Chicago Cubs' postseason run in October has carried over into a shinier Wrigley Field fresh from an offseason of renovations. If you've been away for the winter, prepare for a different Friendly Confines on Monday, complete with a new clubhouse for players and a refurbished marquee.
But the renovations aren't all that's changed, and we want to make sure you're prepared for whatever comes your way as the Cubs kick off the season in which they're sure to win it all.
So take the weekend to read through our ultimate guide to Opening Day 2016. Absorb it, embrace it and use it to make sure your Cubs season is absolute perfection.
STEP ONE: Getting to the game
We're going to level with you: Driving into Wrigleyville on a game day is madness. For the past couple years, the Cubs have thrust as many alternative options as possible at fans, hoping they stick.
If you're coming into the city and driving is unavoidable, the best option is the Cubs free parking (that's right, it's FREE) at 3900 N. Rockwell St., about two miles west of the ballpark in North Center. The Cubs' remote lot holds 1,000 cars, and the team will provide shuttle service starting 2½ hours before the 7:05 p.m. game and for about an hour after it ends.
Shuttles cramp your style? There are a handful of Cubs parking lots closer to Wrigley, in addition to the dozens of unofficial lots around the neighborhood. Some of the Wrigley Field parking lots have been renamed as part of the club's partnership with Toyota. More information on the individual lots can be found here.
Waveland Avenue will be reopened between Clark and Sheffield Monday. From 4 p.m. to midnight, there will be no parking on the north side of Addison from Fremont to Sheffield and the west side of Halsted from Addison to the alley near Whole Foods.
For those living in city limits, the CTA will have extended service to Wrigley for home games. The Red, Yellow and Purple lines will boost service, and there are multiple major bus routes that will drop you off practically at the ballpark gates.
The Cubs also offer free bike valet parking for all home games, although it might be a tad chilly for a bike ride Monday. Still, bicycles can be checked and secured during the game on Clark Street north of the ballpark.
For Opening Day on Monday, Wrigley Field will have metal detectors at all gates similar to those pictured at Safeco Field in Seattle, installed in 2014. [Getty Images]
STEP TWO: Getting INTO the game
No matter which route you take to Wrigley, take it early. Some new security measures at Wrigley Field will mean longer lines to get into the ballpark. Hoping to ease the process, Wrigley will open 30 minutes earlier than usual at 4:35 p.m.
New metal detectors are part of a league-wide mandate, in addition to bag checks already in place. Children and adults must walk through the scanners, removing heavy metal objects (but thankfully, not shoes). Save yourself some time and leave your bags at home — people without bags or containers can head straight through an express line.
Keep an eye out this season for other security changes: The Cubs are looking into security upgrades that would include blocking off portions of Clark and Addison streets during game days. City officials say there are alternative options, but talks are still in the works.
Another great reason to get there early? The first 30,000 fans get Cubs magnetic schedules.
Metal detectors were installed at Wrigley Field the week ahead of Opening Day. The Cubs return at 7:05 p.m. Monday to play the Cincinnati Reds. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
STEP THREE: See what's new at Wrigley
The Cubs wrapped up their second year of Wrigley Field renovations during the offseason, and a lot has changed.
That huge steel frame at Waveland and Clark? That'll be the new club office building, with retail and restaurants on the ground level. It won't be finished until January, and the Cubs will continue working on it during non-game days.
(By the way, another great reason not to drive to Wrigley this year — construction for the Addison & Clark development will be starting around the same time as its kitty-corner neighbor, the Wrigley Field hotel being built in the now-demolished McDonald's lot.)
Work on the Wrigley Field plaza continued in the weeks leading up to Opening Day. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
Also still in the works is the triangle plaza along Clark Street. While fans should be able to walk around the plaza Monday, it won't be finished until after the 2016 season.
You might notice the marquee looking particularly spiffy. The historic sign — a designated landmark — was removed in November for restoration, while the ballpark's steel facade was replaced.
South Water Signs stripped dozens of layers of paint off the sign and upgraded the LED signboard below the actual marquee. The original green back side of the sign also got polished up, since its now visible from inside the ballpark. The marquee was returned to its spot above Clark and Addison on Wednesday, and it took almost seven hours.
The best news of all, though, is the expansion of two bathrooms.
The Cubs revealed new food options at Wrigley Field. [Provided/Chicago Cubs]
STEP FOUR: What to eat
Mmm ... food. Sports are great and all, but the true glory of going to a game is chowing down on as much fattening, cheesy, carb-loaded food as possible.
There are quite a few new additions to the Wrigley food menu this year, including some — like Hot Doug's — that are only available in the Budweiser Bleachers.
Gilbert's Craft Sausages will open a grill cart in the main concourse, serving up fancy dogs like the Aloha chicken sausage, topped with pineapple salsa, lime aioli hot sauce and crushed potato chips. The Hot Doug's stand connected to the Budweiser Bleachers has new options as well.
Chicago's Buona Beef is now the team's official Italian beef, while Tito's Vodka is working on a "Brunch at the Ballpark" package that includes bloody marys and breakfast foods on Sunday home games.
And no prizes for guessing the location of the new Marquee Grill — below the newly refurbished marquee on the main terrace.
When Graystone Tavern opened at the end of December, it had 16 beers on tap in addition to 45 bottle varieties. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
STEP FIVE: Where to go after the game
Win or lose Opening Night, why not enjoy one of the booziest strips in Chicago?
While there are quite a few bars with Opening Day specials, the clock is ticking on some spots that will close soon to make way for the Addison & Clark development. Red Ivy will close next week, and Wrigley favorites like Mullen's on Clark and the Salt & Pepper Diner will soon follow.
Red Ivy will close after April 17 to make way for the Addison & Clark development, formerly known as Addison Park on Clark. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
Not sure what to drink? Ciders are on their way "out," we're told, but craft beers — particularly Chicago's own — are surging. Old Style, Goose Island and Pabst Blue Ribbon flow freely from nearly every Wrigley bar as well.
Need a lift home? Captain Morgan is partnering with Uber to offer $15 vouchers for 3,500 riders on Opening Night. The code "HOMECAPTAIN" will apply to uberX rides taken from Wrigleyville between 6 p.m. Monday and 2 a.m. Tuesday.
The first 100 Via riders to use the code "OPENINGDAY16" get a free ride to Wrigley from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday.
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