WRIGLEY FIELD — Iron sunbursts, metal detectors and a brand-new clubhouse greeted the Chicago Cubs upon their return to Wrigley Field in the season home opener Monday, which the Cubs rallied to win 5-3.
Renovation crews worked furiously to ready a half-finished plaza, new ticket offices and a refreshed facade in time for the 7:05 p.m. game against the Cincinnati Reds, Cubs spokesman Julian Green said.
"Fans will see the ballpark returned to its majesty of the 1930s," Green said.
Ariel Cheung reports on the atmosphere around Wrigley for the home opener.
The ornamental sunburst patterns and terra cotta accents replaced chain metal fences and concrete slabs along the ballpark's outer edge.
The Cubs, anxiously anticipating new metal detectors would bottleneck the flow of fans into Wrigley, opened the gates 30 minutes earlier than usual. While fans lined the ballpark along Sheffield Avenue and filled the space below the newly refurbished marquee, pedestrian traffic moved smoothly, with few delays at the main gate at Clark and Addison streets.
It will take about a week "to really get a feel for how the fans are queuing up, in terms of coming to the ballpark," but Monday was "so far, so good," Green said.
The marquee itself underwent work during the offseason, returning to Wrigley Field just last week. South Water Signs stripped off layers of red, purple and blue paint and added an enhanced video signboard below the historic marquee.
The $750 million renovation project is about one-third complete, Green said Monday. Work will continue on non-game days, with the season ahead focused on finishing the plaza, office building and western gate. None will be complete until after the season is over, Green said.
Hotel construction will also begin across Clark Street in the next couple months. In March, the long-standing McDonald's was demolished to make way for the hotel project. The fast food joint is expected to return inside the hotel once it's complete in about two years.
The biggest accomplishment this offseason was the underground clubhouse, located below the plaza, Green said. Players got to see their new "home away from home" late Sunday after returning from away games in Arizona.
Fans eating Italian sausage at Wrigley. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
"They were like kids on Christmas Day opening presents," Green said. "And everyone is 150 percent behind them, putting them in a position to succeed."
Meanwhile, the visitors clubhouse is, well, maintaining its "historical integrity," team chairman Tom Ricketts said Monday. The plan is to remodel it next year.
It took a lot of work to get the Friendly Confines ready for Opening Night; crews scrambled in the final weeks "to make sure every light bulb is in place, and every door knob screwed in," Green said.
The marquee was returned Wednesday, and the ballpark was still fenced off into the weekend. The northern half of the plaza will still be fenced off as work continues, but Waveland Avenue and most other areas were reopened in time for Monday's game.
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