In recent years, Cubs baseball fans have watched as the neighborhood immediately surrounding their beloved Wrigley Field transformed into a Cubs-themed village. A new hotel, residential real estate, and entertainment venues are making the area a year-round destination. Nearest and dearest to the stadium though is a new mid-rise office building and a public plaza. Designed by Stantec Architecture’s Chicago office, the project shares an odd-shaped block with the stadium and houses the baseball team’s administrative offices.
While the space is everything you might expect of a new office (with the addition of plenty of Cubs branding and some appropriately ivy-covered walls), it is the public plaza, currently being called the Park, that is creating the most buzz.
Debuted for the 2017 Cubs home opener, the Park is wedged between the stadium and the new office building. The ground floor of the office building houses a handful of stores and food and drinking options, but the plaza itself was designed to be used for more than just pregame events. Tiered seating, strategic plantings, and performance space provide opportunities to watch scheduled programs or just take in Wrigley’s atmosphere. Stantec took cues from Place des Vosges, in Paris, and Chicago’s Millennium Park when designing the Park, with the goal of making it more than just an entrance to the stadium.
“When we first dreamt about what the plaza could be, we wanted it to be more than just a walkway people pass through on game day,” said Grace Rappe, principal designer at Stantec. “We wanted to create a park for memories, a place for the community to gather and thrive.”
In its first year, the Park has already seen plans put in place to activate the space when there is not a game being played. The Old Town School of Folk Music has started biweekly morning and afternoon music programs. The nearby art-house Music Box Theatre will also be hosting six of the city’s “Movies in the Park”—the first of which will be, appropriately, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Rookie of the Year and The Sandlot are also on deck.
However, not everyone has had the same vision for the space. Local alderman Tom Tunney pushed, with some success, for a handful of restrictions on the use of the Park, citing the well-being of the residents of the surrounding neighborhood. Ald. Tunney was able to establish rules about who could drink alcohol in the Park on game days, and when. Currently, only ticket holders will be allowed onto the plaza immediately before and after the game, and barriers and bike racks have been set up to control the crowds. This did not make the Cubs administration too happy.
“I want to apologize to our fans when they show up today; they’re going to see bike racks and other things that channel them in and out of the Park, rather than walk in and let them enjoy it,” Crane Kenney, Cubs president of business operations, said to the press on opening day. “So we’ll try that for the first year and see how that works. Nobody has more to lose than we do if something happens that is untoward, and so we’ll police like we do everywhere else around Wrigley Field.”
Kenney had other words for the city, which he felt could have provided more financial support for the project, as it is part of a larger $500 million renovation of the entire complex.
“The mayor made clear the city could not give us the kind of financial support the White Sox got in rebuilding Comiskey Park or the Bears got renovating Soldier Field,” Kenney said.
Despite the financial discussion, the Cubs were openly grateful to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was on hand at the ribbon cutting. While the city has not provided the tax and financial backing the team had hoped, it has provided support through the temporary and permanent closing of multiple streets surrounding the stadium.
Exactly what the Park’s role will be in the greater Wrigleyville neighborhood may still be up for debate, but, for the Cubs, the new space is a chance to reach out and bring the community a little closer. And timing couldn’t be better: With the Cubs winning the last World Series and effectively having the best season in the stadium’s 103-year history, much of the city is already going Cubs crazy.