Whither the bleachers?

In September of this year, during the final homestand of the season, a group of my colleagues from around the country came to Chicago. When the suggestion was made to attend a Cubs game at Wrigley Field together, I was more than happy to arrange for the tickets. It turned out to be the night that Jake Arrieta tossed his one-hit masterpiece against the Reds, so everything was right with the world that evening.

But there was a decision that had to be made. I wanted my colleagues to experience the bleachers, but I explained that this would mean the rest of the park was off limits. It also meant that whoever arrived earliest would need to save seats for the rest of us as we trickled in during the game. Saving seats for others, particularly in a large number, can get hairy sometimes, so it as decided to forego the bleachers and sit in the grandstand instead. And it was the right call, as many of my colleagues loved the view from the Jack Daniel’s deck overlooking Clark Street, which we never could have visited from the bleachers.

I say all this because the bleachers and the grandstand are like the old story about the sheep and the goats. Or as The Offspring once put it, Ya gotta keep ‘em separated. When you purchased a bleacher ticket, it was always understood that seating was General Admission, and you had to stay in the bleachers during the game. The Berlin Wall didn’t last nearly as long as the bleacher walls at Wrigley.

But now that those bleacher walls have fallen, it brings up the issue of whether that unique aspect of the bleachers is going to return. I’ve been in lots of other parks around the majors, and in every other one this segregation of the bleachers doesn’t exist. It’s not at the Cell, or at Miller Park, or Turner Field, or Camden Yards, or Safeco Field, or….you get the picture. Maybe there are some parks that do it like Wrigley Field. If so, please tell me where they are.

I know that the Ricketts family has claimed to have frequented the bleachers back in the day. That will certainly go a long way toward suggesting the destruction of the old bleachers doesn’t mean the end of the bleachers as we have always known them.

But on the other hand, there are probably some bean counters who will say something about inefficiencies in the current bleacher system. Fans have already shown a willingness to pay a premium for sitting in the bleachers as opposed to, say, the upper deck. And the chance to put in a premium party deck or a destination bar–such as every other ballpark already has–would argue against telling the rest of the fans in the ballpark they can’t come and spend their money there.

Even something like the Paul Konerko statue recently unveiled in the left field section of the Cell is something that everyone in that park can experience if they want to. I’m not saying to do anything because the White Sox are already doing it, but I am saying that isolating one section of the park from everything else may no longer make any sense.

Have the Cubs committed to returning the bleachers to their previous state when the season opens next April? I haven’t heard, one way or the other. But I would be very surprised if discussions about this haven’t taken place, either. After all, removing any semblance of goats from Wrigley Field seems like it would be a top priority.

R. Lincoln Harris is a guest contributor for Wrigleyville Nation. He also writes for BlueBattingHelmet.Wordpress.com, ChicagoSideSports.com, ThroughTheFenceBaseball.com, and FiveWideSports.com. Thanks R. Lincoln for the contribution!

Photo: “W”. Cue Steve Goodman! / BluEyedA73 / CC BY 2.0 / Alteration: cropped