Opening Night was a PR disaster for the Cubs, but without better fan safety measures in and around the park, things could wind up worse
If you attended last night’s Cubs game, you witnessed Wrigley 3.1, the Not Ready for Prime Time Stadium. Twitter was ablaze with fan feedback. Lack of bathrooms, and two more down, led to hour-long lines and some pretty foul results from those whose bladders couldn’t go the distance. Others complained about the park running out of food and beer.
There were also complaints from fans in SRO and rear areas of the terrace reserved who could not view the new jumbotron and were forced to endure looping Geico and armed services ads between innings. If you have content on the jumbo tron, put it on those TVs, so all fans can enjoy the full entertainment experience.
Others complained, and rightfully so, about streaming WBBM news in the concourse before the game. What was once Cubs pregame reporting on WGN was on Sunday night 60 Minutes.
We’ll leave Fall Out Boy out of this, as they receive enough free press on their own.
I would say the order of importance for these fixes is about right. The Cubs will face a pretty hefty plumbing bill come game time on Wednesday, and I don’t think there will be problems with lack of concessions again. The A/V issues are mostly for fan entertainment, but they are still worth consideration.
With those comment cards being dropped in the box, there is one more major one that I noticed and experienced: fan safety.
Circling the ballpark in the daylight before the game, I was surprised at how well the Cubs cleaned up the surrounding area. That’s not to say it was pristine, because it is a construction zone, but it could have been worse, aesthetically. From a logistics perspective, it is not exactly safe around the ballpark, especially at night after the games.
The blocking off of sidewalks on the east side of Clark and the sidewalks adjacent to the park and streets on bordering Waveland and Sheffield pose some major risks, which I witnessed and experienced.
A yellow-lined strip the size of a bike path (maybe it is, but there are no clear marking indicating as such) serves as (I guess) a pedestrian walkway. At least that’s how fans coming and going to the park may perceive it, at their own risk. Not only is there nothing stopping people from walking the path, there is nothing separating pedestrians from northbound cars. One stumbling fan tripping into another and you have a road casualty.
The Cubs need to add uniformed police or security blocking the entries to this walkway from the north and south. No one should be allowed to walk there.
With Sheffield and Waveland blocked pretty much out to the sidewalks on the other sides the street, fans are forced to walk on either the sidewalk or walkways. Heavy traffic leaving the stadium last night made it hard to get around. I and others also tripped on construction-related items which you couldn’t see jutting out because of the low light, crowds and the fact that the items were at ground level.
A standing-room-only crowd is not safe at the ballpark, at least not yet.
Wrigley has always had crowded concourses, which is one of the reasons I welcome their expansion as part of the renovations. Even before last night’s PeePeeGate clogging the concourses, we all know that when a couple drunk fans getting into it puts many others at risk. In today’s reality, which includes acts of terror, fire and other dire situations, an emergency situation could wind up worse during this phase of construction. Imagine a packed concourse trying to exit a park that, sure, has the same number of gates, but only has a fraction of the outside area in which to escape.
Head out the marquee gate, you will turn right and hit nowhere to go. Exit the left field gate and you hit blocked streets and sidewalks and a construction area which although it ia a vast improvement over the look of the work zone it has been for months, still provide several means to trip and fall. A trip-and-fall at the front of a rushing crowd is not good business.
I get that the Cubs wanted to host Opening Night, even during the construction process, and from this, I am sure they will learn some lessons. Field testing is always the best way to hammer out those final kinks.
This is not the end of the world here, nor is it yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater, but it is something I want the Cubs to consider.
Safety is a two-way street, I get it. We as fans choose to go to a game in a park that is undergoing and surrounded by construction. We do it with tens of thousands of other people, all of whom are out of our control. You, as host of the party, are accountable for the 30,000+ people and their safety.
We are nothing more than a mass of Mr. Magoos walking around. Protect us from ourselves in the environment you have created.
If you have an evacuation plan, share it. Put it on your website, announce it in the media, staple it to people’s shirts as they enter the park. Show it repeatedly on the new jumbotron and the HD TVs hanging from the upper deck that loop the Geico and military recruiting ads.
Add more lighting on Sheffield and Waveland and prop up brightly uniformed security and/or police outside the park to protect the crowds from themselves.
Makeshift beer-cup urinals and angry fan tweets about running out of bison dogs and Old Style may get you on Deadspin. A crush of fans being injured—or worse—because of lack of safe and clear exiting will get you on CNN. We, nor you, want that.
What do you think?
Filed under: Cubs Thoughts