Not ready for prime time: A view of the ground level at Wrigley Field, three weeks before this year's first home game.
You'll have to hunt for them first.
SPORTS I made my first visit of the season to Wrigley Field on Sunday, and everyone sent me off with the obvious question: How are they? Of course, the reference wasn't to the Cubs—the standard collection of mismatched pieces destined to continue on the path of mediocrity that nonetheless disappoints. No, the world wants to know about the revamped men's restrooms! The old ones were dim, stuffy, cramped affairs that famously featured long communal troughs, a plumbing innovation I recall from a tour of Pompeii. Just before opening day this year, the team's new owners, the Ricketts family, invited in the media to show off improvements they'd made to their playground, including their gift to male fans—urinals!
On Sunday, I held my excitement at bay until the top of the sixth inning, but finally ventured off to investigate the restroom closest to my seat on the upper deck, first-base side. The place was still gloom and troughs, though a lugubrious, red-shirted attendant presided (an amenity introduced last year, I'm told) and someone had installed boxy silver dispensers of hand sanitizer on the walls both inside the restroom and out.
Apparently, the urinals have not been widely dispersed (these are the Cubs, after all—it was more than half a century after the first major-league night game before the team introduced lights to Wrigley). I had to explore several dismal men's restrooms (all the time recalling what Stanley endured in deepest Africa while searching for Dr. Livingstone), before finding my quarry in the men's room on the ground floor, third-base side. The urinals stood in a proud row, fresh, shiny, and promising, like a line-up of eager rookies (another Wrigley anomaly). Indeed, that entire restroom had been overhauled to offer a bright and unsullied aspect, and for a moment I let myself imagine that the change in ownership was really bringing in a promising new era for the team that's cost me a lifetime of wasted interest.
Nope. The Cubs blew a lead in the ninth, lost in the tenth.
I made sure to scrub vigorously with the hand sanitizer on the way out of the stadium.
GO: The Cubs play the Washington Nationals at Wrigley. 7:30 p.m., Apr 26. cubs.com
MORE ABOUT THE RENOVATIONS AT WRIGLEY, PLUS A CUBS STORY FROM THE ARCHIVES
- The Daily Herald's take by Burt Constable, 4/14/2010: "While the privacy-minded owners added nine, individual urinals ("We've even got dividers!" gushes Mark McGuire, executive vice president of business operations) and seven sinks to an expanded men's room along the third-base side, it kept the original stainless steel troughs where men and boys jockey for position to answer nature's call."
- A Wrigley renovations photo gallery and video tour by WGN's Marcus Leshock, 4/9/2010.
- An early story by the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan, 2/9/2010 : "The men also will have more room, but the look won't change much. 'Don't worry,' [Cubs marketing chief Wally] Hayward said. 'The troughs are still there.'"
- Read the sad tale of Babcock's lifelong fandom, from the April 1996 issue of Chicago magazine.
Photographs: (TOP, THUMBNAIL) Esther Kang; (RIGHT) Chicago Cubs / Stephen Green