Anyone who’s ever seen the movie Field of Dreams knows all about the James Earl Jones speech toward the end of the movie. It’s as though Darth Vader came back from the future, put on an amiable face and an old hat, and told us all what we should already know: Baseball marks the time. There’s some imagery from this speech–“America has been erased like a blackboard”– that is playing out right now at the intersection of Clark and Addison Streets in Chicago, where Wrigley Field is located.
With ten playoff games, at most, scheduled for Wrigley Field in October of 2016, those who are able to procure tickets will probably be shocked by the terrain around the ballpark. If the urban landscape near Clark and Addison Streets were likened to a blackboard, as the speech suggests, much of it has already been erased.
We’ll start at the northern edge of Clark Street, with what is known as “the triangle lot.” Clark Street forms the hypotenuse of the triangle, Waveland Avenue–the street that home runs hit to right field land on–is one of the legs, and the other leg is the outer wall of the grandstand along the third base side of the ballpark.
There was a Yum-Yum Donuts stand on this spot until 2009, when the team took it over and tore it down. There was also a players’ parking lot adjacent to the ballpark, and another parking lot for the team’s use. But mostly there was empty land, and that’s all gone now. Rising in its place is a multi-story building, which will include a Cubs Hall of Fame and other space for team purposes. There will also be a large outdoor area that looks like a larger beer garden than anything the area already has. Talk of Wrigley Field itself being one big beer garden will intensify, after an actual beer garden goes in next door.
Continuing South on Clark Street toward the ballpark, there’s a lot at Addison Street across the street from Wrigley Field. A generation of Cubs fans knows that as the spot where the McDonald’s used to be. It had Cubs memorabilia and pictures of old Cubs players on the walls. If a trip to the ballgame included a Big Mac and an order of fries, that was the place to go.
The McDonald’s lot was purchased by the Ricketts family for $20 million, and the restaurant itself was torn down earlier in 2016. A hotel will rise in its place, to capture some of the money that out-of-town baseball fans now spend at downtown hotels instead. There will be a McDonald’s onsite when it does, because the company had that put into the arrangement to sell the property. But for now, load up on your fast food before coming to the game.
But the most dramatic erasure of the landscape has been south of the ballpark, along both Clark and Addison Streets. The 7-Eleven at Sheffield and Addison is gone, along with the nearby Starbucks. A run of bars and restaurants on Clark Street have also come down, including the Salt & Pepper Diner, Goose Island, Red Ivy, and Bar Louie. These spots all had prime locations within a block of the ballpark, and now they’re gone. A development–beyond the parameters of the team and the Ricketts family–is scheduled to go up in their place, after the land is now being cleared away. This will either be progress or a step toward suburbanization, depending on your viewpoint, but it is going to happen, over the next year or two.
The Triangle building is already under construction, and it’s probably going to be available in the near future, but not in time for the Cubs’ playoff run in 2016. The old McDonald’s lot has been cleared away, but no structure has started to rise as of early October. And land is still being cleared away at Addison and Clark, so that won’t be ready anytime soon. For renderings of the new spaces from the teams’s perspective, visit the website for Project 1060.
The construction zone area that is Wrigley Field area will serve as an interesting backdrop for the team’s run through the postseason and–hopefully!–the celebrations that will come afterwards.
by R. Lincoln Harris