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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Comiskey Upgrade!

The ballpark formerly known as Comiskey is shaping up just fine!

As spring training enters its final week, the Sox invited season ticket holders to see the changes at the former Comiskey Park II, now known as U.S. Cellular Field.  We managed to crash the party, thanks to a friend who has season tickets, and can report on the changes. 

Fans should be pleasantly surprised.  The changes have all improved the appearance of the ball park.  Some will be surprised to see the scoreboard is now green, matching the color of the batters eye.  The Jumbotron screen now takes up the entire width of the center part of the scoreboard.  Let’s just hope they have something better than the pizza race to show on it this year. 

The auxiliary board in left field is is now larger than before with the old lineup board no longer there.  This board is supposed to take over the functions of the right half of the old centerfield scoreboard. 

In addition, information will be available on two LCD boards along the foul lines.  Both of them are as large or larger than the auxiliary scoreboards that used to run along the upper deck façade.  If these are used correctly, fans should receive all the information they could ever want. 

All of the pipe work in the outfield as well as the upper deck roofs have been painted black.  This makes the architecture of the ballpark stand out more.  All of that metal in the outfield actually stands out now and looks a whole lot better.   

The fascia work along the club level and upper deck has now been painted dark gray.  This provides a nice contrast with the other colors in the ball park and should also help defense pick up the ball better because of the greater contrast in colors.  The best part is that, as recommended here three years ago, all of the bare concrete that made the interior of Comiskey Park so drab and lifeless is gone.   

We’re told that the concourse around the upper deck has been revamped to match the lower deck concourse.  That means remodeled concession stands, and new brick work.  In addition, behind the outfield seats, new signs are going up (still incomplete) showing section numbers.  We also noticed as we looked down toward the Bullpen Bar, that the picnic tables are green.  We still haven’t seen the padding on the outfield fences.   

The color chosen for those pads will be interesting for those of us interested in the “greening” of U.S. Cellular Field.  Think about it.  New batters eye:  green.  New scoreboard façade:  green.  Signage added last year:  green.  Bullpen Bar picnic tables:  green.  Could the seats be far behind? 

The answer, if you ask the Sox, is no.  Apparently the cost to just paint the old seats green would be more than their annual payment from U.S. Cellular for the naming rights to the ball park.  So it looks as if we’re in for many more years of Yankee Stadium (or is it Dodger) Blue seats. 

There is no way we can presume to take credit for the changes in Comiskey Park, but three years ago, when we first visited Comerica Park, we made several recommendations for changes to Comiskey Park.  They included:

 a)  Putting brick around the posts and on the walls of the concourses to give them a warmer feeling.  Done.   

b)   Covering or painting over all the bare concrete to make the place seem less like a factory.  Done. 

c)   Hanging banners from the ceiling or placing pictures depicting club history on the concourses.  Done.

We sincerely doubt that our comments led directly to any of these changes, but that’s neither here nor there.  What matters is that the Sox made them.   

Only one major change looms in the future, and that is doing something about the upper deck.  The problem is not necessarily with the height of the deck.  Visit any ball park less than fifty years old, and you’ll find that the highest upper deck seats are no higher than those at U.S. Cellular Field.  The grade is probably no steeper either. 

The problem is what you have to do to get to those seats.  Most ballparks have the entrances to the upper deck somewhere in the middle so that fans have to either go up or down to their seats.  Not so in Chicago.  Unless you have a front-row seat at a Sox game, you have to climb.  And if you have upper deck reserved seats you have to climb, and climb…and climb some more. 

Fans stuck with those seats have learned to develop a strategy.  They get whatever they need from concession stands and make use of the rest room facilities before the game.  Then they remain in their seat until after the game is over.  This is fine unless the game goes into extra innings or if you want to drink more than one beer. 

It may not be possible, but the best solution for this, short of shearing off the top half of the upper deck, would be to somehow move the entrances to the upper deck to the middle.  It’s unclear how this could be done, and perhaps just lopping off twelve to fifteen rows might be the best solution.  Whatever can be done, it needs to be done soon.  Even though the upper half of the upper deck is rarely used, this has become the identifying symbol of Comiskey Park II as a white elephant.  Every other problem has been addressed except for the upper deck.   

Now the influx of money from U.S. Cellular needs to be used to address the problem.  The Sox say the money will be used to address this.  Judging from the improvements they’ve already made, we have something to really look forward to. 


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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