EDITOR’S NOTE: When we posted this article in late May 2016, little did we know the Chicago Cubs would end their 108-year World Series drought about six months later in thrilling fashion with an extra-inning victory in Game 7 of the championship round vs. the Cleveland Indians. We’d like to think editor-at-large Craig MacCormack brought a little Boston sports-related luck to the woebegone franchise during his behind-the-scenes tour, but maybe the Cubs were just the best team in 2016. Heading into the 2017 Major League Baseball season, the Cubs are most experts’ favorites to at least make it to another World Series this fall. Maybe the Cubbies should’ve updated their home clubhouse a century or so ago?
How do you bring a 100-year-old baseball cathedral into the future without changing anything? That’s been the challenge facing the construction crew, integrators and manufacturers leading the 1060 Project at Wrigley Field, home of the 1908 World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
And, although the second phase of the five-phase overhaul of America’s second-oldest Major League Baseball stadium didn’t get nearly the attention of when the Cubs played their first night game in 1988, the move to build a 30,000-square-foot clubhouse equipped with a web-based lighting control system could be even more important to the team’s future.
“We wanted to do something a little different than anyone else,” says Carl Rice, VP of the 1060 Project, more formally known as the Wrigley Field Restoration and Expansion. “We have what we believe is a state-of-the-art clubhouse. We hope it makes it a little easier for our players to prepare for games and recover.
“We’re trying to change the culture and make it about winning. There’s a focus now on the ‘where’ to get to the ‘when,'” he says.
The lighting control is far from the only major upgrade going on in the Windy City, where the occupants are hoping to end a World Series drought that stretches more than 100 years. AV integrator Diversified also built a full-scale control room and distributed audio system this year after staging the equipment in two trailers outside the ballpark for almost a year.
Diversified also worked with Daktronics on the installation of two replay boards at Wrigley, one in left field that was completed just before the start of the 2015 season and one in right field that was finished in the middle of the season.
Diversified, which has done AV integration in about 75 stadiums across the U.S., is talking to the Cubs about being involved with the hotel, fan plaza and IPTV installations that will be part of future phases of the 1060 project, says senior VP Craig Taylor.
“Everything they’re doing is about keeping the fans at the facility before games and after games and even when there are no games going on,” he says.
Ideal Industries, a 100-year-old company, launched Audacy—a web-based lighting control system—at Lightfair 2015 and attracted the attention of Cubs ownership. The company has a similar installation at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres and the 2016 Major Leaguer Baseball All-Star Game, and will install the system at Sports Authority Field, home of the Denver Broncos, and is in the final stages of installing it at San Francisco International Airport. Audacy will also help college campuses and Fermilab in Batavia, Ill., shave big bucks off their energy bills.
“When we first started talking to people about what we’re doing, there was some real resistance to wireless systems, but I think we’ve overcome that,” says Nick Shkordoff, Ideal Industries’ electrical division group VP and general manager. The system features a 25-year battery life and “infinite” range, with the sensors able to be daisy-chained.
“This is a real proving ground for the robustness of the system,” says Shkordoff of Wrigley Field. He sees it having potential in hospitals, schools and large corporate offices that have or want to install large-scale building automation systems.
The centerpiece of the Audacy system is in the clubhouse, one of only two round clubhouses in MLB. The system allows for four scenes, depending on the mood of the players and the results of their most recent game, says Nolan Bello, business unit manager for Audacy. The scene that’s been seen least this season has been dubbed “the angry bear” because it surrounds the Cubs logo in red.
The Cubs media room, where manager Joe Maddon and players give press conferences, features a Crestron control panel and the video room includes interactive smart TVs to help players study for their next at-bats or trip to the pitching mound. The players’ lounge, meanwhile, has 13 TVs of various sizes and a constantly updated sports ticker sprinkled among a ping-pong table, air hockey table and Eddie Vedder guitar.
The training room includes hot and cold plunge tanks, hydrotherapy station, hyperbaric chamber, underwater treadmill, cryotherapy station and salt water sensory deprivation pod.
“We took a little bit of a leap with everything we’re doing here,” says Rice. “No one has ever done anything like this in sports.”