Where ballplayers live

The Cubs get a new clubhouse worth of a baseball landmark

When the Chicago Cubs take the diamond at Chicago’s Wrigley Field on Opening Day 2016, they’ll be in a ballpark that’s in the midst of a dramatic restoration. The revamped exterior of the ballpark will approximate the historic look of Wrigley as accurately as possible, elevating it to historic landmark status. Wrigley’s façade will be returned to its 1930s glory. Elsewhere the existing historic material at the ballpark will be preserved while its structure and amenities are updated for today’s baseball fan. As one of the most visited tourist sites in all of the Midwest, Wrigley and its transformation will be closely observed.

VOA’s visible design efforts will largely be concerned with turning back the clock on the exterior and restoring it to a glorious century-old look. Beneath the surface, however, one aspect of Wrigley will sport an ultra-modern design. For the Clubs the beloved field itself is a recruiting tool for free agents. The renovation has to make sure it remains a great place to play ball. Just as crucial to the player experience at Wrigley is the player’s clubhouse, which previous to renovation was not much beloved. There, the transformation is going to be dramatic. Admittedly, the bar was set low. In a century-old ballpark, the clubhouse was comprised of small, carved-out subterranean spaces. Cubs players soldiered through each season using the ad-hoc clubhouse in the 100-year old concrete structure. The clubhouse leaked, it felt like a dank basement. It wasn’t much of a recruiting tool, to say the least.

Professional players spend a lot of time together, much more than what we see on the field. Naturally, they want to work in a pleasant environment. A key aspect of the Wrigley upgrade is creating a ballpark in which visitors feel welcome and excited to visit as well as one that players are proud of and at ease. Providing the best facility in baseball will bring out the best in the Cubs. A positive Wrigley experience benefits the organization in the its recruiting and retention efforts as well.

VOA was challenged to deliver a much larger, truly state-of-the-art clubhouse in the historic ballpark. Location for the clubhouse was key. By placing it under a new outdoor plaza the new space falls outside the areas confined by historic specs. Thus, the new facility will be an expansive, multipurpose and overall much more pleasant place for players to experience day-to-day.

Ensuring a great player experience means that the clubhouse is designed to ensure that every moment, from arrival at the park, from car to clubhouse, from clubhouse to field, suggests that the Cubs are a world-class organization. It also features a variety of spaces that today’s pro sports team requires and that a major league player expects. This is Major League Baseball after all.

Additional amenity spaces in the new clubhouse include fitness and conditioning, dining and lounge areas. The Cubs players partake of a carefully controlled diet, access physical therapy facilities and subscribe to ongoing strength and conditioning regimens. The clubhouse is designed to help players stay in top physical form, both physically and mentally. Design can influence morale and therefore influence performance. The Cubs players will now finally have enough space to prepare, to build camaraderie and to enjoy amenities that enhance their performances to the greatest extent possible.

There are few big league ballparks like Wrigley. The historic city ballpark sits on a tight urban site, making it a challenge for arrival and departure flows. VOA thought about the player experience from the moment of arrival to parking, how players leave their vehicle, and the journey they take from their vehicle to the clubhouse. That experience needs to reflect the values of the Chicago Cubs to ensure that every time the Cubs go to work or go in to play, players are enriched with solidarity and team spirit. Opposing teams, too, will understand that the Cubs are a first-class organization. The experience of the clubhouse is about enriching player loyalty, it’s about taking care of your teammates, it’s about being accountable to the team and to yourself. It’s about being a pro.

The Cubs brand will be reinforced for anyone visiting the clubhouse, the media included. The majority of the space belongs to the players—it’s their space, their home after all, but the media will have guest access to certain areas.

The media spaces are suited to information gathering and performing pre- and post-game interviews. Spaces are outfit with adequate lighting and technology infrastructure (high-quality audio-visuals and television feeds, for example) that enable media professionals to fully utilize the tools of their trade. Media-friendly spaces include a special interview room adjacent to the clubhouse proper and a larger auditorium for larger special events.

Wrigley Field is a unique pro sports experience. Wrigley and the elite athletes playing there deserve better than a cookie cutter clubhouse. An attention to detail, color, materials, and lighting further sets Wrigley’s clubhouse apart from the pack. For the Cubs, it’s a 100 year leap and then some.

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