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Cubs Expect Talented Team, Tribute To Banks Will Overshadow Ongoing Construction At Wrigley

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Chicago Cubs are hoping a stable of hot prospects and a tribute to Hall of Famer Ernie Banks on Opening Night will help fans forget and forgive the big mess at Wrigley Field, as construction continues on the new bleachers.

There's still a lot of work to do on the Wrigley Field makeover, but maybe when the Cubs debut their talented new roster and show a big tribute to Hall of Famer Ernie Banks on Sunday, it will make fans forget about the mess at the ballpark for a little while.

"We're hoping the fans bear with us a little bit," Cubs vice president of ballpark operations Carl Rice said.

For the first time in years, the Cubs are hopeful they can compete for the playoffs, with a pitching staff led by new ace pitcher Jon Lester and a lineup loaded with promising young talent like Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler, and Dexter Fowler. Not to mention, even more big hitters are waiting in the wings in the minors, like Kris Bryant and Javier Baez.

The roster isn't the only thing that's still a work in progress for the Cubs. Delays in the renovation of Wrigley Field mean the new bleachers won't be open for more than a month. The left field and center field bleachers won't be ready until mid-May, and the right field bleachers have been delayed until June. The team also is still working on a new video board in right field, hoping to have it done in July.

Rice acknowledged the team wanted to have a lot more done at this point in the renovations, but the winter was harsher than they expected, pushing back a lot of the construction work.

"You really would hope that you would have been able to get to a point where you'd have a little more done for our Sunday night baseball; but, really, it's the first phase of five phases," he said.


The incomplete bleachers at Wrigley might be an eyesore for the next several weeks, but on Opening Night, they'll be covered up with 10 1,000-square-foot panels featuring photographs of Banks.

"We hope it pulls on their heartstrings. You know, he was almost just as important as this ballpark is to the Chicago Cubs," team spokesman Julian Green said.

The massive new video screen in left field, which was just completed earlier this week, also will be part of the tribute to Banks, displaying a three-minute video honoring Mr. Cub.

Banks' twin sons, Joey and Jerry, will throw out the first pitch and sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch.

Green said it will be strange not having Banks around on Opening Night, but he'll be at Wrigley in spirit.

"We feel there's not enough that we can do, but we're going to try to play a small part in terms of trying to honor a big man," Green said.

Not only will the massive video board in left field help the Cubs honor one of their most popular players of all time, it also will provide fans with something they've never had at Wrigley – replays and highlights inside the stadium. Rice said it's something fans can't miss.

"They got it installed this week, and it will be operational for Opening Night," he said. "It's right there when you walk in, sitting in the left field, and we're really excited about being able to add additional stats and replays."

Despite its humongous size, Green said the video screen will enhance the experience at Wrigley Field.

"Many of our fans have told us – and we've done a couple years of research – they want to see more stats," Green said. "They want to see more information. They want to see great moments in Cubs history, from Ernie Banks' 500th home run, to Kerry Woods 20-strikeout game. They want to see behind the scenes with the players, to get to know the players," he said. "So this video board is going to change that experience, but it's going to be a great experience."

Green also pointed out, even though it measures 3,990 square feet, it's not the largest video board in baseball.

"While it is big, there are other ballparks that have much bigger video boards. We think this one fits right into the Friendly Confines," he said.

Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, has the largest video screen in baseball, by far, at 11,425 square feet. The Royals have a 8,820-square-foot video board at Kauffman Stadium. The Phillies, Astros, Tigers, Yankees, Brewers, Twins, Braves, Diamondbacks, Reds, Indians, Marlins and Nationals also have bigger video screens.

Remember, WBBM 780 AM is the new home of Cubs radio broadcasts. While the games are on, Newsradio continues non-stop, all news, all the time, on 105.9 FM.

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