Wrigley Field gets facelift while waiting for big renovation

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Wrigley Field gets facelift while waiting for big renovation

Walking through Wrigley Field, you stepped on new concrete and could smell fresh paint. You saw stadium workers raking the dirt and dropping the Cubs on-deck circle by the dugout. The ivy had already begun to turn green before Opening Day.

The second-oldest ballpark in the majors behind Fenway Park will begin its 99th season of professional baseball on Thursday, and 97th for the Cubs. The team has made several upgrades for this season, while waiting for the big renovation.

The Cubs didn't seem to be the only ones surprised when Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Tuesday that negotiations over the financing have advanced to the final stages. The renovation plan has been a primary focus for the Ricketts family and business operations.

We continue to have discussions with the city, the county and the state to ensure Wrigley Field remains a viable stadium for future generations, said Julian Green, the teams vice president of communications and community affairs. Were hopeful that we can reach a consensus soon. Well continue working with all parties to make sure we get something that works for all of Chicago.

In the meantime, the Cubs have added the Budweiser patio deck in the right-field bleachers. It basically recreates the rooftop experience and can host groups of 50, 100 or 150 guests. It sits behind a new 75-foot LED board that blends surprisingly well into the scenery.

The Cubs have also listened to the players concerns about the facilities, and cleared out what used to be storage space behind the left-field wall and turned it into an area where hitters can swing away at soft toss.

Theres no excuses for us as players not to be ready, utility man Jeff Baker said.

Last month, team personnel moved into a new administrative building on Clark Street near Waveland Avenue. Essentially a converted warehouse with high ceilings, theres a miniature Wrigley Field marquee by the main entrance and a Golden Tee video game in the break room.

Theres space for up to 155 employees, a key development for what has historically been one of the smallest front offices in baseball.

Or, as new general manager Jed Hoyer joked, No mice, so thats a good start.

As workers put finishing touches on the old ballpark, it didnt sound like there was a huge, imminent announcement planned with the mayors office for Opening Day. But on a crisp, sunny day, you knew that baseball was back.

It looks so much different here in the spring than it does in the winter, Hoyer said. The whole place looks fantastic. Its such a magical place, a place I loved coming to as a visitor. For the first time, it feels real. (I) get to watch 81 games a year here. Thats pretty special.

Want to chat with Jimmy Butler? He just released his phone number for the world...

Want to chat with Jimmy Butler? He just released his phone number for the world...

If you've ever wanted to talk to Jimmy Butler directly, now's your chance.

The former face of the Bulls and current Minnesota Timberwolves star was introduced with his new franchise Thursday and had a message for the haterz:

Don't hesitate to reach out. Here's my cell number.

That number is 773-899-6071 and he said his phone was in his back pocket right now.

Butler wants to take responsibility for his actions and his play, so much so that he made the completely unorthodox move to put himself as out there as possible.

There's no way this *doesn't* backfire, right? How could this possibly end well? 

It's worth reminding that it doesn't have to be just haterz that reach out. Bulls fans who appreciate all Butler gave to the city of Chicago over the last few years can just send a simple "thank you" text.

Or, you know, if you're hammered at 2 a.m. and want to vent about the Bulls rebuild, here's a perfect outlet.

57 Days to Kickoff: Huntley

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57 Days to Kickoff: Huntley

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Huntley

Head coach: Matt Zimolzak

Assistant coaches: Mike Slattery (OC/QB), Doug Millsaps (Asst. QB), Mike Naymola (WR), Joel Bosman (Asst. WR), Zack Borring (Asst. WR), Craig Kastning (RB), Chris Babyar (OL), Mike Doty (Asst. OL), Cliff Pawlak (DB), Paul Reinke (LB), Ben Salomon (DL), Keith Mooney (Asst. DL), Gary Swanson (Strength), Will Benson (Scout Team), Brad Aney (Freshmen HC), John Woo (Freshmen DB), Mike Ginczycki (Freshmen DC/LB), Jeff Beam (Freshmen DL), Gavin Fahey (Freshmen WR), Jim Rago (Freshmen RB), Zach Davidson Freshmen (OC/QB).

How they fared in 2016: 8-4 (6-2 Fox Valley Conference), made the Class 8A state playoff field, defeated Stevenson and Fremd then lost to Loyola Academy in the quarterfinals.

[MORE: 58 Days to Kickoff - St. Viator]

2017 regular season schedule:

Aug. 25 – @ Jacobs

Sept. 1 – Prairie Ridge

Sept. 8 – @ Dundee Crown

Sept. 15 - Hampshire

Sept. 22 - Cary-Grove

Sept. 29 – @ West Aurora

Oct. 6 - Crystal Lake Central

Oct. 13 - @ Crystal Lake South

Oct. 20- @ McHenry

Biggest storyline: Can the Red Raiders win the Fox Valley Conference and make another deep run?

Names to watch this season: senior QB/DB Eric Mooney, senior LB Charlie Zornow

Biggest holes to fill: The Red Raiders will need to reload on the offensive line with just senior Joey Wilson (6-foot-2, 260 pounds) as the lone returning starter.

EDGY's early take: Huntley took some real positive steps forward in 2016, including big playoff wins against 8A powers Stevenson and Fremd. With Mooney back in the fold, along with good talent returning on both sides of the football, expect another strong FVC and postseason run from the Red Raiders.