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A Tough Cell

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Jun 15, 2005 7:40PM

2005_06_sports_uscellular.jpgEverybody knows that the Cubs are a much bigger draw at Wrigley than the White Sox are at U.S. Cellular. And even though we cheer for the White Sox, Chicagoist agrees that Wrigley is a great place to watch a game -- we certainly don't want to blow it up! But we also think that The Cell gets an undeserved bad rap -- especially following the three years of enhancements.

Formerly known as Comiskey Park, the Sox stadium had the misfortune to be the last of the "modern" ballpark built prior to the retro park movement launched by Baltimore's Camden Yards. While it included many ammenities older parks lacked, it also lacked any sense of character. While Chicagoist has praised the sightlines of the field from the concourses and the best ballpark food anywhere, the sea of electric blue seats and bare concrete were not aesthetically pleasing to look at. And what's with the constuction crane reminants holding the scoreboards and outfield lights up?

However, in recent years the Sox have done a nice job of sprucing up the place. They've chopped off and covered the formerly vertigo-inducing upper deck; they've painted the blue and white metal expanses throughout the park a more classic dark green; brick facades have covered much of the bare concrete; blue seats are being replaced with green; they've added the Scout Seating section behind home place; and they've even build a kid's baseball diamond over the outfield concourse.

The changes even surprised Mike Veeck, son of former White Sox owner and showman extrordinaire Bill Veeck.

Nobody impacted Chicago's baseball experience like Bill Veeck. As a Cubs employee, he planted the ivy that covers Wrigley's outfield walls. Years later as owner of the White Sox he instituted the giant fireworks shooting, pinwheel scoreboard; held disco demolition night and even dressed the Sox in shorts. His son has continued the family tradition for creating a festive ballpark atmosphere as owner of a number of minor league teams.

So when Mike Veeck make suggestions on improving the fans' experience, his opinion shouldn't be taken lightly. Veeck was pleasently surprised by U.S. Cellular Field during his recent visit. He did have a number of suggestions, however. He suggested adding a sense of whimsy by periodically relocating statues and writing messages to fans in chalk on walls. He also suggested hiring "'ushertainers' -- ushers who sing opera or do magic tricks," something to commemorate the fact that Harry Caray and his "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" tradition started at Comiskey Park, and using drag queens when the infield dirt is raked mid-game. Chicagoist isn't so sure about that last one... but Veeck's right that little things can do a lot to draw more fans. Of course, so will winning the World Series this season!