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Guaranteed Rate Field

April 28, 2017

  • 333 W. 35th Street
  • Chicago, IL 60616
  • (312) 674-1000
  • Website

New name.  New blog, right?  I keep linking back to a really only blog post on US Cellular Field so I thought it was time to finally update.  The ballpark has changed a lot since the last time I blogged about it, so now’s as good of a time as any.

In case you forgot, I’m a White Sox fan.  Have been for my whole life…except for those few years I got tricked in to being a Cubs fan.  That’s a dark point in my life I don’t like to talk about.  Cubs fans are the worst.

I grew up at a time when Comiskey Park was still being used.  Unfortunately, I only went to one game at the old park the year they tore it down.  My parents didn’t like driving in Chicago and didn’t realize how easy it actually was to get to Comiskey.   They didn’t find that out until the first year of the New Comiskey Park when we wen to a game with friends.  Since that night in early spring 1990, we’ve gone to dozens of games….usually several a year until I moved away.

Guaranteed Rate Field is on Chicago’s Southside in the Armour Neighborhood.  Most people put the park in the Bridgeport Neighborhood, but it’s actually adjacent to it, not in.

The stadium sits on the corner of 35th Street and Wentworth right off the Dan Ryan Expressway.  It accessible by both the Red Line and Green Line on the CTA system.  Red is closer dropping off in between the northbound and southbound lanes of the Ryan while the Green is a couple blocks away on 35th Street at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Let’s just get this out of the way right now.  I really couldn’t care any less what the ballpark is called.  I’m not one of those nostalgic people that still try to call it Comiskey Park.  Names on buildings really don’t mean anything.  It doesn’t change the team.  It doesn’t change the experience.  If some mortgage company I’ve never heard of wants to blow their money on putting their name on a building to get relentlessly made fun of, good for them.  All those high and mighty northsiders forget their sacred ballpark has a corporate name as well only they’re not getting any money for those naming rights.  They’re just advertising gum without making any money for the parent company.

New Comiskey Park was the last of the new ballparks built before the new wave of “retro-classic” ballparks (thanks Camden Yards). In 1991, this stadium was awesome.  It was new.  It was sleek. It was clean.  There were no poles in the way.  It was a great place to watch a game.  In 1992, Camden Yards opened and it had character and all of a sudden, the 1-year-old Comiskey Park was obsolete and Sox fans were ready for a do-over.

I was meeting my brother, my dad, and my best friend from high school for a game like we do every year.  This year, I decided to park at 63rd and Ashland and take the Green Line to the park.  The parking lots open at 4:00, so we all timed it to meet together in Lot B on the northside of the park at 4:00.  We did some tailgating…drank some beer…ate some wings then headed to Gate 5 for the game.

 

Gate 5 is on the north side of 35th Street while the park is on the southside.  It used to just be a tall, narrow structure with some elevators and ramps that led you to a sky bridge to get to the park.  In the last few years, they’ve redone this entrance making it much more of a “Grand Entrance” and adding the Chicago Sports Depot store and the ChiSox Bar & Grill.

I’m always surprised at how early people get in line to get in the park.  The giveaway for this game was a zip up hoodie for the first 15,000 fans.  I never get worked up over the free stuff they giveaway.  If it’s clothes, it  never fits me.  If it’s anything else, it’s just junk that will sit on a shelf.  I used to be that kind of collector, but I’m not really anymore.  Still, most people are and free is free.  The lines to get in formed two hours before the game and when we headed to the gate an hour beforehand, there was still a sea of people waiting to go through the MAGS and get into the park.

They were still handing out sweatshirts when we got through, so we all grabbed one and headed up the escalator to the sky bridge to get to the park.

So, here’s the thing I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate about Guaranteed Rate Field. Notice the gates there and people checking tickets in that shot above?  We’re already in the park.  Why are they checking tickets?

That sign.  You have to have a 100 level ticket to get on the main concourse.  If you have an upper deck ticket or suite ticket, you can’t walk around the main concourse.  We always sit behind home plate because my buddy has a season ticket plan so it’s not an issue for us, but for a lot of families, that sucks.  You can’t walk around see a lot of the cool stuff this park has to offer.  You’re treated like second class citizens and sent to your seats in the upper deck missing out on cool statutes of Carlton Fisk.

Alright, mini-rant over.  Part of the reason they only let ticket holders on to the main concourse is just to reduce congestion.  The concourses are pretty wide but there’s always a crush of people from foul pole to foul pole.  I’ve been in worse crowds in smaller stadiums, but it can be difficult to maneuver  around before and after the game.

It had been quite a while since I actually walked around Guaranteed Rate Field and so much has changed over the years.  They can’t build a new park, but they have retro fitted this one to make it what is actually a really great place to watch a baseball game.

We’ll start with food.  There are a lot of options including Buona Beef which is a pretty popular and well known Chicago Italian beef chain of restaurants.  I had already had a beef that day and we just stuffed ourselves with chicken wings in the parking lot, so I didn’t  need one.

There are a number of different stands throughout the park.  There are the traditional stands that offer staples such as hot dogs, nachos, beer, and popcorn spread throughout the park on the “outside” of the concourse.

On the “inside” of the concourse, they have smaller stands that do more of the trendy type of things you’ve been seeing at sporting venues the last several years including the aforementioned Italian beef, BBQ, and a variety of other things.

Of course, any Chicago stadium has to have pizza.  In the outfield there is a Beggar’s Pizza Pub.  This isn’t quite a traditional concession stand as they also have seating and a bar to make it more like an airport bar kind of thing.  I’ve noticed there are a couple of these (not Beggars, but other branded spaces) throughout the park which I have never seen in the past.

We’ll stay in the outfield for a little bit and talk about the batter’s eye.  When I first started going to the park, center field was just blue.  It was uninteresting and really just served it’s purpose as being a backdrop to hit.  A few years later, it was painted black.  Still….uninteresting.  In 2002, the batter’s eye was redesigned as a multi-tier structure that now included a party deck.  This small change made a big difference in the feel of the place and gave a little bit of that “retro” feel that they were going for when they started renovating the stadium.

Also in the outfield, the shower from the original Comiskey Park.  It’s now sponsored by the Chicagoland Plumbing Council.  On hot days, you can actually cool yourself off.  Kids love it.  I’m not sure I’d want to hang out at the park soaking wet, but I’m kind of a wet blanket.

The outfield also home to a number of life-sized bronze statues of White Sox greats.  A few years ago, my dad I went to PK Day where they retired Paul Konerko’s number.  He was one of those people that had to get in line to get the giveaway because the giveaway was a replica of Konerko’s statue in the outfield which depicts his game winning home run in the 2005 World Series.  Other statues include Fisk (see above), Harold Baines, Minnie Minoso, Frank Thomas, Billy Pierce, Nellie Fox, Louis Aparicio, and Charles Comiskey.

I eventually made my way back to my seat but not before getting something to drink.  Unfortunately, I had to drive back to Kalamazoo, so I had to limit myself to one beer inside the park.  I didn’t want to grab one yet so I grabbed a pop instead.  It was a Coke…and it cost $6.

We’ve been lucky for the last nine years or so.  My Cubs fan friend goes in on season tickets for the White Sox with some random guys he met at a game ten years ago.  Typically, our seats are right behind home plate directly in front of the Manager’s family tickets.  We used to sit in front of Ozzie Guillen’s wife and kids ever year.  The last couple of years, my buddy (who is married) awkwardly flirted with Robin Ventura’s daughters just to say he did.  The weekend we chose to go this year wasn’t a game that was part of his group of tickets, so my dad bought tickets…one section over so we still sat behind home plate.

One of the things Comiskey Park(s) has always been famous for is the scoreboard.  It’s changed a lot over the years but still “explodes” and still has the signature pinwheels from the old park.  The board is now a giant TV screen which, again, is pretty new.

A few innings in, my buddy asked if I was ready for a beer.  I said yes, but I was going to go get one and not drink a Bud which was what the vendors were hawking.  The park has actually put a little focus on craft beer this year.  They’ve had a couple craft stands in the past, but there are more options now including this stand of familiar faces I found in the outfield.

You know I love both those breweries, but I can get those any time here in Michigan, so I kept looking.  I ended up at one of the craft beer stands but nothing really jumped out at me.

There are some good choices, but I noticed a Revolution Brewing stand not too far away from this one, so I went to see what they had.  I don’t get a lot of Revolution, so I gladly paid $10 each for two beers.  One Anti-Hero IPA for myself and one Sun Crusher Wheat for my buddy….which was super hoppy and he thought was actually an IPA and not a wheat.

So, not surprise to Tigers fans, the Sox aren’t a great team.  The game was, blah, but it’s not about the game when the four of us get together.  It’s about the experience.  It’s about the tailgating, the beer, the conversation, and, of course, the bonding.

Guaranteed Rate Field really gets crapped on by non-Sox fans and it really shouldn’t.  It’s a great park and a great place to watch a game.  There has been so much renovation at the park over the years that it’s almost not recognizable from that park I first went to in the spring of 1991.  It’s the same distance to Chicago from Kalamazoo as it is to Detroit from Kalamazoo and while I really like Comerica Park, Guaranteed Rate Field will always be home to me…..no matter what stupid name they decide to call it (at least they don’t serve Little Ceasars pizza…..)

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