It's the question that bubbles up whenever the Chicago Cubs talk about taking the scalpel to Wrigley Field and putting it through the extensive renovation it desperately needs: Just where would the team play if the construction work required shutting the Friendly Confines down for a season?
For all the silly talk about making Cubs fans drive 90 miles north to Milwaukee's Miller Park, there's really only one logical option, of course. That would be U.S. Cellular Field, home of the crosstown rival Chicago White Sox and located about a brisk eight-mile jog from the corner of Clark and Addison. There are even some local rumbles that the Cubs are considering taking up residence at The Cell for the 2013 season, though team officials are currently denying that arrangement.
Workers at U.S. Cellular tell a different story (than the Cubs' denial). They say they are being warned of a much busier 2013 season (as in, prepare for double the games). (South Side) bar owners tell a similar story.
Again, the Cubs say they haven't thought that far ahead and that they are working on a plan to secure funds to renovate the stadium ahead of the 99th season there.
There are any number of issues the Cubs have to work through before they even think about subletting somewhere, namely securing some public funding for this work.
But as Neil deMause of Field of Schemes speculates, the surfacing of this story could be the Cubs way of floating a "trial balloon" to see how their fans regard the idea of trucking it south for an entire season. I suspect the more practical members of the Cubs' fanbase wouldn't see a problem with taking up residence at U.S. Cellular for a year, especially if it meant returning to retro-fitted comforts of Wrigley the following season. There's also a precedent of such a move working: The Yankees played two seasons at Shea Stadium when old Yankee Stadium was being renovated over 1974 and 1975.
The Cubs' fanbase, however, has never been particularly noted for its reasoning skills. Half of the Lincoln Park chad-trixie contingent operates under the (untrue) belief they'll be shot the minute they step off the train at 35th Street while another segment would rather travel to another state for a game than a different neighborhood in the city.* With the Cubs lately drawing a large segment of their attendance from the summer tourist crowd/Iowa tour bus caravan, I'm guessing their totals would crater if Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer don't have a winning product on the field by then.
*You probably only understand this paragraph if you live here, folks. And for the rest of you Stewies: No, it does not make any sense at all.
Of course, there's also the issue of whether or not South Siders would be down with welcoming Cubs fans to their turf for an entire summer.
And to answer that question, a trial balloon won't be necessary at all.
(No, they would not.)
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