Back in the 1980s, the rooftops around Wrigley field were no big thing. The practice of watching the ballgame from the roofs went back to the very first game ever played there, but up until the lights went in it was an informal, take a lawn chair up to the roof sort of a thing. It was really just a perk for living in one of the buildings in the 3600 block of North Sheffield, or the 1000 block of west Waveland Avenue.
And then the 80s and the greed and the lights all came into play (no pun intended). The last time that Wrigley Field hosted the All Star game, back in 1990, was the rooftops’ coming out party. One of the network announcers (was it Bob Costas or Pat O’Brien or somebody else who I don’t remember anymore?) found his way onto a rooftop and gave the world a view inside the ballpark from across the street. If the Wrigley Field land rush hadn’t already started by then, it began soon afterward.
During the 1990s and 2000s, these rooftops became a business. The buildings on those two blocks were bought up and fitted with bleachers, which were designed to maximize both crowds and profits. The ticket to a rooftop included all the food and drink you wanted, which is something the ballpark itself never offered. And it was an experience, akin to sitting atop the Green Monster at Fenway Park.
For the record, I’ve never been to one of the rooftops. And now that their demands are threatening to force the Cubs’ hand into decamping from Wrigley itself, I’ll never go to one, either. What was once not really a thing has since become a major thing, and the result threatens to change what the Cubs are for me and every other living Cubs fan.
As much as I don’t want to give a plug to the rooftop above by showing their website, I do want to call this building out as being a source of the problem. There are others too, but whatever pre-ballpark charm the building that once occupied this land ever had has been sacrificed to a business model that forever changed things around Wrigley Field, and not for the better.