Tackling US Cellular Field’s rep as a characterless, generic venue (though compared to Shea, it’s a palace), the Chicago Tribune’s William Hageman picks the brains behind “Disco Demolition Night” (also the innovator behind the less heralded “Vasectomy Night”) for ways to improve the White Sox experience. (thanks to Scott Comeau for the link.)
Ever since it opened in 1991, U.S. Cellular Field has been criticized as a sterile, fan-unfriendly “ballmall.” Despite renovations and upgrades, that reputation has stuck in the minds of many people. Even Mike Veeck (above), who hadn’t been to The Cell since the 2003 All-Star Game, “came prepared not to like it.” But his four-hour visit changed that.
“It ain’t the building,” he said at the end of the night. “I could never fault the building. This is a good building, a solid building. A fun building.”
Oh, he had numerous suggestions on ways to dress things up. Have more ivy climbing up bare walls. More splashes of color, maybe even adding a mural to the large concrete slab next to the LaSalle Bank sign in right field. More pictures on the main level concourse, similar to the collages on the upper concourse. And break up those long strings of flashing ads that hang from the upper level facade and run the length of the first- and third-base lines.
Give fans “the unexpected.”
“Little things. Write something on the concrete for no reason. In chalk, like a little kid wrote it. And people will start looking for it. Or have things projected on the concrete from above. Logos. Whatever.”
He’d also like to see something recognizing Harry Caray.
“The seventh-inning stretch thing [Caray’s rendition of `Take Me Out To The Ball Game’] started here,” Veeck pointed out, meaning at old Comiskey. “With the Cubs’ revisionist history, in another 10 years Harry will never have sung here.
“Set up a booth, and you go in and sing with Harry. Make a tape. `You too, little Tommy, can sing with Harry.’ Split the money with charity. You can’t imagine the interest, in this town, in singing with Harry.”
Hire “ushertainers” — ushers who sing opera or do magic tricks. Maybe unfurl a large canvas, with people painted on it, from the roof over Section 557, making it look like the seats were full. Or work the ever-present gulls circling in the outfield into the show.
“Maybe get a radio-controlled blimp or something.”
To chase them?
“I don’t know. Actually, a radio-controlled bird would be funny.”
Then after a couple of minutes of silence, one last idea.
“And when they drag the infield, I’d use drag queens.”