Monday, May 10, 2010

Advice For Post-College Baseball Fan

I’m moving to a new neighborhood in about 2 weeks. As the crow flies, my current apartment is about 700 ft from Wrigley Field according to Google Maps and the Pythagorean Theorem. I’ve lived in the shadows of Wrigley Field for about 5 years now, and I can honestly say that if you are a big baseball fan, and you have some options as to where you live, you owe it to yourself to live this close to a baseball stadium at some point.

I’m not saying it should be a determining factor or anything. If you land a great job right of college in Alabama or Arkansas or some place without a professional baseball team, more power to you, but if you have some flexibility regarding your career you may as well migrate to a baseball neighborhood. It doesn’t have to be Wrigley, of course. Tons of cities have downtown stadia these days. I’ve always been a fan of Denver and could definitely see myself living around Coors Field. But Wrigley does offer several advantages which I will now describe. Let’s start with:

1. The Myth Of The Sold Out Cubs Game.

There are approximately 9 games per year that are difficult to go to. These are the 3 White Sox games, and any Cardinals weekend series. If you happen to be a Brewer fan like I am, this is not a problem for you. Every other game, with the rare exception of a very nice weekend game, can be attended for $10 or less, provided that you are willing to wait until the second inning. The thing about Cubs games is that there is a huge secondary market. The Cubs actually scalp their own tickets, and (this is the important part), there are a bunch of independent scalpers with brick and mortar facilities (which helps to prevent counterfeiting) within a block of the corner of Sheffield and Addison. Before every game these scalpers stand in their storefronts and sell overpriced tickets to tourists and suburbanites, but like any retail establishment, they will always have extra inventory left over after the game starts. Starting in the top of the 2nd they all get desperate to move whatever they have left. If you walk in and simply say “I need 6 tickets and I’ll pay $5 per ticket” they will say “OK” about 50% of the time. 40% of the time they’ll come back with $10, and 10% of the time they’ll tell you to get lost. This is not a problem because there are like 5 of them all in a row, and you can simply go next door, but you probably won’t have to. As soon as you turn to leave they’ll chase you down.

Wrigley has this reputation as being such a tough ticket but it’s just not true. You can go to almost any game at almost any time for less than the cost of a movie ticket. Moreover, since the rooftops across the street have a tough time booking big groups during the week, you can frequently get heavily discounted rooftop tickets via

The Cubs only sell out because of scalpers. They decided they could do better by going with the auction system for a chunk of their tickets. Maybe they do make more money this way, but you can exploit this system. Several years ago I had a job that allowed for a great deal of schedule flexibility. That summer I went to 27 Cubs games (including every game against the Brewers) and at no point did I pay over $10 for any ticket on game day. (I did get a few Brewer tickets in advance for full price just because I had out-of-town guests).

2. Parking Is Not As Hard As It Seems

I’m not going to sugar-coat this. Parking is hard during Cubs games (especially night games) and on Friday and Saturday nights, especially in the summer. That said, I am going to tell you a few secrets that only the locals know.

First of all, if you have been to Wrigleyville you will be familiar with the “L” Red Line train. What you may not know is that the Chicago Transit Authority rents parking spots under the L tracks for well below market price. I believe they are raising the rate to $80 per month shortly, while a private parking spot in the area typically goes for $150-$200. Our spot has been $75/month since we started renting it. Fortunately, the CTA is so bad at publicizing this service that it actually takes some work and some digging around their website to even figure out how to do it, which keeps demand (and price) low.

Second, Wrigleyville is abutted on the east by the Boystown neighborhood. I have found that when people drive to Cubs games that they tend not to try to park in Boystown, and a few spots can generally be found there.

Third, during non-game days and the offseason, parking is relatively easy compared to almost every other neighborhood in the city, and most of the neighborhood is “permit only” meaning only residents are allowed to park on most of the streets.

3. Wrigleyville has most of your basic amenities within walking distance

I am currently within walking distance of 3 grocery stores: a Treasure Island, a Jewell, and a Whole Foods. There is an Ace Hardware 6 blocks away. There are many restaurants, convenience stores, bars (obviously), good public transportation, concert venues, the Brew and View movie theatre that has $5 double features, and access to Lake Michigan.

4. When there is a Cubs game, the bars are extremely expensive. For the other 284 days a year, they are quite cheap.

Monday: Dark Horse, $1 cheeseburger night (with a side too. I recommend the mashed potatoes). Tuesday: The Yard, $1 Cheeseburgers, $3 Three Floyds beer. Wednesday, Murphy’s Bleachers, $3 Brats. Thursday, The Bar Celona, $4 tapas, $10 sangria pitchers. You get the idea.

5. Stadium Sound Effects

Even when I’m not at a game, if I open a window I can hear the organ, the crowd noise, and the 7th inning stretch. If I’m watching the game on TV I will actually get the crowd noise from the stadium like a second before I get the play on TV, which really does add to the experience. Wrigley Field also hosts a few concerts every year. In the past I’ve been able to enjoy Jimmy Buffet and The Police from the friendly confines of my apartment, though I could do with never hearing the 17-minute version of Roxanne ever again.

It’s not all positive of course. You can sometimes feel trapped. The Gay Pride Parade, The Race to Wrigley, and a few other events sometimes make escape literally impossible. Frat boy types will vomit in your yard at some point. I’m getting a bit old for some of this nonsense, frankly. But in general, I’ve really liked living here. My current apartment isn’t too expensive, it a nice 2 bedroom with radiators (read: free heat!) and a 1970s style fireplace and it’s been home for a long time now. The neighborhood is nice, it’s affordable, it has a low crime rate (except for petty stuff like public urination and vomiting on my lawn), and it has a Major League Baseball stadium just dumped into the middle of the whole thing. It’s pretty strange really.

A baseball fan couldn’t ask for much more.