New ballpark to benefit North Side

By Kyle Rich

Ground was broken for a North Side ballpark Oct. 11 that will provide area residents needed access to a playing field.

The new Kerry Wood Cubs Field, located in Clark Park, adjacent to Lane Tech High School, 2501 W. Addison St., has been in the planning stages for seven years, according to former Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood, who said he wanted to sponsor a ballpark in Chicago even though he has also played in Cleveland and New York.

“None of that changed

anything,” Wood said of his out-of-state affiliations. “[My family and I] knew we were going to come back here and live in Chicago. It’s been a long time coming, but we all came together and got it done.”

The Chicago Cubs Charities teamed up with Wood to sponsor the new field, said Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. The diamond is projected to cost approximately $5 million.

Players, coaches and members of the community are optimistic that the new field, which is scheduled to be completed next spring, will help level the playing field between city and suburban schools.

There is no doubt that athletes playing ball in the city have fewer amenities and advantages than athletes in the suburbs when it comes to fields and equipment, according to Walter Nolan-Cohn, senior first baseman at Lane Tech.

He said his team’s talent is equal to suburban teams, but its facilities hold it back.

“The monetary value in the suburbs is a lot higher than in the city,” Nolan-Cohn said. “We have some shortcomings with our [current] playing field and [other] places we’re able to practice. It’s not as good as having a field to practice on every day, so it’s going to be amazing to have a place to call home.”

Daniel Birt, a senior pitcher for Lane Tech, said his team has struggled to find adequate resources.

“In the past, we’ve been playing and practicing in Horner Park,” Birt said. “It’s terrible, and the equipment Horner Park provides us with is in terrible condition and mostly broken.”

Laura Ricketts, Tom Ricketts’ sister and director of Chicago Cubs Charities, said the field will also provide benefits to Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Park District and the 47th Ward.

“We want the Chicago Cubs to be champions in the community, just as much as we want the baseball team to bring home a World Series title,” Laura Rickets said. “Our investment today is in the future of the student athletes who get to compete here.”

Wood played on a high school field built by the city of Irving, Texas, that he claims was nicer than most AA and AAA ballparks he saw while climbing the ranks in the minor leagues. He said the quality of his high school field was a definite draw for the many fans who attended his games.

“Kids were just hungry for baseball, and I think we can bring that to the city again,” Wood said. “This place will fill up and that will be great not only for this neighborhood, but for the surrounding communities.”