Workers convert a suite to a coaches' box.
What his team used, ultimately, was the Cubs’ dugout. Surrounding structures were dismantled, foam and scaffolding filled the remaining sunken area and sod was laid on top to provide an end zone along with a buffer for the players to run safely out the back.
The conversion challenges were not limited to field fit. Crews pulled up the entire baseball playing surface and replaced it with a new grass football surface. Two suites, selected for their location and angle to the field, were transformed into coaches’ boxes with sliding glass windows and heat. Nets built to restrain foul balls were adapted to catch field goals. Spatafora said there were carpenters, laborers, electricians, plumbers and other trades, many doing work a little outside their comfort zone.
“It was a great experience to be able to put, 'installing goal posts in Wrigley Field’ on your resume,” he said.
“Once the lines and the field markers and the logos and stuff were out there, we'd stand at the 50-yard line with the guys that we worked alongside with to really take it all in, before the fans were there,” Spatafora said. “That was a really great moment that we were able to kind of share together. No one but that group can really say that.”
Overall, the conversion took about four months. More than 31,000 fans shared the results of their efforts on a sunny, seasonal afternoon in November. Within a couple of months, Wrigley Field was converted back to a baseball park, ready to survive what was left of the winter on the shores of Lake Michigan. Spatafora and his team, meanwhile, came away with lessons they can apply the next time they are asked to make the magic happen.
“Over the past six weeks or so, we've really looked at how can we improve?” he said. “How can we compartmentalize things? What can we change? What can we change operationally? What for next time is going to make this process go quicker? We hope that we can … really make the process seamless so it's just, ‘Hey, we're converting into a football field,’ and it kind of just goes, there's no figuring it out, everything's kind of pre-made.”