By Grainger Editorial Staff 9/13/23
Baseball fans the world over travel to Wrigley Field each year to experience the sport in one of the oldest, most revered ballparks in the U.S. And while baseball is what Wrigley Field is famous for, recent upgrades have helped turn the ballpark and neighborhood into a year-round destination. In 2022 the annual Winterland at Gallagher Way was expanded from solely taking place outside Wrigley Field into the ballpark for the first time. We spoke with Alex Brandt, Chief Engineer for The Chicago Cubs about how he and his team brought Winterland at Gallagher Way to life inside the Friendly Confines.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
This year, we expanded Winterland at Gallagher Way into the ballpark. Marquee Development came to us with this vision, and then we sat down with the carpenters, electricians, engineers and plumbers to figure out the best way to lay it out. Our on-site engineers maintained everything 24/7. It took a lot of planning to get the electric right. That was a big one.
It started with the grounds crew taking out the sod on the field so we were left with a sand base. Then they put down plastic flooring throughout the whole outfield and warning track. That probably took the grounds crew three to four days. Once the crew got all of the flooring down, we really started to load stuff on. The chalets started getting built, while the lights were being built and placed on the flooring. The big tent for the lodge was being built, the ice skating rink and the ice slide were all getting built at the same time.
We also had to figure out how to get the gas for the fire pits where we needed it. Once it was up and running, because it’s outside, we dealt with a lot of trip breakers. It was wet a lot so we had to figure that part out. Keeping all of the lights on and dry was another challenge.
The team that worked on the ice rink was great. It was fascinating to watch them lay out all these tubes, get them hooked up to the chillers and get the ice built. First, they laid down plastic tubing, then they built the walls, then hooked up the tubing to the chillers. Then they turned the chillers on and flooded the rink little by little until the ice started building up.
The ballpark wasn't built to keep water on in the winter, so we were working on heat tracing the ballpark so we could keep the water on for the event. One of the challenges was figuring out where to get the water from for the rink and to have water when we needed it for the Zamboni. The ice rink was a lot bigger than when it was out at Gallagher Way, so you could fit a lot more people out there, but the ice still maintained well. In a smaller section, we had ice bumper cars that the kids liked.
When we do large-scale events like this, safety is a big priority for us. It's important to keep everyone safe as they're completing the build and making sure everything is built safely. And then we also want to make sure all the patrons are safe and everything's well maintained. We clean to make sure there aren’t any slippery surfaces and keep an all-around safety focus to make sure everyone's event is enjoyable.
The final step was to enjoy the event, watch the public enjoy the event and continue to maintain everything on our side to make sure everyone was having a good time. I was able to bring my three young kids, and they had a great time going down the slides and riding the trains and just everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. It was a great way to bring the neighborhood together to celebrate the holidays.
As the event finished up, we planned the tear-down, which went very well. Getting all of Winterland moved to our offsite storage was another challenge, but our logistics team did a great job planning their movements and getting it out quick. The whole process probably took two months to get everything broken down and moved to where it's going to stay until the next Winterland.
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