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CubsCon: Bye bye, bullpens; hello, title banners, ring ceremonies

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts during Cubs Convention opening ceremonies Friday.

The timeline for completion of the Wrigley Field renovations is still measured in years, but chairman Tom Ricketts said noticeable changes will be completed by the start of this season – most notably marking the end of an era for relief pitchers and fans down both outfield lines.

The bullpens will be moved underneath the bleachers from their traditional spots in foul territory. Wrigley Field was one of only four major league stadiums with bullpens on the field (also in Oakland, San Francisco and Tampa Bay).

“I know that’s not popular,” chairman Tom Ricketts said. “I like the bullpens where they’re at. But we decided just from the health standpoint, with fielders running in there, it was probably best to move them underneath and off the playing field.”

Less dramatic changes anticipated for 2017 include another increase in concession stands (and pizza ovens).

When work is completed, the ballpark will have major increases in restrooms, concession stands and have eight elevators, Ricketts said.

Meanwhile, Wrigley hosts two firsts in its 103-year history: The Cubs plan a championship-banner-raising ceremony for the home opener, and they plan their ring ceremony for the next game.

“I just hope it’s not 36 degrees in April,” Ricketts said.

When asked about whether the Cubs might try to secure a football bowl game (given the relative success of the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium), Ricketts said the club plans to bring football back to the ballpark in some form.

“That Northwestern game [against Illinois in 2010] was really cool, and we’d like to have them back as soon as possible,” he said. “We intend to bring football back to Wrigley. It’s just a matter of getting all our construction done. So it’ll be a few years.”

Presumably, the new construction will solve the space restrictions that forced the 2010 game to be played with only one end zone.