Ballpark Review: U.S. Cellular Field
U.S. Cellular Field generally gets a bum rap from people who visit the stadium, and I always believe that this isn't completely warranted. Part of this could be from those who immediately compare it to Chicago's other ballpark, the historic Wrigley Field. It could also be attributed to old memories of what "The Cell" was when it was first built in the early '90s. What some South Siders still refer to as Comiskey has come a long way from what it once was thanks primarily to the major renovations of the early 2000s.
Although if you knew some of the other plans that were on the table when the stadium was still in the design phases, it might leave you with a sour taste in your mouth.
Stadium Design: Overall flow of the stadium, architecture and unique parts of the stadium.
When one looks at U.S. Cellular Field, it is obvious the stadium is built to handle large crowds and to provide a general ease of maneuverability around the ballpark. To get to your seat, one has to go up a gigantic ramp until you reach your section. This system actually works quite well for both entry and exit of the stadium as the ramp is quite wide and the fact it's open air allows for a nice breeze.
One of the things I always forget about U.S. Cellular is its open air concourse. It's not rare to see this in most modern stadiums, but with the reputation that The Cell often receives, I tend to blot out this factoid. Overall the concourses are wide enough to accommodate capacity crowds and still allow for a generally quick rate of movement.
Overall the stadium is designed well to handle crowds, but contains little soul. Although statues in the center field concourse and banners showcasing the team's success have been added in recent years, it still does little to show the White Sox strong heritage.
The design is great for maneuverability/efficiency, but some obstructed view seats in the 500 level (upper deck) should just not exist, especially for a modern stadium like The Cell. U.S. Cellular's attempts to show off team history in and around the stadium do add to the stadium, though. For all of this I give U.S. Cellular 4 out of 5 Yeahhh Boyeeeees.
Game Experience: The experience of enjoying a game at the stadium.
I always enjoy games at The Cell. One word of advice for those going to the ballpark is to not wear the colors of that other team in Chicago. Overall there isn't too much going on in between innings, at least not to the point where it's obnoxious. A shirt toss here or a trivia contest there. One thing I've always loved about going to games on the South Side is the 50/50 raffle. Basically you buy a raffle ticket (or 20) and if you win, you get half the pot. People usually bring home upwards of $3,000. Not too shabby.
The fans in Chicago are always fantastic and most of the time the Sox fans you come across know the game quite well. Plenty of support for the hometown team with Sox gear everywhere you look, even if attendance doesn't always show it. This definitely adds to the game experience.
Overall, the South Side of Chicago is a great place to see a game, but there is one HUGE drawback that partially wrecks the experience.
U.S. Cellular is the only stadium I've ever encountered something like this (although I'm pretty sure they're not alone): your ticket can only get you to your portion of the stadium. If you have an upper deck seat, you're stuck in the upper deck, you can't go anywhere else in the stadium. Which means if this is your first time to the ballpark, then you miss out on seeing the whole place.
This is a major detraction for me, especially from this aspect. I understand why this policy is in place, but it hurts the fan. Although each part of the stadium (main concourse, club level, upper deck) has basically the same amenities and kids can still access their special section of the park, but if you're someone who can't afford a lower level seat, then you're essentially a second class citizen.
Without that problem, The Cell would get a perfect 5 out of 5. Yet due to the fact you can't see the whole place, I bestow a 3 out of 5 to the park from the South Side.
Concessions: Overall pricing and convenience of ballpark concessions.
The prices at U.S. Cellular are the prices you'd expect at a major league park, and the concessions are the normal ballpark food with a little bit of Chicago flair. If you want a sausage or a brat, they're all there. If you want a Chicago-style hot dog it is available, but for the love of everything do not put ketchup on that dog. That's a major no-no in Chicago.
Since hot dogs are a big deal in this city, as is beer it's a bit hard to knock the selection, especially considering it's ballpark food to begin with. I'm going to give it a 4 out of 5.
View: View of game play from the seats, along with scenery surrounding the stadium.
As I mentioned earlier in this post there are some obstructed view seats in The Cell that are definitely a detractor. That minor problem aside, the vast majority of seats are great and on the main concourse the field is always in view.
Meanwhile, the scenery surrounding the park, well, there isn't any. The stadium and the scoreboard look nice, but it's in a bad neighborhood surrounded by apartment complexes. One nice view is the skyline of Chicago from the ramps leading to the sections.
This is basically the middle of the road for this category, so the park formerly known as Comiskey gets 3 Yeahhh Boyeeeees.
Personality: Does the stadium have it's own unique personality and does it capture the personality of the city/team it represents.
U.S. Cellular still lacks a lot of soul, but thanks to the renovations it doesn't look as drab as it once did. The stadium does have its share of history displayed throughout the stadium, including tributes to different eras on the various levels of the entry ramp.
With that said, it still isn't enough to really give it a strong personality. I would give The Cell a 3, but the fact that this stadium is built in a neighborhood that basically defines the stereotype of the South Side of Chicago I'm going to up it to a 4.
That gives U.S. Cellular Field a final score of 18 out of 25. The Cell is a good stadium to see a game at and I recommend it, because Obama had it right, the South Side is where real baseball is played.
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