If sports team championships are an analogy for anything, it’s that if you believe, work hard and ignore the naysayers who claim “it’s never gonna happen,” dreams can come true.
When the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last year, after reaching for the title for more than 100 years, residents of the Windy City and relocated fans of the beloved team far and wide burst into celebration.
“What I found uplifting was a sense that this was not only a wonderful Chicago story, but a story of positivity and pure joy that resonated around the country,” said David Whitaker, president and CEO of Choose Chicago.
A sports team can certainly spread cheer, as well as foster a sense of camaraderie that can glue communities together.
Similarly, for groups that book an off-site event at one of Chicago’s sports venues, there are opportunities for teambonding and fun, whether attendees are cheering from the sidelines or getting in on some competitive action.
Wrigleyville, the unofficial yet popular name of the area surrounding Wrigley Field, is an increasingly exciting prospect for meeting planners, as it also features Wrigley Rooftops, various group-friendly restaurants and upcoming developments such as a new conference center and park.
“Wrigleyville is a perfect destination for corporate groups,” said Andy Blackburn, Wrigley Field’s senior director of sales.
Its centerpiece, of course, is what fans call “Beautiful Wrigley Field,” which has preserved its original beauty, charm and traditions for more than a century.
“With the Chicago Cubs having won the World Series in 2016, fans and tourists are more excited than ever to support their favorite team and visit this iconic ballpark,” Blackburn said, noting that it sports newly renovated spaces for groups of all sizes.
Among them are Budweiser Patio and Left Field Porch, both located in the famous Budweiser Bleachers, and several climate-controlled suites.
“Whether clients are kicking off a convention or hosting a once-in-a-lifetime team outing, Wrigley Field is the perfect playground to take guests away from everyday life,” Blackburn said, and added that on non-game days, “groups can play catch, softball or even have a homerun derby on the historic field, with access to indoor batting cages and bullpen sessions.”
A noteworthy expansion at Wrigley Field, which according to Choose Chicago’s Whitaker has already generated a ton of interest from meeting planners, is nearing completion for the beginning of this baseball season. It includes the Park at Wrigley Field, an open-grass area that will accommodate tented receptions for up to 2,000 people, and adjacent to the park, the American Airlines Executive Conference Center, which will accommodate meetings of up to 300 people.
“Functional conference rooms include AV equipment and can be divided into smaller spaces, while a folding NanaWall system opens out to a patio overlooking Wrigley Field and the outdoor plaza,” Blackburn said. “Each meeting includes a personal touch of Wrigley Field, as guests receive Cubs-themed paper and pens.”
Another option for group gatherings during a Cubs game is Wrigley Rooftops, a set of 11 rooftops overlooking Wrigley Field, all with indoor and outdoor levels.
According to Co-Director Stacey Loukas, a meeting can be held inside in different settings, including boardroom, presentation or classroom setups, before the group moves outside for a game.
“It’s one of most unique sporting event experiences you can have,” she said. “It’s a way for groups to be part of the action—they’ll have views of Wrigley Field and of the city, too.”
Chicago is home to facilities that host teams for every major league brand, from MLB’s Chicago Cubs at historic Wrigley Field to the NBA’s Chicago Bulls at the United Center.
“From a meeting planner perspective, this assures almost any time of the year while a meeting is going on in Chicago, there is an option of a major league sports team in town playing,” said Choose Chicago’s Whitaker.
He added that while no sports facility is more famous than Wrigley Field, there is excitement brewing over the soon-to-open 10,000-seat Wintrust Arena. The future home of DePaul University’s Blue Demons basketball team will be connected to both McCormick Place and the new Marriott Marquis Chicago, which should also be open by year’s end.
“It’s generating a lot of new buzz about event options for our existing and new clients,” Whitaker said.