Although there are 30 major league ballparks to visit, there are actually 31 destinations where you can see a live major league game.
No. 31? Welcome to the Wrigley rooftops on Chicago's North Side.
For more than 50 years, enterprising occupants of multistory residential buildings on Sheffield and Waveland avenues, behind
, hauled lawn chairs, barbecues and coolers up to their roofs and peered over the fences to see the Cubs for free.
Over time, this cherished custom has morphed into a commercial enterprise. Old buildings have been rebuilt into multilevel complexes blending sports-bar design with frat-house ambience. Floor after floor of enclosed terraces and outdoor patios with flat-screen TVs lead up to bleachers on the roof. The 16 houses on the two streets have about 3,000 seats.
This ritzification of the rooftops comes with a hefty price tag. Game-day revels, which include admission and unlimited beer and food, cost as much as $150. And while the lifeblood of the enterprises is weeknight corporate events (bachelorette parties and softball league junkets dominate the weekends), out-of-town fans can gain admission by contacting the buildings in advance.
A few innings spent on some of the rooftops last summer revealed their style points. Wrigley Field is a historic treasure, but the venue is cramped. The rooftops provide as good a view of the game as the park's fabled outfield bleachers, with the added attractions of no innings lost while waiting in food lines, available bathrooms and a party atmosphere no matter the score.
Perversely, a bad season for the Cubs is good for out-of-towners who crave a taste of excess. In 2010, April's hopes had turned bitter by August, and that led to steep discounting of rooftop admissions, with those $150 tariffs whittled by half or more. One building's operator ended the summer by declaring bankruptcy.
The word out of Chicago is that the Cubs will be better this season, so rooftop prices will likely be up. Remember, though, that Cubs fans, whether they're in the park or on the rooftops, are eternal optimists.
For information on the rooftop buildings, go to http://www.