Damage to Grant Park after Cubs’ rally displaces softball teams
In this file photo from Nov. 4, 2016, fans walk by piles of garbage at Congress Parkway and Michigan Avenue as they leave after celebrating the World Series champion Chicago Cubs after the parade and rally in Grant Park in Chicago. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)
The Cubs are back to playing baseball at Wrigley Field, but their World Series celebration last fall in Grant Park has displaced many of the city’s recreational softball teams from their home fields.
Droves of fans who converged at the downtown park last fall for the Cubs’ World Series rally — dubbed "Cubstock 2016" by Cubs manager Joe Maddon — left the park damaged and unusable.
Because Grant Park restoration work is ongoing, adult recreational softball league games have been moved from the dozen softball diamonds at Lower Hutchinson Field to other city parks, said Chris Hastings, president of the Chicago Sport and Social Club, one of the largest organized adult leagues that has used those fields for years.
Parts of Lower Hutchinson Field, which is located at the park’s south end between Lake Shore Drive and Columbus Drive, south of Balbo Drive, were "damaged to point the reseeding and renovation project makes the field unplayable," said Hastings, adding that the Chicago Park District notified the club earlier this year that the softball leagues would be displaced.
"Certainly, it is an inconvenience and it’s not ideal," he said. "Thankfully the Park District has been helpful in trying to find more space for us to use."
The Chicago sport club’s softball games have been moved mainly to Lincoln Park, Union Park on the Near West Side and Smith Park in West Town, creating a rescheduling puzzle that Hastings said was "kind of like playing Tetris."
Despite the change of venues, Hastings expects to have the same number of players this spring as last spring. Last year, 50 teams — about 750 players — played softball three nights a week at Lower Hutchinson Field, he said.
Chicago celebrates the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series with a parade from Wrigley Field to Grant Park on Nov. 4, 2016.
The Cubs were on the hook to pay $388,000 for the restoration of Grant Park.
Sod was laid down last week to repair spots where grass was missing. Other repairs included grading, aeration and the addition of topsoil and sand.
The section of the park where the Lollapalooza headliners stage has been located in the past has been fenced off and unusable for months. Over the summer, Grant Park will be closed for Lollapalooza for days — and even longer if there is again damage from the influx of thousands of concertgoers.
Lower Hutchinson Field has been problematic over the years especially after it rains because it sits below grade and holds water. It’s among the city parks with the most ballfields.
The four softball diamonds at Upper Hutchinson Field, west of Columbus, remain open and teams are scheduled to play there this spring, park and league officials said.