I've attended a couple of Cubs game this season at Wrigley Field and — like other fans — have noticed many of the changes happening at the Friendly Confines.
Most notably, an enormous video board in left field (there's another, slightly smaller one in right field) catches your attention.
The first game I went to, I kept forgetting to look at the video board from my seat in the bleachers. More than 25 years of attending Cubs games without being able to see a replay creates habits that are tough to break.
It didn't take long, however, for me to fall in love with that video board. I always have enjoyed my visits to Wrigley Field and never really felt like anything was missing from the experience. But that video board unquestionably makes an already great venue even better.
Similarly, I feel the same way about Washington Park's new North Pointe Pavilion. I have to admit, I'm not crazy about the name. Sounds more like a bank than a beach venue, but that's a topic for another day.
The structure itself, however, is an absolute home run.
I've been to Washington Park, as has most everyone else in town, pretty regularly for most of my life. Included in those trips to our lakefront has been attendance at any number of events at the former J.C. Stage, which was bulldozed to make room for the Pavilion.
I thought that former stage was adequate enough. I always had a good time there watching a band or sampling craft beer. It never really dawned on me that we could do so much better.
Well, this North Pointe Pavilion represents a significant upgrade over its predecessor.
First, having the venue run from west to east (rather than north and south) is a stroke of brilliance. Now, if you're enjoying some music, you can still see the beach, which is — hello — the reason we're all down there in the first place. The vista created by the water, sand and dunegrass is pretty spectacular, especially from the upstairs platform that provides a previously unavailable view of the lakefront.
There's also good food with the Fire and Water concession stand. Honestly, "concession stand" probably isn't even a fair phrase. This isn't hot dogs and walking tacos. It's really, really good food provided by one of the town's most-liked restaurateurs. There's also the opportunity to purchase from a great selection of wine and craft beer at reasonable prices.
Washington Park needed a signature outdoor venue and now it has one. You may be like me and never really though that the J.C. Stage needed replacing. But, let's face it, the old beast wasn't attracting anyone on its own. North Pointe Pavilion is, on its own, a great lakefront attraction.
There's no reason to settle for anything second rate, and I applaud those who had the vision to bring such a great venue to our lakefront. It's quite an achievement and anyone who had a hand in it should be proud.
Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-219-214-4170.