The addition of Bacardi at the Park sports bar and restaurant to the U.S. Cellular grounds gives those same pennant-hopeful White Sox a fan destination point within the destination point.
This new facility, operated by the Gibsons Restaurant Group, was put on display for the media Tuesday, but more importantly, will be open to the public starting at 5 a.m. CT on Thursday. The team's home opener takes place against the Rays at 1:10 p.m.
Adding on this restaurant basically serves as a case of the White Sox organization listening to its fan base.
"It started when we did the naming-rights deal with U.S. Cellular and put the roof on the ballpark and made the upper deck a little less steep or at least feel a little less steep," said Brooks Boyer, the White Sox senior vice president, sales and marketing, of the ballpark's latest positive change. "Then, we put all these different locations in [the ballpark], and those were all in response to what our fans wanted. This is the next step.
"When you look at some of the different fan amenities we offer, the one thing really missing was the location before and after the game when people can gather to talk about the game. Hopefully, there will be more times to toast to a victory than to drown your sorrows in a loss.
"We think partnering with Gibson's to put in a location like this is only going to enhance the ballpark atmosphere," Boyer said. "It only is going to enhance the experience fans will have before and after games."
Along with Bacardi at the Park, the White Sox have added new food on the LG Skyline Club Level and in the Stadium Club, and have added the Artisan Bar in the Stadium Club. The new Bacardi bar/restaurant located at Gate 5 becomes a bit more crucial to the White Sox masses, especially since a game-day ticket is not needed to get inside.
A game ticket will allow you to come out of the ballpark and re-enter if a trip to Bacardi at the Park is on the docket for a rain delay, for example. After Opening Day, the restaurant will open at 11 a.m. and close after the game as "demand dictates," according to Boyer.
"I think it's going to be a lot like other experiences around the ballpark, but a little bit more," said Greg Horan, the director of operations for Gibsons and the individual heading up this project at U.S. Cellular Field. "We are trying to do things that are really high quality, as far as the service and the food and obviously the layout. It's a very comfortable place, and the White Sox did a wonderful job putting this place together."
Seventy-four televisions have been positioned throughout the two levels of Bacardi at the Park, as well as the outside seating area as part of this venue, with the White Sox, Bulls, Blackhawks and other baseball games featured. The opening menu will be small, according to Horan, but will feature Gibson's USDA prime angus burger along with ribs, pulled pork and brisket coming from the in-house smoker, with everything made fresh daily.
Valet parking won't be an option. But fans can drop their car keys at the hostess stand, and car runners will get the cars and move them into nearby Lot B.
With a new 35th Street Metra station open as of April 3, Bacardi at the Park also becomes a place to hang out until that needed train arrives. There's a media stage where special events can take place, with WSCR 670 AM, the White Sox flagship radio station, broadcasting there on Thursday along with the morning show for WGN-TV.
Bacardi at the Park won't be open on non-gamedays. But if demand dictates and the White Sox success cooperates, it might become a destination even when the White Sox are away.
"Just a terrific sports bar, and a neat place to come watch a game and to get some good food," Boyer said. "Hopefully it's something for White Sox fans to be proud."