Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December Update

Thanks to some time off for the holidays, it's been a busy month of building. The most noticeable progress is probably the completion of the field/grass, which allowed me to bring back the ivy from earlier test models, and allowed me to add the players to the field. Chicago is of course in a heated series with St. Louis! I will be adding uniforms to the players, but for now they're staged the way they shipped from Lego - as close to the actual uniforms as I could get (which is not very close at all).

Sheffield Ave. has been expanded - I have one building left to add and one that needs the roof built out further but that will finish it. The infrastructure for the grandstand has also been built up considerably. That's actually the most tedious but is the least dramatic addition. I've also added several hundred more seats to the point that the first deck is almost complete. Keep in mind I have to paint each one green since they don't come that way...

With this month's progress this monstrosity is actually starting to look like Wrigley! It's been fun to take some pics (as shown) from the vantage point of a seat at the park. I think I have it pretty close in most sections so I'm pleased with it to-date.

I estimate that I'm about 70% done at this point (and somewhere up near 70,000 total pieces). Next up is the completion of the first deck, the press box, the second deck, and knocking out the last building and rooftop on Sheffield. I also have a lot more detail to add in some places but that'll likely be last - the baskets in the outfield, detailing the dugouts further, and we're starting to experiment with the lettering on the scoreboard. Yes, I said "we" as my wife is now helping with that section. I don't know if she's caught the spirit of this or if she's just trying to speed it's completion! It's likely a combination of the two.

I'll be busy taking my real estate license exams over the next few weeks, so I likely won't have another update until the end of January or early February. Enjoy!

PS - Some of you have asked about how I could ever move this thing. Fortunately, Lego Wrigley is modular! I included a pic of what it looks like when I pull a section out. This is part of what makes this build so tedious and time-consuming, but I've made it to travel from the start since I don't really know yet what I'll do with it when it's done.

Monday, November 30, 2009

November Update

It's been a little while since I posted an update. I took 6 weeks off to complete real estate school (my next hobby) and I also got stalled needing some specific pieces in order to continue. But alas, progress has continued!

The most noticeable addition is Sheffield Avenue, as I'm about 75% done with the buildings and rooftops along that street. I started adding some of the finer details as well - you may notice the billboard, the growing count of days "after championship" or "AC", and the famous Eamus Catuli! banner which is Latin for "move forward young, small bears" (or Go Cubs!).

I'm also making progress on the grandstand, which is the most tedious part of this effort and the one that requires the most pieces. I need mass quantities of dark gray 2x4 bricks and those are hard to come by in bulk. I have added the tunnels that lead up to the grandstand, which are shown here, and on the outside of the 3rd base side I've started to build the outer wall of the stadium.

All in all, this is still a fun project despite how time consuming it has been not only to build (using only photos of the Friendly Confines) but to continue to hunt for the right pieces. Hopefully I'll be done by Spring Training as I have a connection with the Mesa Hohokams and may be able to get it displayed at the stadium at some point.

I'm somewhere north of 50,000 total pieces at this point, and probably just over $3K in total investment. Based on the research I've been doing I should be able to fetch at least three times that when I'm done if I decide to sell it - so that's promising...

Monday, August 24, 2009

August Update

Its been about a month of building, resizing, rebuilding and of course the continual search for parts. But all-in-all, a pretty successful month of progress!

New this month are:

1) More buildings along Waveland Ave. In fact, only the fire station in the far left corner remains to be built to complete that row of buildings. If you look closely you'll see several spectators behind the windows of those buildings, and they're starting to populate the bleachers as well. I also still need to add "Budweiser" to the building with the red roof.
2) Outfield bleachers structure. All of the structure for the outfield is now complete, with only finishing touches remaining. The green that you see in the photos are the actual benches of the bleachers - they're being added as fast as I can find the right size plate pieces.
3) The field is near completion. I went with the two-tone green for the "fresh mowed" look of an MLB park! It was challenging to create the shape of the diamond and the field out of only square and rectangular bricks - but I'm pleased with the results so far.
4) The dugouts are in. Though I haven't added anything in them or in front of them yet, I'm glad to have them built into the grandstand structure. Stuff like that is actually a harder than it may appear!
5) Second deck is underway. After some testing I think I've found a process for adding the second deck - the suite level, and then on top of that will go the upper deck, and eventually the roof and light towers. The eventual height of the grandstand structure will be about twice the current height of the tallest grandstand element shown in the photos.

I'm certain that I've surpassed the 30,000 brick point - and I'm somewhere very close to $3,000 in total investment (I'm avoiding adding up the receipts!). If you enjoy seeing the photos of this ridiculous but fun project, please leave a note - it makes it easier to keep going during the times that this feels like an impossible task to finish!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

July Update

Since the last update I've moved the project from the kitchen table to a platform that I constructed by laying two pieces of 4'x8' drywall on top of two tables.

Once I did that I was able to outline the entire structure and make quicker progress! Also in July I finally got to attend a game at Wrigley, which provided me with all of the answers to any of the remaining questions I had about any of the stadium details.

So these are the most recent pics to-date. There's an estimated 14,000 pieces now used, and I would estimate the final project will have double that, so I might be closing in on the halfway point where the overall structure is concerned. I'm also somewhere around $2,000 in total cost, but hopeful that the final total will be closer to $3,000 as compared to my initial estimate of $4,000...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Waveland Ave Under Construction

With left and center field structurally complete, I've moved on to some of the buildings on Waveland Ave, the street that sits directly behind left field and is famous for it's rooftop bleachers.

So far I've completed two of the buildings that have been converted to bars and have the bleachers on top, and I've also completed the building with the famous Budweiser roof. I was reading the other day that there is no longer a Budweiser advertisement across the top of the red roof at the real Wrigley Field, but it will remain at this one! I'll eventually add "Budweiser" in white to the red rooftop.

The two buildings on the left have converted their third floors, adding giant windows from which you can view the game. If you look closely there are a few fans in there taking in an afternoon game. The bleachers are a little empty, but they'll fill up as I acquire more "minifigs" which is what the Lego people are technically called (see - I'm learning!).

I think I'm roughly around 15,000 total pieces so far. I still have to go back and add details to the left and centerfield bleachers, but I'm waiting to find some particular pieces. In the meantime, I've got four more buildings on Waveland to add (three to the left of the existing structures and one to the right of the Bud rooftop) and several more that I can build on Sheffield Ave, which is behind the right field bleachers.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Part 5: Left Field and Center Field Assembled

While additional details are still forthcoming, the left field and center field bleacher sections are for the most part assembled - along with the ivy growing on the outfield walls. I'm quickly running out of building space so these are built as two separate sections that can be combined at some point later on when more space permits.

It takes much more time to figure out what pieces are needed and to acquire them than it does to actually build the structures!

I'm in the process of gathering the pieces to finish the details for these sections (fences, lights, benches, and a few other small details) as well as to build the houses on Waveland Ave behind the wall with the rooftop seating. That will help to complete this "view" of the stadium before I move on to the rest of the grandstand - which is still in prototype phase as I try to figure out the colors, types, and quantities of pieces needed.

While time consuming, the project gets more fun as it starts to take shape... :-)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Part 4: Progress - Centerfield Bleachers

After successfully testing & learning how to build the grandstand bleachers with maximum efficiency it was time to put the knowledge to use by building the centerfield bleachers that lead up to the scoreboard. After 2 models (one which broke in transit from one table to another) and probably about 30 hours of building, here's how the centerfield bleachers turned out...

The centerfield bleachers include the batter's eye, which is the green section that serves as the backdrop behind the pitcher from the batter's point-of-view. There is shrubbery included in the batter's eye, as well as a camera well just above it - I included pics of each.

Overall, I would estimate that there are about 5,000 pieces in the centerfield bleacher structure. Its 22 inches in height to the top of the scoreboard, 32 inches to the top of the flagpole, and 35 inches wide. It is still missing several pieces of detail - fences will run along the back and the top of the sides, benches (green flat plates) will be put on the steps to form the actual bleachers, the flagpole still needs some more detail, I need to put small lights on top of the scoreboard, and I have to create the lettering (via labels) for the scoreboard.

The next sections of bleachers will be built off of the left and right of this structure. They'll incorporate hinge pieces so that I can start to make a circular outfield out of square and rectangle bricks. Its still a fun project - and challenging!

I have found some alternate sources of bricks - including an unofficial online marketplace (brinklink.com), a local distributor (brickbros.net), and I also learned that if you catch the right folks at the Lego store you can buy an entire case of the same piece. I think I'm somewhere between $700 and $800 dollars so far, which includes everything for the centerfield section and thousands of other pieces I've yet to put to use.

Also - I owe a huge thank you to Bernie Wu, a friend of ours who works with Amiee and who happened to attend a game at the Friendly Confines last week. He snapped a ton of pictures and some videos that have been extremely helpful. His pics will successfully supplement everything else I've found online and should prevent me from having to fly there myself this summer! Not only does that save money, but I think flying 2000 miles away to research a Lego project would put me in an entirely different class of person - that's a road I'm not certain whether or not I want to walk down yet...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Part 3: Grandstand Tests

With a successful scoreboard test completed (granted I still needed to expand the flagpole), I moved on to some grandstand prototypes. Considering I was already in about $100 with only a scoreboard to show for it, I became more aware that efficiency was going to be as important in my design as anything else.

I went through four different prototypes before I settled on a design that offered maximum efficiency without sacrificing strength - after all, these grandstand pieces will eventually hold up the skybox level, press box, upper deck, light towers, etc. so they'll have to be strong and sturdy. They'll also have to seat many hundreds, probably thousands, of mini spectators.

The grandstand sections near first and third base will also have to incorporate dugouts - so I started playing with those designs as well. These pics show the grandstand design that I ultimately settled on, along with some first concepts of the dugout (shown with the top pulled off, but complete with Gatorade bottles on the back shelf) and first concepts of the short brick wall the circles the field. I will likely keep several elements of this dugout in the final design - I'm less happy with the bricks. I will keep trying different colors and approaches to that feature.

Discovering how to most effectively and efficiently build the grandstand was a huge second step. I'll likely tear this one down to build it even more efficiently in it's final design, but that will take only a fraction of the time it took to build this one. Considering the time it took to construct this one, and the three lesser models that came before it, it took about 12 hours to discover how to build the grandstand. This last model would be one of seven just like it. It contains approximately 3500 pieces, including 200 individual seats. Lego only makes a few colors of seats, and green isn't one of them - that's a problem I'll have to solve eventually as Wrigley's seats are dark green.

I've started buying some pieces for some of the other elements to come including the ticket booths, windows, and outside elements that can been seen from the corner of Clark & Addison. Total cost so far is around $400. I'm definitely going to start having to find deals on some old used Legos because the cost of buying them new will grow pretty rapidly. Unless I find some used ones or a new source to buy through, I'm projecting the total cost of the project to push about $4,000! But it is a lot of fun, and a great stress relief.

Part 2: Where to Begin?

Once I had gathered and sorted hundreds of pics from Flickr, and visited Google Earth to confirm the layout, placement and counts of the houses on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues, I had to determine what to build first.

It seemed apparent that I should choose one of the more detailed elements, build it, and then let it determine the scale for all of the other elements to correspond to. After a few considerations, I determined that the scoreboard in centerfield would be the perfect piece to begin with.

I attached one of the pics that I used as a guide to build the scoreboard. In its simplest form, the scoreboard is essentially a giant green rectangle with a black rectangle underneath it. The green rectangle contains white stripes that hold placement for out-of-town scores, along with an area in the center for in-game scoring details. A tall white flagpole extends from the top of the scoreboard.

I used Excel as a grid to draw out each line of bricks that would be needed, and then purchased them at the Lego store or through Lego.com for the pieces I couldn't find elsewhere. In total I spent about 3-4 hours drawing out the grid in Excel, and ordering the pieces I would need. Once the pieces arrived a week later I started building.

Attached is a pic of the first attempt at the scoreboard. It will be completed with decals that will say National, Out, Strike, etc. in fine detail. Those details were too small to build with Legos - though I did try to design for that and in order to use bricks to spell out the words the scoreboard would end up being about 6 feet tall by about 10 feet wide. Granted, this thing will be big enough when finished...

This scoreboard contains approximately 2200 individual pieces and was built in about 2 hours once I had all of the right pieces. That seemed about right to me that it would take twice as long to design as it would to actually build. I was also pleased that it turned out pretty much like I expected to. Excel certainly isn't designed for Lego models - but my guesses at the cell height and width turned out to be pretty accurate. Gosh, have you ever read anything more geek-like than this last paragraph?

The cost of the pieces just for the scoreboard was around $90. I need to make the flagpole bigger - that will likely cost another $5 in pieces as well to make it taller, wider, and to add more flags blowing. I'll also have to add the small lights that run across the top of it. This is going to be expensive...

Part 1: Birth of the Project

A few weeks back we took our 4-year-old daughter to Legoland. She had a great time, but I think Dad had an ever better time! I was fascinated by the miniature versions of Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco, and D.C. (see pic). It took me back to my childhood days of playing with Legos - which were among my favorite toys (Star Wars and baseball cards being the others). But I had never conceived of building anything of such scale with them - and the thought of that was very intriguing and challenging to me. I commented to my extremely talented and beautiful wife (I know she'll read this) while we were there that the mini-cities were somewhat incomplete without the sports stadiums. That's when it dawned on me that building a stadium could be my project!

I kicked the idea around for a couple of weeks after we returned - not sure whether or not I wanted to get involved in such a large-scale project. It seemed a little impractical - it would certainly take up a lot of time and money, and given the economy (and the fact that I work in financial services!) the timing didn't seem right. But something told me I could do it, and that I should do it. Then I heard a voice - it said "if you build it, he will come." Just kidding - but I did quickly come to realize that this was going to be my Field of Dreams. I'm in my mid thirties, I really don't think my dream of playing professional baseball is going to happen, and I don't necessarily have a reputation for doing impractical things or taking huge risks (I can get sick on a playground swing). So instead of plowing under my corn and building a field in the middle of Iowa, I'm going to invest hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars building one that I won't be able to do anything with other than look at it - and yet I can't wait to get started!

As a Twins fan, the Metrodome was obviously the first consideration. But let's face it, its a monstrosity of a stadium - a giant concrete and plastic dump. I love that stadium for the memories I have of it, but as a physical strucuture its awful and I can't transform my memories into anything I can build out of Legos. So I next thought about building Fenway Park (Boston) so that I could build the Green Monster and the other elements of the Red Sox 97 year-old ballpark. But as I thought through all of the elements, the only piece outside of the stadium itself worth creating would be the giant Citgo sign beyond left-center field.

The thought of incorporating elements outside of the stadium led me to considering Wrigley - which would provide the opportunity to build not only a stadium, but the surrounding "Wrigleyville" area as well. I visited Flickr and was pleased to find over 46,000 pics of Wrigley and the neighborhood that had been uploaded. It seemed that just about every angle of the park was captured in a pic at their site. As I began scanning through them I became certain that there would be no better stadium project to build. But where to begin?