In 1981, I used to watch Superman the cartoon on WGN every day! One day I turned on WGN, and I was disappointed because there was a Cubs game on. Right away, I heard this old man get all excited and say, “There’s a line drive down the line…one run is in…two runs are in, and here’s another runner coming around third…Here’s the throw…He is safe!!!” That old guy was none other than Harry Caray. His love and enthusiasm radiated right through the TV and into my soul, and from that moment on, it was all Cubs!
Shortly after that, my mom started taking my younger brother Eric and me on road trips to see the Cubs. Many of the pieces in Club 400 are from these trips, so there are many memories behind the items that you see in Club 400 today. I can tell you where we were and the situation in which we met that player or broadcaster!
Club 400 Alumni
- Kyle Schwarber (2018)
- Javy Baez (2018)
- Ray Burris (2018)
- Bill Buckner (2018)
- Len Kasper (2017)
- JODY DAVIS (2017)
- LEE SMITH (2017)
- BOB DERNIER (2017)
- 2016 WORLD SERIES TROPHY (2017)
- BOB IBACH (2017)
- DAVID HAUGH (2017)
- RYNE SANDBERG (2017)
- RANDY HUNDLEY (2017)
- GENE HISER (2016)
- JESSE ROGERS – ESPN 1000 (2016)
- DAVID KAPLAN – ESPN 1000 (2016, 2017)
- ANTHONY RIZZO (2016)
- JOHN VINCENT (2016, 2017)
- ANDRE DAWSON (2016)
- MARK GRACE (2016)
- PAT HUGHES (2016)
- STEVE TROUT (2016)
- GARY PRESSY (2016)
- DAVE OTTO (2016)
- KERRY WOOD (2015)
- FERGIE JENKINS (2015)
- IVY MAN (2015)
- TOM RICKETTS (2014, 2017)
- TED BUTTERMAN AND THE CUBS DIXIELAND BAND (2013, 2014, 2015)
- JOHN HENDRICKS (VARIOUS)
- CLUB 400 OPENS AND IS COMPLETED ON August 24th, 2013
My love for the Cubs never wavered. As I got older, I was always known as a huge Cubs fan. I would say at the age of 15 or 16, I knew I wanted to take my Cubs memorabilia and make the ultimate Cubs Man Cave.
At the age of 31, I met my wife Lisa at the Full Shilling in Wrigleyville. Fortunately for me, the Cubs were rained-out that day and never played. Without the rain-out, I might have never met her. Two years later, I proposed to her on a rooftop overlooking Wrigley Field before a Cubs game. We had our engagement party right after in a skybox at Wrigley with family and friends, and then had a classy Cubs-themed wedding a year later.
When we started shopping for houses, I would head straight to the basement to see if I could build my dream in that space. Lisa would get frustrated wondering why I wasn’t interested in the rest of the house!
In 2008, we had our house built and got married. In 2009, I started my dream. The first thing we did was build a brick wall made from a lot that was ordered from the Cubs for a renovation: the same bricks you see in the wall behind home plate today. For four years, the project kept going. If something wasn’t done right, we would redo it. Every corner had to be perfect. I had a lot of help along the way. Lisa’s brother, Brian Meade, is an architect. He made a blueprint, and we tweaked it, and finalized it. He told me that every time you turn in a different direction, we want it to be a major focal point.
Another person that was of major importance was Brad Biddick, who designed and put together all the lighting. Everything was thought out. No detail was left unturned.
During the 4-year long process, I would not let anyone see it except the contractors who worked on it. At one point during the project, I thought the place was looking gaudy. I felt that this is just too much…too many colors, and so forth. I held the job of interior decorator on the project, and I really did not know anything about interior decorating. After all, I am color blind…but, I stayed the course and kept moving along. Then one day I went down there and was like HOLY COW…look what I have done!
Right around that time, the MLB had a MLB Fan Cave Contest. Even though I was only 60% completed with my project, I represented the Cubs in New York and won the award for 2013 Man Cave of the Year. That was an awesome experience.
One of the final pieces to complete Club 400 was the “centerpiece”: the Cubs bar. I hired Dan Sheetz of DP Sheets and Design. He saw the passion I had for the project, and it carried on through him. I had him build the bar at his place. I remember going to his office and seeing the bar top finished. It was beautiful. Dan had pulled it off. He built me the ultimate Cubs bar. I could not wait until it was in my basement, and I would be drinking beers and shots of Jagermeister off of it. I still remember my first beer at that bar. It was a beer that was 4 years coming, and it tasted good!!
I had a private showing and invited all of my close friends and family over. One by one, I gave each a private tour. What I soon realized was that I had something really special. I think I lost that aspect for a while because I was so close to the project. It was like being married for 10 years and forgetting how beautiful your wife was. When I saw my friends’ faces light up like a Christmas tree, I knew that I nailed it! I did it. My dream was a reality. I had the best place to watch Cubs games besides Wrigley Field and Sloan Park!
I have always said that when I walk into Wrigley Field my life’s problems/issues/concerns stay outside. Now when I walk down the 14 stairs to Club 400, I feel the same exact way.
On August 24th, 2013, I officially revealed Club 400 celebrating my 40th birthday.
It was a personal milestone that ranks up there with my marriage and the birth of my daughter Lauren!
A few things I remember that night were guests telling me I had created something special and that maybe I should use it for good. Little did I know that night was what to come…that I was going to use my dream to help others!
Cubs Fans Helping Cubs Fans
In 2014, I went to the Cubs Convention and had a stack of 20 pictures of Club 400. Every year since the Ricketts purchased the Cubs, they have a session called Ricketts Family Forum. I went up front, and I placed the pictures on the podium where Tom would be speaking. The session went on, and when Tom left, he took the pictures and put them in his suit coat pocket. I raised a silent fist pump. I was like, “Yes! He will get to see my creation.” On Sunday, Tom was signing autographs, and he saw me and waved me over. He told me that he saw a picture or two, but really did not know the extent of the project. He was impressed and told me that he would like to come out and see it. I was shocked. The owner of the Chicago Cubs wants to come over to my house and see my project? He gave me his e-mail and told me to contact him.
On May 19, I had a small party. My buddy Nick Sheridan came over. (see his story here: http://www.meningitis-angels.org/nickeb.htm ) That night the Blackhawks were eliminated from the playoffs. Nick and I had a conversation about how he crashed his sprint car because his prosthetic arm fell off while driving, which caused him to drive into the wall. He was done for the season. He damaged the wing of his car.
We talked about maybe Club 400 sponsoring him and purchasing a new wing to get him back on the track. We drank some more beers and the night ended.
I woke up the next morning and thought to myself, “Nick does not need a new wing, he needs new prosthetics. Wait a minute…Tom Ricketts wants to come out here!!” The lightbulb went on right then!
I contacted Lorraine, who is Tom’s secretary, and told her my idea. Tom was in for it! We set a date of August 27th. The Cubs were in dead last. Their record was at 59-73. That night was the debut of Jorge Soler.
Tom arrived, and Club 400 became Club 400 that night. We raised over $30,000 for Nick, and he was on his way to getting new prosthetics!
I was amazed at our success, and I realized that night that Club 400 was now going to be used to help Cubs fans and Cubs related charities. Our mission statement is simple… “Cubs Fans Helping Cubs Fans!”
Club 400 Fun Facts
I came up with various names for the basement. I eventually chose the name Club 400 because of the famous 400 feet painted on the ivy-covered centerfield walls of Wrigley. I inserted Club because I love to have a good time, and I love music.
Brandon Ort created the famous Club 400 logo! He actually won a contest by the Cubs. He designed the logo for Wrigley Field’s 100th Anniversary. He also designed our special event logos used on T-Shirts.
Tom Ricketts gifted a one-of-a-kind life-sized bobble head of Anthony Rizzo to Club 400 on the eve on Opening Day 2015.
Our first player at Club 400 was Kerry Wood. Kerry was big part of our past. We are the originators of the “WE GOT WOOD” T-shirt that debut in March 1998.
The large Cubs sign in Club 400 that is a focal point was on Wrigley Field for many years.