Hearing "Striiiiike three!" called, eating hot dogs and popcorn, listening to the crack of the bat, and participating in the seventh inning stretch - all are important facets of the major league baseball experience. As fans are on their way home, they rarely think about what happens after the ninth inning has ended. That's when the players head straight to the locker rooms for showers - preferably hot showers.

Spring 2001 marked a new era for the Chicago Cubs, but not necessarily because of the team's stellar performance and league-leading statistics. A Lochinvar(r) (Lebanon, TN) Intelli-Fin(r) water heater was installed in the locker rooms to meet the hot water demand for the 40 players and coaches taking showers at the same time.

Originally built in 1914, Wrigley Field is the second-oldest ballpark in the major leagues behind Boston's Fenway Park. It has been the site of many historic moments, including Babe Ruth's "called shot" when Ruth allegedly pointed to a bleacher location and then hit the next pitch for a homer, and Pete Rose's 4,191st career hit, tying him with Ty Cobb for the most hits in baseball history.

Throughout the 1990s, Wrigley Field was the site of numerous construction and renovation projects. Construction designs included adding private boxes on the mezzanine level; adding a press box, broadcasting booths, and food court in the upper deck; and renovating the visitors' clubhouse and the Stadium Club. Lochinvar water heaters were installed in the visitors' clubhouse and the Stadium Club in 1995.

Taking care of the home team

As the 2000 season ended, Paul Rathje, director of stadium operations, knew he needed to replace the locker room water heater. The 14-year-old gas-fired water heater had failed repeatedly throughout the 2000 season, causing considerable discomfort for Cubs players and staff.

Rathje realized the specification requirements for the new water heating system would be hard to meet. The physical space for the water heater was small and the new system had to be reliable. Players taking cold showers was not an option.

"The Lochinvar Intelli-Fin water heater met all three major requirements. It provided enough hot water for the showers, the tank fit under the stadium ceiling, and the flue system was able to be vented out to the stadium wall," explains Rathje.

With incoming water temperatures of 37 degrees F, the old water heater could not keep up with the load. To help meet the demand, heated water was being stored at 200 degrees. Lochinvar sales representatives Rick Butler and Marco Spallasso recommended the installation of the Intelli-Fin (IWN1500) with a RGA250 tank. The tank was specially built to fit under the pitch of the stadium ceiling. This combination provides almost 2,000 gal of hot water within the first hour. The Intelli-Fin is operating at 150 degrees and Rathje is considering lowering the temperature further.

"The Intelli-Fin operates so efficiently that I expect to see savings on energy, utility, and maintenance costs," Rathje says. The Lochinvar Intelli-Fin operates at a 97% thermal efficiency rating, which means $0.97 out of every fuel dollar are used to create heat.

Cool under pressure

Another challenge for the Lochinvar crew was the replacement of the old flue system. The previous heater was vented with a power venter and B-vent flue material, and the old flue, installed near a walkway and some of the food vending areas, was visible to the public. A new flue system was installed and had to be vented 100 ft out to the stadium wall. The positive pressure Intelli-Fin and multiple venting options provided an easy installation solution for this renovation project.

Gas pressure was another concern with the specification. At times, the gas pressure at Wrigley Field has dropped to less than 5-in. wc. The Intelli-Fin can operate with a minimum inlet gas pressure as low as 4-in. wc, preventing nuisance operational problems in areas of varying gas supply pressures.

Rathje also is seeing firsthand how products with emerging technologies, such as LonWorks, impact how he manages the facility. The diagnostic equipment on the Intelli-Fin provides key information to keep it operating at maximum efficiency.

"As in all sports venues, there was not an open budget for this type of project. After reviewing all criteria, the Intelli-Fin's features and benefits, especially its high operating efficiency, heavily outweighed any budget issues," concludes Rathje.