SBD/April 23, 2013/Facilities

Wrigley Field's Historic Status May Provide Obstacle To Addition Of Jumbotron

Opinions vary on adding a 6,000-square-foot videoboard to Wrigley Field
The renovation proposal for Wrigley Field agreed to between Cubs Owner the Ricketts family and the city of Chicago is “neither a good deal nor a done one,” according to architecture writer Cheryl Kent in a special to the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Wrigley is a “historic protected structure with its very own city ordinance saying what can and cannot be done to it.” Any new signage has to be “OK'd before it can be added to Wrigley Field, making the proposed 6,000-square-foot video screen considerably less than the sure bet suggested by the city and the Ricketts family.” What can be “pieced together from press releases, public statements and very sketchy renderings suggests Wrigley's protective ordinance is being tested rather than observed.” Were the plan suggested to be “fully implemented, Wrigley would be fundamentally damaged to dubious purpose.” In regard to the Jumbotron, the Ricketts family is “withholding a drawing presumably showing the scale of the video screen.” It is “impossible to admit such an animated monster and preserve the essential intimacy of Wrigley Field.” It would “overwhelm the park and dominate its views.” It is “absurd to irrevocably alter a historic structure for a false assumption and a contract Cubs owners would be the first to wish away and that will expire one day.” The Ricketts “neglect to mention the public contribution they would receive in the form of tax credits.” Chicago's landmarks website states that in exchange for “responsible historic renovation, the property tax bill on Wrigley could be cut to just 10 percent of its current rate for 10 years.” Admission to the National Register of Historic Places for Wrigley, which is being sought by the Ricketts, “would mean additional tax breaks at state and federal levels.” Taxpayers “indirectly pick up a big part of the renovation” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/22).

FOLLOWING BEANTOWN RECIPE: In Buffalo, Mike Harrington wrote Wrigley is “about where Fenway was in the mid-1990s, with a decision needed to either go forward with some major makeovers or to start anew.” It “looks like the Cubs are making the right play by giving the nod to history with an eye on the future.” The proposed scoreboard is “a necessity in this day and age, mostly for advertising, but it still saddens me.” Much like the Red Sox “have done with Yawkey Way, the Cubs will incorporate portions of Waveland and Sheffield Avenues into the ballpark -- and will block Sheffield off entirely for two hours before games.” The Yawkey Way “street carnival is one of the most successful facets of the Fenway renovation.” It added “all kinds of revenue streams and cut down dramatically on the crowding inside the park.” The Cubs could “certainly use a similar effect.” A better facility could “go a long way to help” President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein “work the same magic in Chicagoland that he did in Beantown” (BUFFALO NEWS, 4/21).

WHAT THE KIDS ARE WATCHING: Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s David Kaplan said the proposed scoreboard would feature a “lot of advertising” and having it “would be exceptionally cool.” But there are “others who do not want a jumbotron.” Chicago-based WMAQ-NBC’s Peggy Kusinski said, “Get with the program already, put it up there. It’s fine, it looks great.” Kusinski said it is “okay to like it the old-fashioned way but when you are losing fans and you’re trying to continue to build a fan base at the younger level, they’re going, ‘That’s not cool to go to Wrigley. They don’t have all the cool stuff’” (“Sports Talk Live,” CSN Chicago, 4/19).
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