SBD/July 12, 2013/Facilities

Chicago Landmarks Commission OKs Wrigley Sign Changes Over Tunney's Opposition

Wrigley Field's new video board will nearly triple the size of the old scoreboard
The Cubs have won a "key endorsement to put up a giant video board and oversize advertising sign that would rise above the outfield walls of Wrigley Field, two key revenue generators for the team" as part of its $500M plan to renovate the ballpark, according to Hal Dardick of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The 6-0 approval by the Chicago Landmarks Commission now "clears the way" for the Plan Commission and City Council to consider the team's full plan to "not only renovate Wrigley Field, but also redevelop surrounding land in the Wrigleyville neighborhood with a hotel and an office-retail complex." The 5,700-square-foot Jumbotron-like screen will be "nearly three times the size of Wrigley's famous old-fashioned scoreboard in center field." With a horizontal script sign on top and new night lights, it "would be 60 feet tall and 95 feet wide." The three-panel video screen itself "would be 95 feet wide and 48 feet tall." The videoboard will "spell the end of the vertical Toyota script sign in left field, but the commission approved a new script advertising sign for right field that would be about 80 percent larger than the old one." The approval "marks a potential turning point in negotiations" among Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts and city Alderman Tom Tunney "over the scope of the ballpark changes." Tunney had "argued for smaller signs but in the end the Cubs and Emanuel agreed to only minor changes on the video board; the script sign was reduced from 1,000 square feet to about 650 square feet." Emanuel and Ricketts are "expected to have further discussions before the Plan Commission meets next Thursday." The role Tunney will play is "uncertain, but Emanuel and Ricketts want the whole deal worked out and approved by the end of the month ... so construction can start right after the regular season concludes" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/12).

TUNNEY HOLDS FIRM: In Chicago, Fran Spielman reports Thursday's meeting was "delayed for two hours, in part, to allow" city Office of Legislative Counsel & Government Affairs Dir Matt Hynes to "huddle privately with Tunney in hopes of softening his opposition." Tunney in talking to the commissioner "choked back tears as he declared his opposition to a video scoreboard with lights." He said, "I can’t support a proposal that so dramatically affects the quality of life for residents. ... The enormity of this sign in your front window is obviously something that I have to be very attentive to" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/12). But former ESPN Radio 1000 Chicago host Harry Teinowitz called Tunney's stance "silly." Teinowitz: "Anybody that moves into Wrigleyville realizes that the Cubs are the attraction and you put up with stuff like lights beaming and picking up beer cans in the morning. Whatever keeps them at Wrigley Field, I am for." Comcast SportsNet Chicago's David Kaplan said, "What I don't understand is people in the community who complain that there's going to be more people. You moved in where a ballpark is." Teinowitz agreed and said, "For the people that complain about all of the stuff going on at Wrigley Field, why'd you move there? You're nuts, you're insane. Wrigleyville is one of the coolest places to live in the world" ("Sports Talk Live," CSN Chicago, 7/11). Meanwhile, the SUN-TIMES' Rick Morrissey wonders of the Cubs' negotiations with the city, "It's over now, right? No more talk of square footage and LED wattage? Don’t hold your breath." Until the renovations are done, the story "isn’t dead." Morriseey: "I envision Tunney making more demands from his soapbox even as the last bolt is being affixed to the video scoreboard" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/12).

CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN: Cubs historian Ed Hartig said Wrigley Field "has undergone changes pretty much from the opening" of the venue in 1914. Hartig said, "Change is inevitable, you have to make changes. But if you can actually bring the changes in slowly as well as try to capture some of the character of the ballpark as it existed, that's really the best way to preserve the look and feel of the ballpark." He added, "In order to survive, Wrigley Field has got to change. The fans' requirements for amenities at the ballpark, the players' requirements for amenities at the ballpark, they've changed. If you don’t change, you'll die. Wrigley Field will always survive if it is allowed to change with the times. It's changing, but it's still essentially the same ballpark that I first went to 43 years ago" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 7/11).
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