Chicago Considers Easing Landmark Restrictions For Wrigley Field Renovations
Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney yesterday said that the proposal by Cubs owners to pay for renovations at Wrigley Field by relaxing advertising restrictions and other rules at the landmark ballpark is "just one of many ideas being floated to pay for the work,” according to John Byrne of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. But Tunney “did not rule out easing city landmark rules that make it difficult for the team to erect lucrative billboards, a key component in the proposal" by Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts to pay for the $300M renovations without using taxpayer money. Tunney said that Cubs officials “would need to negotiate with the owners of rooftop clubs overlooking Wrigley, who gave an icy reception Monday to the idea of new signs that could block their views.” Tunney said that one possible compromise “would involve the billboards being built on the rooftops and the Cubs splitting the proceeds with the businesses.” He added that the Cubs would “need area residents to buy in" to the team's idea of adding more night games. Tunney also “wondered about the Ricketts family's decision to drop plans for the so-called triangle building on land west of the ballpark in favor of an open area that could be used for outdoor activities.” Tunney said, "That building was going to include the kinds of businesses that would draw people to the neighborhood year-round" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/22). SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said, “The proposal made by the Cubs is the most one-sided stadium deal in favor of the city that I have seen in my lifetime.” Ganis said if he were advising Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, “I’d tell him to get it in writing and get it approved before Tom Ricketts woke up” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/22).
MAKING A CASE: In Illinois, Mike Imren writes, "As long as the Cubs continue paying taxes at a high level, the only better new plan would be to build a replica Wrigley Field somewhere else like the suburbs.” While it is “too dramatic to say that Wrigley Field is an ill wind away from falling down, it has outlived its usefulness for 21st century professional baseball.” As long as the Ricketts are “willing to ante up, the city should be willing to let them, albeit with a sane system of checks and balances” (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/22). A CHICAGO TRIBUNE editorial states the Ricketts “deserve credit for their efforts to get buy-in from fans, neighbors and surrounding businesses.” The editorial: “We're especially happy that the Cubs have come up with a Plan B to finance the face-lift. … This is no time for taxpayers to shoulder the costs and risks of upgrading a privately owned stadium.” But it continues: “It's not fair for the team to have its hands tied, either. Yes, the stadium is a landmark, but it houses a functioning business that can't survive unless the owners are allowed to adapt to consumer demands” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/22). In Chicago, Rick Telander writes under the header, “It Should Be Cubs First, Wrigley Second.” The Cubs' job is “to win a World Series before we all drift beyond the vines” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/22).