Wrigley Field Upgrades Get City Council Approval, But Some Details Remain Unresolved
The Chicago City Council yesterday unanimously approved the Cubs' $500M Wrigley Field renovation, but Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts in a statement said that his family "is not willing to start work until the rooftop club owners with lucrative views into the ballpark agree not to sue if new outfield advertising signs block their sightlines," according to Hal Dardick of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Ricketts also "demanded that the city enforce rooftop regulations, and he wants assurances about what happens with the organization's control over outfield signs once its revenue-sharing agreement with the rooftop owners expires at the end of 2023." Also "muddying the water is the Cubs' agreement to defer their request to build a pedestrian bridge over Clark Street to link the hotel they want to build with an office-retail complex and plaza." A source said that in "exchange for giving that up," the Cubs want Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney to "consider other moneymaking options for them." Those include an "archway over Clark with advertising and a new spectator deck behind the right-field bleachers." To build that deck, the right-field wall would "have to be moved onto Sheffield Avenue," which is eight feet more than "first envisioned." That would "remove a lane of traffic, and the deck would extend over the remaining width of the street." The Cubs also have "agreed to a 10-year moratorium on additional outfield signs beyond the two that have been approved." But in "exchange for that moratorium they are demanding that the rooftop owners agree not to sue over blocked views during the remaining 10 years of the revenue-sharing agreement." It is "expected that the Cubs and rooftop owners will discuss the issues soon and perhaps try to hammer out a written agreement." The Cubs, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Tunney yesterday "heralded the deal as something of a breakthrough" despite those remaining issues (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/25).
DRAMATIC ALTERATIONS: In Illinois, Don Babwin notes Wrigley's upgrades, some of which "could be completed as early as next season," collectively "represent the most dramatic additions since at least 1988, when the Cubs became the last team in the majors to install lights" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 7/25). ESPN CHICAGO's Jon Greenberg notes the team's entire building process is "expected to take five years and should provide the Cubs with plenty of revenue streams." A source said that the team's new videoboard is "probably two years away from being up at Wrigley Field." If the Cubs can begin construction this fall, the "first order of business will be to improve the player facilities, which include expanding the home clubhouse and adding batting cages and workout facilities, along with other amenities common at other stadiums." The team also will "expand the visitors clubhouse as part of an expansion on Sheffield and Addison that will include a new restaurant" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 7/24). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey writes, "This is going to be a better Wrigley Field for fans, or least the fans who want a clean, comfortable, more modern experience at the ballpark." Morrissey: "I used to be in the keep-Wrigley-as-a-museum-piece camp, but then I opened my eyes to the disagreeable seats, the cramped concourses and the nasty bathrooms. The wider my eyes, the more I wanted to see replays and stats on a video scoreboard, too." The cement and "old girders don’t make Wrigley Field; the people in the stands do" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/25).
CHECKS & BALANCES: Tunney said, "The balance that I’ve been trying to negotiate has been exhilarating, upsetting, exciting, exasperating ... I care too much and I know too much about my community." In Chicago, Fran Spielman writes Tunney "drove a hard bargain on behalf of his constituents and small businesses." Tunney: "Just make sure the Cubs do what they say they’re gonna do. No more head fakes." He added that he "wasn’t looking for a 'civil war' with the Cubs." But Spielman writes the team "had better honor its commitments to local residents if they want to avoid one." Tunney: "What is the adage? You have to be a good neighbor. Otherwise, I’ll be up your butt every day." Ricketts after the "unanimous vote he thought might never come" issued a statement thanking Emanuel, Tunney and the city council for "giving him the flexibility he needs to renovate Wrigley without a public subsidy." The Ricketts family has been "miffed by what they viewed as Tunney’s 'bizarre comments' on the Council floor -- particularly the alderman’s claim that the Cubs 'are supposed to be a catalyst for the other businesses, not try to snuff them out'" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/25). Also in Chicago, Mark Brown writes Tunney "still harbors a lot of resentment against the Cubs, in part for transgressions committed" by previous team Owner the Tribune Co. As with "many longtime neighborhood business owners and residents who predated the 'Wrigleyville' resurgence, Tunney also is resentful of those who think the Cubs are entirely responsible for the community’s economic well-being" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/25).