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Thursday, Apr 17th

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Cubs exploring hotel, courtyard as part of Wrigley Field upgrades

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Wrigley Field

The Chicago Cubs are making another run at public support for Wrigley Field upgrades, and as part of the deal are talking a new hotel next to the historic ballpark as well as other area improvements.

The team's manager of community outreach, grants and donations, Jennifer Dedes Nowak, made a presentation to a neighborhood association that outlined some of the potential changes. The off-discussed triangle building, which would be built next to the ballpark along Clark and south of Waveland, is now envisioned both as office space and a courtyard featuring a skating rink or movie-viewing area. A McDonald's on Clark would be torn down (it's now owned by the Ricketts family, who also own the Cubs) and replaced by a hotel. (This is a huge gain for the neighborhood; there are not many hotels in the larger Wrigleyville area.) Wrigley Field upgrades would both be in public areas/suite areas and infrastructure, featuring revamped clubhouses, new batting cages and upgraded player spaces.

One thing Nowak couldn't discuss at the meeting is any public funding of the upgrades. The Ricketts family -- Joe Ricketts in particular -- famously irritated Mayor Rahm Emanuel last summer when talk surfaced of the elder Ricketts potentially funding a nasy anti-Obama ad campaign. Also, we're guessing financial talk is way above Nowak's pay scale; she was meeting with the neighborhood group to appraise them of potential changes. From Patch.com:

“As of now we’re exploring the options of where the funds come from,” Dedes Nowak said Tuesday. “If we got some kind of public financing or agreement with the city, that might allow us to do a little more, and then we’d move on the next stage to redevelopment. That’s in discussions elsewhere, though, and I don’t think that’s anything that imminent.”

Indeed. Any talk of Wrigley Field improvements -- even if there's not a single penny of public money involved -- will be a long, drawn-out discussion. Adding in any public money in the form of TIF or amusement-tax financing will complicate things even more. The Ricketts already blew one prime chance to make the changes work, but the right plan could persuade a lot of people to take a second look at the idea.

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