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Cubs reno plan draws harsh criticism from key alderman

Wrigley Field

A plan to renovate Wrigley Field and add more signage has drawn pointed opposition from influential Ald. Tom Tunney, who says the interests of surrounding rooftop bleacher owners must be protected.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Tunney wasn’t particularly subtle in slamming Chicago Cubs ownership in favor of rooftop-bleacher owners, who have hosted fundraisers for him in the past. Keeping those views of the ballpark open, he argued, is more important than any effort to put more money into renovations of Wrigley Field. The Cubs have proposed a $300 million renovation of the ballpark, which would include structural improvements, a new suite/club level replacing the current mezzanine/suite area, and more. Half of the cost would come from bonds issued against future amusement-tax revenues collected by the city and Cook County (which would probably need to be issued by a third party), the rest from the team. The Cubs would also receive permission to put up a larger scoreboard (the current manual scoreboard would remain) and close Waveland and Sheffield on game day to accommodate fans.

“The rooftops and the owners of Wrigley have a unique partnership,” Tunney said. “They want to be protected long-term. They have a lot invested. The city has asked them to spend millions to keep their buildings safe. We’ve got to find ways they can both stay in business.” 

Now, we love the charm of the rooftop bleachers and think they add to the overall atmosphere at Wrigley Field. But openly declaring their interests come before those of the Cubs is more than a little twisted; it’s keeping the dog on life support so the fleas can thrive.

In fact, there’s no part of the plan he likes, apparently. He’s against closing down Waveland and Sheffield on game days, even though both streets are basically closed down on big game days right now anyway; one suspects he’s more against the Cubs opening points of sale outside the ballpark than any actual street closure. And he’s against any effort by the Cubs to emulate the Boston Red Sox in their renovations of Fenway Park:

“I didn’t find a lot of similarities between Fenway Park and what we’re trying to accomplish here. I was underwhelmed,” he said. “Its location is certainly not in the middle of a successful LakeView community. Our neighborhood is much more residential in character. Boston is a great city. It’s just that, what we have here is a lot more potential. Part of that is how the stadium relates to the community and to the rooftop experience.”

Well…no. The vast majority of fans attending Wrigley Field games don’t really give a crap about the rooftop bleachers. Chicago politics tends to be on the raw side, and this is such a clear case of Tunney choosing to represent the interests of rooftop-bleacher owners and bar owners over the Cubs. Really, this is all a debate about who makes money off Cubs games. The Cubs, naturally, want to retain more of that money for the team. Tunney wants to limit the Cubs in their gameday operations to make sure the local businesses have a shot at attracting Cubs fans. Of course, this is merely Tunney throwing down a first offer in what’s sure to be some detailed and nasty negotiations, the start of the political Kabuki dance that will inevitably lead to compromises and both sides declaring they got what they want.

RELATED STORIES: Cubs funding request: $500M in Wrigley Field improvementsEmanuel plan for Wrigley renovation: set aside landmark statusIllinois guv: No public money for ballpark renovationsCity, Cubs finalizing terms of Wrigley Field renovationsRicketts: Time to talk Wrigley Field public funding againWant to buy a chunk of Wrigley Field? Dream onGammon rips Wrigley Field, defends RickettsMayor Rahm: No to city aid for Wrigley FieldPoll: Voters oppose public funding of Wrigley Field renovationsState funding of Wrigley Field renovations dies as Assembly adjourns


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