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Cubs, Chicago agree on Wrigley Field updates

Wrigley Field renovations

The Chicago Cubs and the city of Chicago reached an agreement on a series of Wrigley Field upgrades that will add signage and more night to the historic ballpark, as well as a new parking ramp to placate locals.

The agreement, which had been in the works for weeks, will allow the Cubs to add a 5,000-square-foot videoboard in left field and new single-sponsor sign (akin to the current Toyota sign in left) in right field. The issue will be the impact on local rooftop-bleacher owners. There’s no way a sign that size can go up without impacting views that are protected by an agreement between the team and the rooftop owners. But there are ways to placate the owners; the increased revenues from a videoboard would be substantial, and covering some lost revenues by the rooftop owners could certainly be part of the equation.

In addition, plans for a new hotel and office building across Clark from the ballpark were fully announced. The new 175-room hotel is expected to be a year-round draw for Wrigleyville (an area sorely lacking in decent hotels), but the addition of office space is a new wrinkle in the proceedings. There’s always been a desire by Cubs management to move some offices outside of Wrigley Field proper to make way for improvements, and the new building will allow that to happen.

The deal comes after weeks of serious negotiations between the Cubs ownership and city officials, mostly from the mayor’s office. Ald. Tom Tunney, who represents the Wrigleyville area and who has been a staunch opponent of most proposed Wrigley Field changes, was also in the middle of the talks.

“For nearly a century, Wrigley Field has been a cherished institution in Chicago and the Wrigleyville community, as well as a cathedral of baseball,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “This framework allows the Cubs to restore the Friendly Confines and pursue their economic goals, while respecting the rights and quality of life of its neighbors….It will have a long-lasting positive effect on Chicago.”

Also part of the plan: a 1,000-car parking ramp several blocks north of the ballpark (with a shuttle running to the ballpark), the closing of Sheffield Avenue for weekend home games, permission for four concerts annually and an Addison addition that would install a new visitors clubhouse and a two-story Captain Morgan bar.

It will be interesting to see what sort of opposition emerges. The agreement isn’t final, and it merely allows the Cubs to apply to make the changes: over the course of the summer the Plan Commission, City Council and Landmarks Commission will all have a shot at comments. The plan to widen concourses and upgrade concessions and restaurants probably won’t generate too much comment, and the plan to upgrade a McDonald’s to a hotel and office space will surely be welcomed, though some of the details (signage is planned for the hotel and a skyway linking it to the ballpark) will cause generate some community comment, as will the plan to remove parking from Waveland Avenue to accommodate the ballpark expansion. The signage will be the biggest hurdle: it wll change the nature of the ballpark experience, but as shown in Fenway Park, new signage can be implemented without changing the ballpark experience too much. “We are anxious to work with our community as we seek the approvals required to move the project forward,” said owner Tom Ricketts via press statement.

One thing going for Ricketts and family: the team is funding the entire $500-million bill.

Rendering courtesy of the Chicago Cubs.

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