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Cubs-city lovefest hits rocky patch

Wrigley Field improvements

A proposed deal to allow the Chicago Cubs to renovate Wrigley Field and add more night dates to the schedule has hit a rough patch, with changes rankling team officials.

When you discuss the politics of Wrigley Field and the surrounding neighborhoods, you’re really discussing one major issue: how many night games will be allowed on the schedule. So it’s no surprise that community leaders and politicians have worked to limit the number of new night games allowed under the renovation deal. The proposal coming after negotiations may be approved by community leaders and Ald. Tom Tunney, but it’s not sitting well with Cubs officials. From the Chicago Tribune:

Cubs vice president Mike Lufrano criticized a limit of two Saturday night games included in the new version of the night game ordinance. Lufrano said Saturday night games chosen by Major League Baseball are “a positive thing for the community,” and said it is often out of the team’s hands if the league chooses to schedule the Cubs to play a nationally televised weekend night game.

Under the revised night game plan, which was introduced today after private negotiations among team representatives, community organizers and Tunney, Lufrano said the team “would need to choose between violating Major League Baseball rules or violating a city ordinance.” Lufrano also took exception with a clause allowing the city to choose which days the team would reschedule games that get rained out, calling such power “unprecedented.”

He further criticized part of the proposal that states that if the Cubs schedule more than four “non-baseball events” like concerts or college football games in a year, those events would count toward the total number of night games the Cubs would be allowed in the following season.

Some of these measures, such as giving the city rescheduling power, will be rejected by MLB: schedules are intricate things, and there’s no way that provision will fly.

The whole issue of night games is tricky. Wrigley Field is the most urban ballpark in the country: a night game there has the power to impact tens of thousands of city residents by clogging streets and transit lines, never mind attracting the drunks who inevitably wander through the area, happy to drop in for a drink while never setting foot in  the ballpark. Now, you can argue anyone choosing to live in Wrigleyville did so knowing full well the ballpark was there, but the move to up to 46 night games a year will have a tremendous and unanticipated impact on the neighborhood. And while the issue of more night games in and of itself may not be important to the Cubs, the side effects are: crowds will be larger at night (making scoreboard sponsors happy) and a new TV contract will be more valuable with more night games.

Rendering courtesy of the Chicago Cubs.

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