April 14, 2013
After weeks of intense negotiations, the Chicago Cubs, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney have finalized an agreement that will spur the team to begin its five-year, $500 million plan to renovate Wrigley Field and develop property around the stadium.
Keeping in mind that this is just a framework for new community initiatives, relaxed game-day restrictions and new allowances for the Cubs that will have to go through the usual process of city and community approval, here are the details:
The city and Mr. Tunney have agreed to allow the Cubs to erect a video screen in left field, as well as a right field advertising sign “in the style” of the existing Toyota sign that currently sits in left field. The Cubs will work with the city on placement of both signs “to minimize impact on nearby rooftops to the extent consistent with the needs of the team,” according to a statement from the Cubs. In addition, the Cubs will be able to install more signage inside the park, including areas around the seating bowl that will not block rooftop views.
NIGHT GAMES AND GAME TIMES
The Cubs will be allowed to hold 40 night games per season — up from the current maximum of 30, capped by a 2004 neighborhood protection plan — under a new special City Council ordinance that will allow for additional night games when required by Major League Baseball’s national TV contract. The 40 night games do not include playoffs or other games that are not counted under the current ordinance. The Cubs will also be allowed to start six games at 3:05 p.m. on Fridays (unlike the usual 1:20 p.m. starts).
The Cubs will be allowed to extend beer sales to the end of the 7th inning or 10:30 p.m., whichever is earlier. The current cut-off is end of the 7th inning or 9:20 p.m.
SHEFFIELD AND WAVELAND AVENUES
The team will be allowed to use a closed-to-traffic Sheffield Avenue beginning two hours before game times through the end of the 2nd inning for weekend home games, between Memorial Day and Labor Day. In addition, the city will vacate a parking lane on Waveland Avenue for the Cubs to build a new exterior wall in left field. The configuration of that new wall may be a key factor in how minimal the impact of the left field video board will be on Waveland Avenue rooftops.
‘TRIANGLE PROPERTY’ DEVELOPMENT
The Cubs-owning Ricketts family will be allowed to develop a building at the north end of the “triangle property” adjacent to Wrigley Field (the current parking lot on the west side of the park) to house Cubs offices and a meeting space, as well as a plaza that will be managed by the team featuring retail shops and a kids zone, pending planned development and other formal approval processes with community input.
SHERATON HOTEL ACROSS THE STREET
The Cubs will be allowed to build their planned boutique Sheraton hotel on Clark Street, across from from the park. The hotel will include 175 rooms, 75 parking spaces, food and beverage sellers and retail shops, as well as a 40,000-square-foot Chicago Athletic Club location and a pedestrian bridge with public access over Clark Street connecting the hotel and the triangle property plaza. The Cubs also will be allowed to place signage along the hotel, the triangle property office building and the plaza, including four video screens within the plaza on which the team will advertise, broadcast Cubs games and show “Movies in the Plaza” for the public.
The Cubs will develop a new parking plan calling for 1,000 free parking spots off site with a shuttle to Wrigley Field. They’ll also put together an awareness campaign with Mr. Tunney’s office and the Chicago Department of Transportation to better educate fans about remote parking options and other alternative ways of getting to the park, like bikes and the CTA. (Improving awareness of existing options was something neighborhood groups and the Alderman have pushed recently). The Cubs will also be allowed to reconstruct the “Brown Lot” on Eddy Street, pending community approval.
There will be new Clark Street traffic lights to control game-day congestion, and the Cubs will work with the city and community on a new public safety plan that will provide 30 additional safety personnel outside the park after games. In exchange for the potential increase in traffic, the Cubs will contribute to the School Street Play Lot funding effort and make annual contributions for the next 10 years for public projects benefitting the area, as agreed upon by Mr. Tunney and the team.
CONCERTS AND EVENTS
The deal allows for four concerts at Wrigley Field per year under the new special ordinance to come, as well as greater flexibility for off-season and smaller events.
The Cubs will be allowed to build a two-story Captain Morgan Club on Addison Street, with a merchandise store and first-floor space for the visiting team clubhouse. The current Captain Morgan Club, one the southeast corner of the ballpark, is a small, one-story pavilion.
The team, the mayor and the alderman all offered comments on the deal in a statement Sunday:
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts: “We are excited about moving forward with the approval process. Under the leadership of Mayor Emanuel and Alderman Tunney, we believe the Cubs proposal will help us invest in Wrigley Field and the Lakeview community. We are anxious to work with our community as we seek the approvals required to move the project forward.”
Mayor Emanuel: “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. I want to thank the Ricketts family for their commitment to Chicago and commend all parties involved for making this agreement without the use of any taxpayer money. It will have a long-lasting positive effect on Chicago.”
Ald. Tunney: “There are thousands of residents and hundreds of businesses who all contribute to the unique character of our neighborhood. Each of them benefits from the Cubs, and there is no doubt our neighborhood is better and more vibrant with the Cubs at Clark and Addison. I’m proud they’ve recommitted to Wrigley Field.”
Obviously, the biggest red flag here is exactly how the left and right field signage will impact the rooftop views. A spokesman for the rooftop owners did not respond to a request for comment on that tonight.
And don’t forget: This is only a framework for all these projects. Running all of this through a gauntlet of planned development and community meetings over the next several months could produce a very different plan.
The hope for the team is that Mr. Tunney has been representing the opinions of the majority of his ward at the negotiation table.
If most of this framework stands — and if the outfield signs don’t elicit a breach-of-contract lawsuit from the rooftops — it appears to be a major win for the Cubs.
The team and Mr. Tunney also plan to unveil more specifics, including how big the proposed outfield signs will be, at a news conference Monday.
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