Demolition of Wrigley bleachers begins Monday, before ceremony

SHARE Demolition of Wrigley bleachers begins Monday, before ceremony

After doing battle with rooftop club owners for decades and waiting years for City Hall sign-off, the Cubs are not about to stand on ceremony before embarking on the team’s $575 million plan to renovate Wrigley Field and develop the land around it.

On Monday, the project begins in earnest with demolition of the Wrigley bleachers.

The right- and left-field walls and all of the bleacher seats inside will be torn down and rebuilt. But, not before the stadium walls are moved out onto Waveland and Sheffield to make way for wider concourses, new outfield light standards and concessions, bull pens beneath the stands and caissons to hold seven outfield signs, including two video scoreboards.

Only the centerfield bleachers will remain untouched.

The Cubs will also begin excavating the Red and Purple parking lots on the west side of the stadium to lay the groundwork for a new, 30,000-square-foot, subterranean clubhouse and commissary for Levy Restaurants.

The long-awaited clubhouse is not expected to be completed until the 2016 season. But, the foundation must be prepared during the current off-season.

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts would like nothing more than to join Mayor Rahm Emanuel, outgoing Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and Selig’s replacement Rob Manfred at a ceremonial ground breaking before the actual work begins.

But, Cubs spokesman Julian Green said the team doesn’t have that luxury. The clock is ticking.

“We have 26 weeks between now and opening day to get this finished, which is a very aggressive schedule. That means every activity has to be started and finished on time,” Green said.

“This is probably one of the most unique projects in all of sports. We decided to stay here and play baseball, instead of playing somewhere else because the city and the businesses around Wrigley Field depend on this revenue. To do this during off-seasons is a challenge. We can’t afford to wait for the ceremony.”

In late May, the Cubs declared an impasse with rooftop club owners after months of nowhere negotiations and unveiled a revised plan that invited their revenue-sharing partners to sue.

The plan called for seven outfield signs, including two video scoreboards, 300 new seats, 300 standing room positions and new outfield light standards rising 92 feet high.

The plan that added $75 million to the $300 million price tag of the stadium renovation project also included: a 30,000 square foot home clubhouse in a two-level basement beneath an outdoor plaza; a 200-seat restaurant and 200-person auditorium behind the home dugout and three or four rows of additional bleacher seats.

Some of the new seats would have been created by relocating the home and visiting bull pens from foul territory to a protected area beneath the expanded bleachers that give relief pitchers a view of the field. Larger bullpen doors that would have disturbed the century-old stadium’s ivy-covered brick walls were part of that plan.

That blind sided and infuriated Emanuel, whose administration had spent months working with the Cubs to finalize the expanded sign plan.

To get out of the mayor’s doghouse, the Cubs dropped plans to double the width of bullpen doors.

The Cubs are still working with the mayor’s office to finalize a date for the ground breaking ceremony that will allow Emanuel to bask in the glory of a project that’s expected to create 2,100 jobs.

“People are coming from all over the United States, including Cubs alumni. You have to give people time to make travel arrangements,” Green said.

By opening day, 2015, Wrigley will begin to resemble Boston’s Fenway Park, Ricketts’ model for all things Wrigley.

“I’m not at liberty to say [who all the sponsors are], but we’re confident we’ll have all seven signs up by next year,” Green said.

A lawsuit filed against the city last month by eight rooftop club owners who share 17 percent of their revenues with the team is still pending.

Portions of Waveland and Sheffield will be closed during construction. So will the sidewalks closest to the ballpark.

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