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Cubs pay for 30 more cameras around Wrigley, still want streets closed

Fans pour out of Wrigley Field and are herded by the police out of the intersection of Clark and Addison. | File photo

One day after a terrorist bombing at a stadium in Manchester, England, the Cubs on Tuesday renewed their request for game day street closings around Wrigley Field — even after donating $1 million for 30 new surveillance cameras.

“We’ve been vocal about the need to shut down the streets around the ballpark as incidents like these have continued. We’ve seen them all over the world. We still believe that’s the right plan,” said Cubs spokesman Julian Green.

“This is not about any one particular incident. This is about ensuring one of the largest tourist attractions in the state is secure. With the installation of these new cameras, that will allow us to have eyes around the entire perimeter of the ballpark. That is a very huge step in strengthening ballpark security. But, we believe more can and should be done.”

Local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said he remains adamantly opposed to closing Addison and Clark on game days.

“It’s important that these streets remain open for the residents and businesses…We’ve got to pay attention to everybody—not just those inside the stadium. It’s people trying to get home from work. It’s the car repair business that can’t get cars in and out,” Tunney said.

The $1 million grant from the Cubs will be used to install 30 more surveillance cameras around Wrigley, thanks to authorization granted Tuesday by the City Council’s Budget Committee.

The cameras will be attached to city-owned light poles and tied to the network of 29,000 public and private cameras that’s the largest in the nation accessible from a single location: the 911 center headquarters of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Although the timing is eerie, Tunney said the camera expansion has actually been in the works for “at least a year”—long before a suicide bomber at an Ariana Grande concert at a Manchester stadium killed 22 people, many of them teenagers, and injured 59 others.

The new cameras are expected to be installed in the area bounded by inner Lake Shore Drive, Montrose, Belmont and Western, the alderman said. The Cubs and OEMC are also looking at installing cameras on the Addison and Irving Park exit ramps from the Kennedy Expy., he said.

“We’ve had an enhanced camera system around Wrigley Field for five or ten years funded through OEMC. This initiative is completely funded by the Cubs,” Tunney said.

“There’s three million people who visit that stadium. They want to make sure they’ve done their part to help the city increase camera presence around the stadium. It’s not a reaction to anything. It’s part of an overall strategy to keep our community safe. It can help, sure. Cameras are always an impediment to bad activity.”

Melissa Stratton, a spokesperson for the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said the additional cameras will “allow OEMC to monitor high-traffic areas in communities adjacent to the ballpark” and let 911 dispatchers “view additional areas of the city during an emergency incident.”

“We are confident that we have a strong plan in place to ensure the safety and security of fans and residents and we will continue to adjust resources as necessary to keep the public safe and to impact the community as minimally as possible. There are no plans for full street closures at this time,” Stratton wrote in an email.

Budget Committee Chairman Carrie Austin (34th) said the additional cameras will enhance public safety around the landmark home of the World Series champs.

“It’s a precaution because of so many bombings and things that’s going on around the world. … I’m glad to see it happening,” Austin said Tuesday.

“We’re a world-class city, so they would want to bomb any part of Chicago. I wouldn’t single out Wrigley…. We have three sports arenas: United Center, the Cubs and the Sox. All of those would be vulnerable to something like that. I’m glad they’re doing it. I wish the rest of the arenas would be able to do the same thing. Soldier Field as well.”

Austin said she has seen surveillance cameras around Guaranteed Rate Field, but “not in the magnitude that will be around Wrigley” after the expansion.

“If they are able to acquire a grant, they probably would get the same thing. But the Sox are not getting the pub that the Cubs are getting right now. And it’s not as congested as it is at Wrigley. And now, it’s gonna be more congested,” she said.

For years, the Cubs have been pressuring Mayor Rahm Emanuel to order the game-day shutdown of Addison and Clark.

The team renewed the street closure request earlier this year after a terrorist attack in London that saw five people killed and 40 others injured after an attacker drove a car into a crowd along Westminister Bridge near the British Parliament.

More recently, the Cubs were emboldened by the city of Boston’s decision to close the streets around Fenway Park.

Amid persistent opposition from Tunney and the Wrigleyville residents he represents, Emanuel has repeatedly slammed the door on street closures.

“Wrigley Field is situated right in the middle of a thriving community. We feel that the system we have in place is a good public safety mechanism to control the crowd and control the traffic. We’re comfortable with the position we’ve taken,” said Rich Guidice, first deputy director of OEMC.

Instead, of closing Addison and Clark on game days, Emanuel agreed to ban trucks from the streets around Wrigley — and sharply constrict traffic — to ramp up security for the home opener and the entire season.