The Cubs offered Thursday to drop plans to install larger outfield doors that disturb Wrigley Field’s landmarked ivy-covered walls, angered Mayor Rahm Emanuel and threatened speedy approval of the team’s revised expansion plan.
Emanuel specifically mentioned the bullpen plan this week when he declared that his handpicked Commission on Chicago Landmarks would not consider the new Wrigley renovation plan at its June 5 meeting.
The plan calls for seven outfield signs, including a second video scoreboard, 300 new seats, 300 standing room positions and new outfield light standards rising 92 feet high.
Some of the new seats would be created by relocating the home and visiting bullpens from foul territory to a protected area beneath the expanded bleachers that give relief pitchers a view of the field. The larger bullpen doors were part of that plan.
That blindsided and infuriated Emanuel, whose administration had spent months working with the Cubs to finalize the expanded sign plan.
On Thursday, the Cubs acknowledged the team’s failure to communicate with City Hall and offered to pull the larger bullpen doors off the table to get the project back on track for, what the team hopes will be a July groundbreaking.
“We believe the larger doors would be more advantageous to the players, but if we need to keep the doors as they are, we’ll live with it. We have communicated that to the Landmarks Commission. We have not received a response,” said Cubs spokesman Julian Green.
“There were documents provided to the city [earlier], but the focal point of our conversations have always been about the sign plan and bleacher expansion. If the bullpen doors were missed or the city believes it wasn’t clearly identified, we’ll take responsibility for that.”
Green noted that some of the brick will have to be replaced during the course of the $375 million stadium renovation project because it is “deteriorated and dates back to the ballpark’s origins.” In fact, brick in the left-field wall was replaced this year, forcing the Cubs to “harvest the ivy.”
But, he said, “If this gives the Landmarks Commission too much grief, we just won’t expand the doors or take any additional brick out.”
Once the bleacher door controversy is resolved, the Cubs hope to get back on the Landmarks Commission’s agenda with speedy approval to follow, Green said.
“The calendar now is up to the mayor. But, our hope is we can move as soon as possible. … We’re ready to begin construction immediately,” Green said.
The mayor’s office promised to review the Cubs’ latest offer.
“We will look at their proposal thoroughly and work with them to ensure it is complete and they will be able to present it to the Landmarks Commission,” said mayoral spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton.
Other City Hall sources confirmed what Crane Kenney, president of business operations for the Cubs, told reporters earlier this week.
The Cubs have worked hand-in-glove with Emanuel’s administration to develop the plan for seven outfield signs, including two video scoreboards.
For example, Kenney said city landmarks officials insisted that there be a “65-foot buffer” between the manual scoreboard in centerfield and the video boards in right- and left-field. City Hall further demanded that there be “at least 20 feet between each of the seven outfield signs and that each of the four new LED signs added to the two video scoreboards be no more than 650 square feet.
Last week, the Cubs declared an impasse with rooftop club owners after months of nowhere negotiations and unveiled a revised plan that literally invites their revenue-sharing partners to file their long-threatened lawsuit.
It calls for building seven outfield signs, instead of the two approved by the City Council, including two video scoreboards on either side of the historical manual scoreboard in center-field. It also includes a host of other changes, including the relocated bullpens that apparently angered City Hall.
“You don’t take something that’s been there for 100 years and just try to rush it in a week,” Emanuel said Wednesday.
“So this is not ready for next week, and they have work to do.”