The Chicago Commission on Landmarks Thursday unanimously approved the Chicago Cubs’ latest renovation plan for Wrigley Field, which includes five new outfield signs on top of two that have already been approved.
Prior to the vote on the $575 million plan, commission staff director Eleanor Gorski had recommended acceptance of the proposal with no major changes.
Crane Kenney, Cubs president of business operations, told the commission the signs will generate the dollars to fund renovations to “both save Wrigley field and to help us win a championship.”
Last summer, the baseball club had agreed to just two signs in hopes of reaching a deal with rooftop owners who contend the signs block their views and violate their revenue sharing agreement with the Cubs. But Kenney told the commission Thursday that the Cubs decided to add more signs after talks with the rooftop owners failed.
Now, with the commission’s approval Thursday, the Cubs likely increased their leverage with their rooftop owners.
In fact, the rooftop viewing decks, which share 17 percent of their revenue with the Cubs, last week offered to come back to the table, and so it is still possible not all the proposed signs will be built.
“We will discuss with them every option to avoid litigation,” Kenney told the commission.
After the vote, the rooftop association issued a statement saying the new signs “would absolutely violate our 20-year contract, just as they violate the spirit of Wrigley’s long-standing landmark status.”
The statement added that every rooftop owner now supports a plan “resulting in two signs that mitigate blockage, generates revenue to modernize Wrigley Field and takes litigation off the table.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel also weighed in, saying of the approved plan, “Not only does it uphold the architectural heritage of the stadium that Chicagoans can enjoy but will generate thousands of jobs. In addition, discussions with the rooftop owners should — and must — continue so that this plan remains a win-win.”
Besides the signs, the plan adds:
◆ Two light towers near the end of the foul ball lines.
◆ Bleacher seats in right and left field.
◆ New decks behind the top of the bleachers in right and left field.
◆ A total of five new suites under the grandstands in right and left field.
◆ New rows of seating off the left and right infields, to be accommodated by moving the brick walls closer to the field.
◆ New bullpens underneath the expanded right into left field bleachers.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who represents the neighborhood around the ballpark, asked the commission to delay its vote, but that request was denied.
“I will not support a proposal that so dramatically affects the quality of life of my residents and violates the landmark status of the ballpark,” Tunney said.
Jim Spencer, president of the East Lakeview Neighborhood Association, was among residents who opposed the plan. “This is another game changing aspect that is a further erosion of the character of this neighborhood,” he said.
But self-described bleacher bum Trudie Acheatel spoke in favor of the plan.”We need a proper place to go to, it needs to be redone,” she said. “I’ve been waiting a long time for my new bathrooms.”
After the decision, Cubs spokesman Julian Green said that major work on the renovations would start after the season. Construction of the signs will depend on how quickly advertisers step up, he said.
“We’re excited about this vote today,” said Green. “This is a huge win for the Chicago Cubs organization, but this is a huge win for the City of Chicago.”