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Wrigley Field granted federal landmark status

The move would make the Ricketts family eligible for federal tax credits.

An aerial from a drone shows Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.
Wrigley Field opened in 1914 as Weeghman Park, home to the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. It has been home to the Chicago Cubs since 1916.
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Wrigley Field has been named a National Historic Landmark to recognize “the significant role the ballpark has played in the city of Chicago and the history of professional sports.”

Thursday’s announcement by the U.S. Department of the Interior also automatically places the ballpark on the National Register of Historic Places. Wrigley has been eligible for that list since 1987.

The Ricketts family, owners of the Cubs and the stadium, will now be eligible for federal income tax credits on the facility.

The stadium, which already has local landmark status, has undergone major renovations in recent years under the Ricketts’ ownership, most notably the addition of two electronic scoreboards in the outfield, the rebuilding of the bleachers and moving the bullpens from the playing field to underneath the bleachers.

Crane Kenney, president of business operations for the Cubs, said lucrative federal income tax credits tied to Wrigley Field’s designation as a National Historic Landmark were already factored into the plan that financed the renovation of Wrigley and develop the land around it.

Kenney refused to put a dollar value on the tax credits, except to say it was “one important element” that bankrolled the plan by the Ricketts family, billionaire owners of the Cubs, to renovate Wrigley Field and develop the land around it.

The demolition of Wrigley Field’s bleachers started in October 2014. The new, expanded bleachers opened in 2015, part of the Chicago Cubs’ privately funded $575 million renovation project.
The demolition of Wrigley Field’s bleachers started in October 2014. The new, expanded bleachers opened in 2015, part of the Chicago Cubs’ privately funded $575 million renovation project.
AP

“This application started seven years ago. The granting of the designation is the end of a seven-year process. So, it’s unrelated to COVID. The monetization, to the extent there is one, of the designation was done years ago,” Kenney told the Sun-Times.

“There’s no new revenue that is the result of the designation today. There’s no economic event at all related to what’s just happened in 2020. It has already been considered.”

It’s not easy to be designated as a National Historic Landmark. It’s a high bar to clear. But Kenney said there’s no question Wrigley Field meets that standard.

“It’s easy for people to understand if you live in Chicago. If you consider sports venues as a whole, it is probably one of only two or three that has withstood the test of time,” Kenney said.

“Obviously, the historic events that have happened there. And its attachment to the national pastime and the significance of baseball throughout generations of Americans. For all of those reasons, it’s clearly a worthy candidate.”

The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field during the national anthem before Game 3 in baseball’s National League Division Series in 2015.
The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field during the national anthem before Game 3 in baseball’s National League Division Series in 2015.
AP

“Wrigley Field is a special place in the hearts of generations of fans,” Chicago Cubs Executive Chairman Tom Ricketts was quoted as saying in a Department of the Interior news release.

“That’s why, from our first day as owners, we committed to preserving Wrigley, which will now take its well-earned place in the lineup of American history and culture as a national treasure.”

National Historic Landmarks are “buildings, sites, districts, structures, and objects that have been determined by the Secretary of the Interior to be nationally significant in American history and culture,” according to the release.

“The historical significance of Wrigley Field is interwoven into our nation’s story and a key part of what has become America’s beloved pastime for over a century,” Interior Secretary David L. Bernhardt was quoted as saying in the release.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), whose ward includes Wrigley Field, said there is no question that the stadium is a “national treasure” that deserves landmark designation.

Ironically, the Tribune Co., former owners of the Cubs, was “ambivalent, if not opposed to the original landmarking of the field” proposed by former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who appointed Tunney to the City Council, the alderman said.

“The architecture is unique. The view into the neighborhood. All of that has been talked and talked about. I don’t know what the value of the tax credit is going to be. It’s gonna be pretty extensive,” Tunney said.

“As the renovation and the neighborhood continue to develop, it’s gonna look pretty classic in the next number of years. What we’ve tried to do with all of the surrounding developments is to somewhat pay homage to the historic landmark. I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve always been. This is healthy for the city and healthy for the Cubs.”

The original Yankee Stadium in New York and Tigers Stadium in Detroit both were designated as National Historic Landmarks, only to be demolished.

Tunney said he’s certain that will not happen to Wrigley.

“It is a treasure and an economic engine. But it’s being retrofitted for the next 50 to 100 years,” the alderman said.

“I don’t think this stadium is ever gonna come down.”

Fans gather in April at Gallagher Way, the plaza next to the west side of Wrigley Field.
Fans gather in April at Gallagher Way, the plaza next to the west side of Wrigley Field.
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