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Alderman against Rahm’s plan for area around Wrigley

Chicago Cubs fans gather outside Wrigley Field. | AP

Chicago Cubs fans gather outside Wrigley Field. | AP

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Updated: June 9, 2012 8:11AM

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) on Monday declared his opposition to key elements of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to help the Cubs wring $150 million more in advertising and sponsorship revenues out of Wrigley Field and surrounding streets to minimize any taxpayer contribution toward renovating the 98-year-old stadium.

Tunney said he’s dead-set against any additional signage that blocks the view of the rooftop clubs overlooking Wrigley that share 17 percent of their revenues with the team.

“The rooftops and the owners of Wrigley have a unique partnership. They want to be protected long-term. They have a lot invested. The city has asked them to spend millions to keep their buildings safe. We’ve got to find ways they can both stay in business,” said Tunney, whose ward includes Wrigley.

“One of the tenets of the landmark ordinance is the view into the residential area. The more signs you put in there, the more you block the view into the neighborhood. We’ll find some appropriate places. But, what I want is long-term peace between small business owners and the big business at Clark and Addison.”

Tunney said he is equally opposed to the Cubs’ plan to close Sheffield and Waveland every game day to make way for money-making street fairs that duplicate the festival atmosphere around Boston’s Fenway Park.

“Street closings have been a real quality-of-life issue for residents. To think they would like to close them every game is problematic. It interferes with the quality of life of a residential community. How would you like your street to be shut down 80 days a year. Yes, you knew you bought near the park. But, the streets belong to the people,” Tunney said.

“It’s in the best interest of the residents and the quality of life of LakeView to keep these streets open. If there’s commercial activity, it belongs on the Clark Street corridor.”

Tunney then referred to the Cubs’ revised plan to build a long-stalled triangle building adjacent to Wrigley promised, but never delivered to residents in exchange for a bleacher expansion.

“They’ve come up with a plan that’s more of an open-air plaza. That is probably the most appropriate place for them to do their Yawkey Way: on their own property,” he said.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that Emanuel is privately pushing a Fenway-style plan to relax Wrigley’s landmark status and allow the Cubs to wring as much as $150 million in advertising and sponsorship revenues out of the stadium.

The changes range from more outfield signage behind the Wrigley bleachers, possibly including a jumbotron in right field to street closings on Sheffield and Waveland every game day to make way for money-making street fairs.

The plan also includes more sponsored “gateway” archways; more concerts and football games at Wrigley and a stadium club, restaurant and several thousand premium-priced seats.

Tunney said he made a trip to Boston last week to take in a Red Sox game, talk to a City Council member and see for himself the stadium plan that Emanuel wants to emulate.

“I didn’t find a lot of similarities between Fenway Park and what we’re trying to accomplish here. I was underwhelmed,” he said.

“Its location is certainly not in the middle of a successful LakeView community. Our neighborhood is much more residential in character. Boston is a great city. It’s just that, what we have here is a lot more potential. Part of that is how the stadium relates to the community and to the rooftop experience.”

The rooftops have hired John Dunn, former director of intergovernmental affairs under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, to represent their interests.

“They don’t want to be shut down,” Dunn said Monday.

The Cubs’ wish list of new revenue sources does not currently include more night games beyond the current 30, but could at some point to generate even more revenue.

That’s one thing that Tunney is open to negotiating. Noting that the night game agreement expires in 2014, he said, “I’d like to roll that into a comprehensive package. I don’t want to do all these negotiations then say, `We’re back at the table again.’ “

The Cubs have had a rocky relationship with Tunney, in part, because of how frequently he has gone to bat for rooftop club owners who have hosted campaign fund-raisers for the alderman.

Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, responded to the alderman’s opposition.

“We’re trying to work with Ald. Tunney, but the Cubs just want the same flexibility to save Wrigley Field as the Red Sox had with Boston,” Culloton said.

“The Red Sox owners saved Fenway through outfield signage and creating Yawkey Way and, in so doing, created great economic value for the community and won two World Series. The Cubs — which create $650 million in economic impact to the city, county and state each year — would like the same treatment that Boston afforded the Red Sox.”

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