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Wrigley Field plan tweaked in committee, moves forward

Artist Rendering proposed renovations Wrigley Field This is proposed center field. | Courtesy Chicago Cubs

Artist Rendering of proposed renovations to Wrigley Field, This is the proposed center field. | Courtesy, Chicago Cubs

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Updated: July 6, 2013 6:22AM

The Cubs got the go-ahead Tuesday to play up to 46 night games per season at Wrigley Field, start six Friday afternoon games at 3:05 p.m. and stage four concerts under a deal that pleased neither side.

“Isn’t that the story in politics? If most people are not happy but relatively satisfied, you’ve done the right compromise,” local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) told reporters after the License Committee vote. “This is a big win for the Cubs as far as the community” is concerned.

The Cubs begged to differ because of four last-minute tweaks that failed to appease Lake View residents.

They would require the Cubs to foot the bill for security and sanitation costs tied to more than 40 night games per season and forfeit a night game after any season that includes more than four “non-baseball events,” including concerts or college football games.

The team was equally unhappy with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to cap the number of Saturday night games at two per season and give the city “unprecedented” control over when rained-out games are rescheduled.

“If we’re successful on the field and chosen to play additional games on national television, we would need to choose between violating Major League Baseball rules or violating city ordinance,” said Mike Lufrano, senior vice president of community affairs for the Cubs.

“There are those who will say this ordinance goes far enough and we don’t need to push any further. . . . But, it needs to be a document that’s going to guide us for the future,” Lufrano said. “We hope it can be modified.”

The Cubs weren’t the only ones who walked away unhappy after Tuesday’s standing-room-only License Committee hearing.

So were Lake View residents, who raised many of the same arguments that peppered the epic battle over installation of lights at Wrigley.

They argued that allowing the Cubs to stage up to 56 “night events” at Wrigley “places too much of a burden” on congested Lake View and “materially decreases the quality of life” for area residents.

“I don’t want more night games. I don’t want more people in my yard. I don’t want more traffic in my alley. I want to be able to get home at night to see my family,” said Mark Church, who lives just a few doors from Wrigley. “Last Wednesday night, it took 50 minutes to get from Lake Shore [Drive] to my house. It’s only 17 blocks.”

“Look at how it affects people who live closest to the ballpark. . . . Having a [Cubs] website asking Cubs fans, ‘Do you think it would be better to have more night games’ is like asking kids at Great America, ‘Would you like more roller coasters?’ ”

Lake View resident Jim Spencer said he’s “shocked” that Emanuel has signed off on up to 56 night events at Wrigley.

“My neighbors and I are concerned about our quality of life being frittered away,” Spencer said.

Will DeMille, president of the Lake View Citizens Council, reiterated some of the points he made in a May 29 letter to Emanuel that triggered some of the last-minute tweaks.

“As a fan, many people like 3:05 p.m. starts. As a resident, it’s gonna create chaos,” he said.

The mayor’s ordinance would raise the 30-game ceiling on the number of night games to 40 next season, but the Cubs would schedule just 35 of those dates. The other five would be held in reserve for night games dictated by Major League Baseball or its national TV contract.

If MLB dictates more than five night games a season, Emanuel’s plan calls for the City Council — or the corporation counsel if time is too short — to authorize up to six more night games without “counting” those games against the 40-game ceiling. Playoff games, rescheduled games or the All-Star Game would not count, either.

All of that is in addition to four concerts per season and six 3:05 p.m. starts on Friday afternoons, starting this season.

In mid-April, Emanuel and Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts agreed on a “framework” that would pave the way for the Cubs to renovate 99-year-old Wrigley and the land around it.

It includes a 6,000-square-foot video scoreboard in left field; an 800-square-foot see-through sign in right field; up to 46 night games; street fairs on weekend game days. and signs all over a new hotel and open-air plaza.

The night game ordinance is the first piece of the puzzle. Full Council approval is expected Wednesday. The only question is what happens if the Cubs don’t get the changes they’re seeking.

“In life, contrary to what’s happening in Springfield and in Washington, you have to make compromises. . . . We have to give clear support for the franchise to invest for another hundred years in Lake View — not in Rosemont and not in Cicero, either,” Tunney said.

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