Landmarks Commission to hold off on Wrigley Field signs, OK other elements of remodel
June 26, 2013 7:17PM
Updated: June 26, 2013 11:27PM
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks will hold off on outfield signs, but give the Cubs the go-ahead Thursday to extend outward the right- and left-field walls of Wrigley Field, build a new western entrance, remodel the dug-out and build a new Captain Morgan Club.
Sources said the decision to postpone until a regularly-scheduled July 11 meeting a vote on the two most controversial elements of the Wrigley project–a 6,000 sq.ft. video scoreboard in left-field and a 1,000 sq.ft. see-through sign in right–is a concession to local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who is demanding major changes.
In a letter to the Cubs Wednesday, Tunney delivered his demands. He wants: the jumbotron in left reduced to 4,500 sq.ft.; the see-through sign in right no more than 600 sq.ft.; no pedestrian bridge over Clark Street connecting the hotel the Cubs plan to build to its new office building and no rooftop bar on the hotel.
The delay gives him two more weeks to try and wring those concessions out of the Cubs–provided Mayor Rahm Emanuel stands behind him.
“As I said time and time again, I want smaller signs than what the Cubs have proposed,” Tunney said Wednesday.
“This is not new news. That’s important. The impact in the neighborhood is not fully apprised yet. The neighborhood is not fully educated about what is being proposed…I’m gonna negotiate [and keep negotiating]–like I did with the night games.”
Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, took the two-week delay authorized by Emanuel in stride.
“We look forward to appearing before the Landmarks Commission and working with the city,” Culloton said.
“It’s a long process the team has been working through and we will continue to do so until all of these issues are addressed. We have every reason to believe the city, the mayor’s office and the Landmarks Commission have a lot of incentive to continue to work with the team.”
Other sources said the Cubs are now convinced that Tunney’s demands are so extreme, the mayor can’t possibly go along and still expect the team to bankroll a $300 million stadium renovation without a public subsidy.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that the Landmarks Commission had called a special meeting for Thursday to consider the massive influx of stadium signage needed to renovate 99-year-old Wrigley without a public subsidy.
Lake View community groups cried. foul. They argued that the process was being “rushed” and said they still had major concerns about sheer volume of new signage.
Cubs spokesman Julian Green responded by saying the team requested the June 27 special meeting because it needs quick approval from the Landmarks Commission to pave the way for construction to begin as soon as the regular season ends.
“If we can’t, this project could be at risk,” he said.
As for Tunney’s demands to keep negotiating, he said, “We need a 6,000 sq.ft. video scoreboard in left field and a 1,000 sq. ft. sign in right because that will help us get the resources we need—especially when the Ricketts family is investing $500 million of their own personal money without public support.”
In addition to the jumbotron in left and the see-through sign in right, the Cubs want: an LED “ribbon board” along the upper-deck grandstand; a new fan deck in left field with signs; new signs on the right field wall and behind home plate and a two-story Captain Morgan Club with even more signs.
Despite the landmark designation that covers Wrigley’s “historic elements,” the Cubs plan would also give the team “discretion on all signage inside the ballpark not impacting rooftops” and authorization to take out a lane of parking on Waveland and a sidewalk on Sheffield to extend the right- and left-field walls outward to minimize the impact of outfield signs on rooftop views.
The Cubs also want the go-ahead to restore Wrigley’s 1930’s terra cotta roof line and replace concrete slabs and chain-link fences with brick and ornamental iron.
Landmarks Commission member Mary Ann Smith, a former lakefront aldermen, told the Sun-Times she understood why the Cubs pushed for a special meeting.
“They have to be frustrated trying to get what they want. I don’t know whether they’ve signed contracts with construction firms but, generally speaking, the longer you wait, the more a project costs,” she said.
The Sun-Times reported earlier this month that Ricketts’ siblings were growing increasingly concerned the deal may be modified in a way that denies the team the revenue it needs to bankroll the $300 million stadium renovation.
The newspaper reported that, if the Cubs didn’t get key approvals before the City Council’s annual summer recess, Ricketts is likely to invest in “Plan B” locations in the city and suburbs.
Community leaders said they were not concerned about overtures by Rosemont, Cicero, DuPage County and, most recently, Tinley Park to lure the Cubs or by veiled threats the team might consider those options.
“The family, unfortunately, has used this as a diversion. It’s nothing more than smoke-and-mirrors,” said Jill Peters, president of the Southport Neighbors Association.
As of last week, Will DeMille, president of the Lake View Citizens Council, said he was not at all certain about what the Landmarks Commission would be voting on.
“Is it the attached property or just everything inside [the stadium]? We know what’s in the planned development. But, we also understand they can amend that,” DeMille said then.
“We have concerns that a special meeting has been called with little awareness of time and scope. We’re more concerned about the lack of transparency. People need to have ample notice of when meetings are held and what’s being discussed.”