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Tunney pressures ‘needy’ Cubs to start Wrigley rehab

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) addresses Chicago City Council City Hall about Wrigley Field rehab deal July 2012.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) addresses the Chicago City Council at City Hall about the Wrigley Field rehab deal in July 2012.

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Updated: November 11, 2013 12:15PM



Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) on Wednesday ridiculed the Cubs as “a needy group” and turned up the heat on the team to start construction on its $500 million plan to renovate Wrigley Field and develop the land around it.

“The world changed. We rolled the red carpet out for them. Where’s the permits?” said Tunney, whose ward includes 99-year-old Wrigley.

“It’s time for them to build, like they said [they would] postseason. I’d expect permits to be there. ... I would have hoped, at this point, that they would be doing the permits.”

Tunney didn’t give an inch when reminded that the Cubs want rooftop club owners to drop their threat of a lawsuit.

“They’re a needy group,” the alderman said. “That wasn’t part of the agreement. They’ve got a private arrangement with the rooftops. I don’t have any control over that. They should start construction.”

Tunney was equally unsympathetic to the Cubs’ demand for a legislative fix to the ordinance authorizing the team to play up to 46 night games per season at Wrigley.

That’s even though Mayor Rahm Emanuel is planning to soften wording a top mayoral aide has called an “overreach.”

The ordinance gives the city unprecedented control over when rained-out games are rescheduled, according to the Cubs. It also would force the team — if chosen to play additional games on national television during a winning season — to “choose between violating MLB rules or the city ordinance,” a Cubs spokesman has said.

“I was comfortable with the night game ordinance as we passed it. It was very controversial for the community. We were very generous in that. ... There are provisions in there for MLB contracts,” Tunney said Tuesday.

“They have a right to reopen this thing. But it’s going to be a struggle for my community.”

Cubs spokesman Julian Green said the team is prepared to proceed with electrical and structural work during the offseason.

But it won’t happen unless rooftop club owners who share 17 percent of their revenues with the team drop their threat of a lawsuit aimed at preventing the team from bankrolling the project with two massive outfield signs that could block rooftop views.

“After the planned development passed back in July, the family put out a statement. To move forward with the project, we need to resolve the issue with the rooftops first,” Green said.

“That position has not changed. They do not want to move forward with a potential lawsuit hanging over their heads and looming over the project.”

Tunney isn’t the only one turning up the heat on the Cubs to start construction.

Rooftop club owners did the same last week in a statement that said, “There is nothing stopping owners of one of the most valuable teams in baseball from fixing the dugouts, the bathrooms or the multitude of improvements that are long overdue. ... Those aspects of renovation have nothing to do with the issue between the Cubs and rooftops. For a team that set deadlines, their silence has been deafening.”

Tuesday’s brushback pitch from Tunney marks the latest chapter in a running battle between the Cubs and their local alderman that made the battle to renovate Wrigley a marathon struggle.

In late July, the City Council finally approved the Cubs’ $500 million plan, bankrolled by a video scoreboard in left-field, a see-through sign in right and an infusion of new signage outside the ballpark.

Tunney infuriated the billionaire family that owns the Cubs by issuing a harsh warning on the City Council floor.

The alderman said he wasn’t looking for a “civil war” with the Cubs, but Chairman Tom Ricketts had better honor its commitments to local residents if he wants to avoid one.

Email: fspielman@suntimes.com

Twitter: @fspielman



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