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Wrigley night game deal advances at City Hall, but liquor sales on plaza delayed

Wrigley Field's first night game 1988. | AP file photo

Wrigley Field's first night game in 1988. | AP file photo

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Updated: January 6, 2014 12:55PM

The Cubs got the go-ahead Wednesday to schedule 35 night games per season at Wrigley Field — and add eight more, including three Saturday nights, to accommodate national television — in exchange for added security and free remote parking.

The City Council’s License Committee satisfied the Cubs’ demand for “corrections” to the night game ordinance approved last summer. But aldermen put off a vote that would allow the team to sell beer and wine from kiosks at an open-air plaza adjacent to a renovated Wrigley.

The prospect of Saturday night games drews mixed reviews fom Wrigleyville residents.

“It would be the absolute worst, worst, time, especially for parking,” said Angie McMahon, 37, executive director of Under the Gun Theater. “It’s hard enough getting around with the general drinking crowd traffic, but if you add a Cubs game to it, it will just cripple the area completely, especially for residents and for people trying to get to other businesses.”

“And it doesn’t feel safe at night with all the intoxicated 20 somethings running around thinking they’re king of the castle,” said McMahon.

McMahon said her disdain for Saturday games is shared by many in the neighborhood.

That doesn’t include Mark Church.

The Saturday night games are “not the end of the world,” said Church, a Cubs fan who lives down the block from the ball park.

“We weren’t idiots when we bought in this neighborhood. Look, I even named my son Maddux [after Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux]. We don’t really have anything to complain about except traffic, and I think the Cubs could sit down with us on a better traffic flow, and if they make sure the neighborhood stays protected, then they are the good neighbor,” said Church, 48, who’s been critical of some expansion plans in the past.

The question of allowing the team to sell beer and wine from kiosks at an open-air plaza was put on hold.

Local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) promised changes after community feedback on his “sports venue license” ordinance that, as currently written, would authorize year-round liquor sales — up to 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends — on a plaza that would also feature live music.

“It’s a brand new type of license, so we’ve got a lot of work to do. . . . The community wants more input. . . . I’m sure we’ll have a substitute,” Tunney said.

Pressed on what changes he anticipates, Tunney said it’s an open question whether liquor sales should be year-round. Area residents are also concerned about loud music. They would prefer a quieter form of activity, such as farmer’s markets or a skating rink, the alderman said.

The provision that would allow fans to carry alcohol in plastic cups between the ballpark and the plaza has also drawn fire from local bar owners who fear it’ll cost them business from Cubs fans who are their bread-and-butter.

On that point, Tunney strongly disagrees.

“This is going to be synergistic. . . . Having a remodeled stadium and the whole plaza 365-days-a-year with a hotel and an office building will bring enhanced activity many, many more days than the current, whatever it is, 80 or 90 days now. . . . One of the problems is, it’s feast or famine,” Tunney said.

Cubs Vice-President and General Counsel Mike Lufrano agreed that allowing liquor sales on the open air plaza makes Wrigleyville “an exciting place to visit year-round” and that helps everybody.

“It’s part of the restoration of Wrigley Field. It really allows us to do what other teams can do on much bigger footprints with much bigger space. Other teams have bigger concourses. We’re able to use the plaza as part of our concourse,” he said.

Lufrano said he’s willing to “dialogue” with Wrigleyville residents about programming on the plaza. But, he said, live music is “one of the uses we anticipate,” although not every day.

“Could you have a band, folk music, a person with a guitar, or a couple of times a year something different? Remember, we’ve had street festivals out there. We had a block party on the plaza last year. It had a stage and a band after a game. That was something fans enjoyed. I don’t think it particularly added a burden on the community,” he said.

The revised night game ordinance again authorizes the Cubs to hold up to four concerts per season at Wrigley. But, it includes a steep schedule of fines to prevent a repeat of a storm-delayed Pearl Jam concert that ran until 2 a.m. last summer and kept area residents awake.

The fines range from $5,000 for the first half-hour after 11 p.m. to $15,000 for shows that run until midnight and $30,000 for each half-hour after that.

The night game ordinance approved last summer authorized the Cubs to play up to 46 night games per season, up from the current allotment of 30. But, it capped the number of Saturday night games at two-per-season and gave the city “unprecedented” control over when rained-out games are re-scheduled.

The new version reduces the overall number to 43, but allows the Cubs to schedule 35 night games and add eight more, including three Saturday nights, if Major League Baseball chooses the Cubs for a weekend broadcast.

In exchange, the Cubs will provide free remote parking for up to 1,000 cars, up from 500 cars at $6 per car currently. In addition, the team has agreed to beef up crowd control — for two hours after games on Sunday-through-Thursday and three hours on Friday and Saturday — by hiring ten additional security guards.

Together with ten more police officers provided by the city and ten funded by local businesses or chambers of commerce, that should produce an additional post-game security force of 30, Tunney said.

Lufrano said he won’t know where the additional remote spaces will be located until the Cubs “rent a lot” for parking. That might be in addition to the current lot at DeVry University or a replacement for the DeVry lot, he said.

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