Mayor says more time needed to evaluate Cubs' latest Wrigley plan
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter May 28, 2014 4:29PM
The latest plans for Wrigley Field included some surprises, including relocated bullpens that would require the removal of part of the outfield wall, as seen in this drawing released by the team. | Provided
Updated: June 30, 2014 12:45PM
The Cubs’ plan to rush through a revised plan to add more signs, seats and lights at Wrigley Field hit the political equivalent of the ivy-covered brick wall Wednesday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared that his handpicked Commission on Chicago Landmarks would not consider the revised plan to build seven outfield signs, including a second video scoreboard, 300 new seats and new outfield light standards because there were elements of it that no one at City Hall had ever seen before that would have a definite impact on landmarked elements of the century-old stadium.
The mayor pointed specifically to the plan to create more space for seats by moving the bullpens from foul territory to an area beneath the bleachers; the team released drawings showing parts of the outfield wall removed to give pitchers a view of the field.
“We are happy to address any questions about the bullpen doors or the bullpen relocation,” Cubs spokesman Julian Green said when told of the mayor’s concerns. “The Cubs look forward to resolving these last few issues so we can begin construction as soon as possible.”
The plan that added $75 million to the $500 million price tag of the stadium renovation project also includes: a 30,000-square-foot home clubhouse, second in size only to Yankee Stadium, in a two-level basement under an outdoor plaza; a 200-seat restaurant and 200-person auditorium behind the home dugout; and three or four more rows of bleacher seats.
At the mayor’s request, Ald. Pat O’Connor had been meeting with the team and the rooftop owners, trying to reach a resolution, and parts of the latest plan were a surprise to him.
“So this is not ready for next week and they have work to do,” Emanuel said.
“In all the meetings Pat O’Connor had, or with Planning, nobody ever saw that [plan to relocate the bullpens]. It was first seen yesterday. That’s why you don’t take something that’s been there for 100 years and just try to rush it in a week.”
Emanuel would love to break ground on the revenue- and job-creating project before the Feb. 24 mayoral election. But that doesn’t mean he’s willing to rush it.
“The investments are . . . an economic boon to the city, but have to be done in a way that allows the process to work and they don’t try to circumvent or shortchange the process,” he said.
Last week, the Cubs declared an impasse with rooftop club owners after months of negotiations and unveiled a revised plan that literally invites their revenue-sharing partners to file their long-threatened lawsuit.
On Wednesday, Emanuel hinted strongly that, even though the Cubs have thrown in the towel on striking a deal with the rooftop owners, they might want to give it one last shot.
“I wish both parties would get together and resolve the issue because I think it’s in their mutual interest, let alone the interest of the city,” the mayor said.
“I understand the desire for resolution. I think that’s shared by all parties . . . There’s no doubt that a lot of people put a lot of work and a lot of effort into this. That doesn’t mean that they got it right… I do think there’s a place . . . to land this where the owners are allowed to modernize Wrigley Field, invest in the surrounding neighborhood in things like parks, playgrounds, traffic, security that have been shortchanged in the past and do it in a way that meets everybody’s objectives.”
Green said the club “tried to reach a resolution with rooftops and unfortunately it didn’t happen. At this point, we are planning to move forward with our original plan, which will generate a significant amount of resources — without taxpayer dollars — to help this team win a World Series and give our fans a better ballpark.”
Earlier this week, Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said before forging ahead with the Cubs’ “original” plan to renovate Wrigley and develop the land around it, team officials had explored everything from extending a rooftop revenue-sharing agreement that has nine more years to run to reducing the 17-percent split and even buying out the rooftop owners.