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Cubs' plan should lead to fan-friendlier ballpark: Morrissey

Rendering for Wrigley Field outfield panoramic.  | Chicago Cubs provided photo.

Rendering for Wrigley Field outfield panoramic. | Chicago Cubs provided photo.

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Updated: July 11, 2014 8:59AM



The headlines, stories and artists’ renditions about what a renovated Wrigley Field would look like go back years. Whatever it was supposed to be always had an unreal feel to it because nothing changed, not even one brick.

Why worry about something that was never going to happen?

A wrecking-ball of a ruling arrived Thursday. It told us to finally brace ourselves. The old ballpark at Clark and Addison is not going to be the same.

And that’s OK. Really, it is.

The Chicago Landmarks Commission approved the Cubs’ most recent design proposal, meaning a better, more-modern, fan-friendlier ballpark should be a reality in the near future — a very relative term in this drama. If you have sat in those uncomfortable seats and tried to imagine what a replay of a contested call at home plate you just missed might look like, that is a very good thing.

It’s one thing to be quaint; it’s another to be a broken-down horse. The clock is about to start on the rebuilding of what for all purposes will be a brand new Wrigley. The vision of a redone ballpark with modern conveniences soon will be put into action.

That’s not going to be easy for anybody, even those of us who think the place turned into a crumbling dump a long time ago. It’s hard to let go of something that recently turned 100, no matter how unsentimental you might be. But a Wrigley Field that will have a Jumbotron, especially with replay becoming such a big part of baseball, is a good thing. So is a park with a better clubhouse for the Cubs, who for decades have changed and showered in the major-league equivalent of a janitor’s closet.

Video screens are important, if only for a sport struggling to attract young fans. Yes, I’m saying it: Think of the kids!

The fan experience of watching a Cubs game, aside from the actual baseball, is going to be much more enjoyable. But you’ll have to be open-minded about more lights, more seats and relocated bullpens.

As for the just-approved outfield advertising signs, seven of them, which so offend the traditionalists, all we can do is cast an eye eastward to our cousins in Boston. Fenway Park hasn’t lost any of its charm after a 10-year renovation that included more signage. Red Sox fans still attend home games in droves. The sky has yet to fall, sources say.

It is possible to have it all: sunshine, ivy on the outfield walls, an iconic scoreboard, video boards and seats that don’t require the Jaws of Life for exit. All those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

The argument from the Ricketts family that a renovated Wrigley will give the Cubs money to field a better team is both unnecessary and scary. The push for a better ballpark should stand on its own two feet. And if a major-market team like the Cubs doesn’t have enough money to be competitive, then maybe ownership needs to be renovated or torn down.

The rooftop owners surely will continue to fight. It’s what they do. But let them and the Cubs settle this in court or, better yet, come to an agreement on their own. Let’s get on with making Wrigley a brighter and roomier place for fans. That’s what this is all about.

Thursday’s news felt like a first real step after so many years of paralysis. The ballpark indeed is going to look very different from what we’ve known for decades.

Somehow, we’ll survive. We might even find we like it.

Email: rmorrissey@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MorrisseyCST



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