October 26, 2014
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday he had a “very good meeting” with Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) this week that left them “just a few feet away” from a deal on two massive outfield signs most pivotal to renovating Wrigley Field without a public subsidy.
Emanuel has talked about being in the “final stages” of a Wrigley deal before, only to have negotiations hit a snag. But, after Monday’s meeting with Tunney, Emanuel made it sound like he really is rounding third and headed for home.
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks is scheduled to meet Thursday to consider the two most contentious elements: a 6,000-square-foot video scoreboard in left-field and a 1,000-square-foot see-through sign in right.
“We had a very good meeting. I would just like everybody to know we’re just a few feet away — and I mean literally just a few feet away — from a win-win situation,” the mayor said.
Tunney’s ever-changing demands have fueled speculation the mayor may need to play political hardball to deliver a $500 million private investment by the Ricketts family that would translate into thousands of jobs.
But, Emanuel tried to put that speculation to rest by defending Tunney.
“The alderman has been a tireless advocate for a better traffic system, better safety system, a better investment in the community [by] the Cubs and a better traffic and parking [plan]. He has been tireless about making sure that his community would also be a winner in this. Those investments would make them a winner,” the mayor said.
“Thursday, we will make progress in advancing both of those goals.”
Tunney couldn’t be reached for comment.
Last month, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved a master plan for 45,000 square feet of “new or existing” Wrigley signage, but withheld approval of the two biggies in the outfield.
The vote on those two signs was put off to give Tunney and the Cubs two more weeks to reach a compromise.
Tunney has demanded that the Cubs: reduce the Jumbotron to 4,000 square feet; shrink the see-through sign to 600 square feet; scrap a pedestrian bridge over Clark Street connecting a Cubs’-built hotel to the team’s new office building; drop the hotel’s outdoor patio deck over Patterson Street and shift hotel “lobby activity” from Patterson Street to either Clark Street or Addison Street.
Testifying before the Landmarks Commission, Tunney made compromise a bit more difficult by adding a sixth demand: that the Cubs scrap plans to extend the right-and left-field walls outward to provide more interior space for concessions and concourses and minimize the impact of outfield signs on rooftop views.
Never mind that Tunney had agreed to the larger stadium footprint in the framework agreement painstakingly negotiated by the mayor in April.
The question now is, whether the Cubs are willing to shrink the outfield signs and, if not, whether Emanuel is prepared to side with the team against a local alderman determined to show he’s going to bat for his community.
On Tuesday, Cubs spokesman Julian Green argued that the team needs every square inch of new signage to bankroll the $500 million plan to renovate Wrigley and develop the land around it without a public subsidy.
“As of right now, we are still seeking a 6,000-square-foot video board in left-field and a 1,000-square-foot sign in right,” Green said.
“We will continue to talk as we get prepared for the Landmarks meeting. But, our position has been we need every square foot of those signs to generate the revenue we need to put back into the ballpark.”
Pressed on whether there is any more room for compromise, Green said: “We feel like we have made some compromises. Instead of moving forward with a plan that included 7 or 8 signs in the outfield, we agreed to one sign in right field and one video board in left.”