Tunney prepared for council fight over Wrigley
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com July 17, 2013 2:40PM
Chicago alderman Tom Tunney, whose ward includes Wrigley Field, listens as the Commission on Chicago Landmarks discusses allowing the Chicago Cubs baseball team to build a left-field Jumbotron at the historic field while adding another sign in right field during a meeting on Thursday, July 11, 2013, in Chicago. The Cubs say they have reached an agreement with the city that would allow the team to build the Jumbotron but the city's landmarks commission must sign off on any changes to historic structures. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Updated: August 19, 2013 3:46PM
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said Wednesday he’s trying to avoid a City Council floor fight on Wrigley Field — like the infamous showdown over a Children’s Museum in Grant Park — but he’s prepared to have one with Mayor Rahm Emanuel unless the Cubs make four more concessions.
Tunney has demanded that the Cubs 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 to either Clark or Addison.
On Wednesday, he added a fourth demand on the eve of a Chicago Plan Commission meeting on the $500 million Cubs development: He wants a 10-year moratorium on stadium signage beyond the huge money-makers already approved by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.
If he gets all four, Tunney said he’s prepared to swallow the stadium signs that literally reduced him to tears at last week’s Landmarks Commission meeting.
They include a 4,560-square-foot video scoreboard in left field that would grow to 5,700 square feet, when a script sign and light standards above are included; a 650 square-foot see-through sign in right field, and a “sign matrix” that will guide future stadium advertising that’s part of a pre-approved “master signage” plan.
“Those are my non-negotiables,” Tunney said. “That could be my compromise. If I can get these [four] items, I could support” the planned development.
Asked if he would like to avoid a floor fight with Emanuel, the alderman said, “Of course. Who would want to [take him on]? I’ve been a loyal supporter of the mayor. I know he is doing his best to make sure he has a competitive package for the Ricketts [family, owners of the Cubs] to consider.”
But he said, “I believe there is a competitive package. There’s lots of signage. There’s the video board — almost 100 percent of the ask. The bridge over Clark Street is not a must-have. For me, it’s a must [not] have for the protection of my residents…Open alcohol on an open bridge is a problem….You could get a drink thrown over the bridge. You could have a fight over the bridge. There’s no place in the city of Chicago where you’re allowed alcohol on a bridge.”
Late Wednesday, the Cubs agreed to appease Tunney by eliminating the rooftop restaurant and beer garden over Patterson Street and at least consider moving the hotel entrance off that street. The hotel entrance has already been moved once at his request, sources said.
But there was no movement on the pedestrian bridge or the ten-year moratorium.
Even as negotiations continue, Tunney acknowledged that he’s been lobbying his colleagues to uphold the longstanding tradition of deferring to the local alderman on zoning and development issues.
That’s the same argument downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) made in 2008, only to have the City Council approve then-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s plan to build a Children’s Museum in Grant Park by a vote of 33-to-16. The Children’s Museum has since agreed to extend its lease at Navy Pier and expand there.
“I was here for Children’s. I supported the local alderman and I think the local alderman is the best voice for his community. I’ve been involved with Wrigley for over 30 years,” Tunney said.
Asked whether he stands a chance against Emanuel’s City Council muscle, Tunney said, “I’m not gonna speculate…My [goal] is to be able to say that I represented my community to the best of my ability.”
The Cubs issued a statement in response to Tunney’s latest demands.
“The Ricketts family is seeking to make a $500 million investment that will not only generate significant millions in economic returns for the city, but additional resources to put back into the team,” the statement said.
“Every single asset we’re seeking has value to the Cubs and potential partners. And we understand better than anyone every part of this project has to be done responsibly with the safety of our neighbors, fans and visitors in mind. Like always, we’re continuing talks with the Alderman Tunney and the city.”
Before the Landmarks Commission, Emanuel was forced to ride herd over Tunney after becoming convinced that the alderman was having trouble making a deal, sticking to it and selling it to his constituents.
A mayoral confidante, who asked to remain anonymous, said Emanuel is prepared to do the same before the Plan Commission and the City Council to deliver a $500 million private investment that will create 2,000 jobs.
“Brendan Reilly went through this on the Children’s Museum with a mayor who was totally antagonistic towards him,” the Emanuel confidante said.
“Here, you’ve got a mayor who has done everything he possibly can to make Tom Tunney happy and feel good about this and that support is being thrown back in the mayor’s face. The difference is dramatic. Look at all he’s getting for his community and he says it’s still not enough. Isn’t that outweighed by the fact that taxpayers are not paying $500 million” to renovate Wrigley and develop the land around it?