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Cubs to seek city approval for Wrigley Field changes

The proposed renovated right-field bleachers areWrigley Field.

The proposed renovated right-field bleachers area at Wrigley Field.

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Updated: February 18, 2012 8:12AM

The Cubs will ask the Commission on Chicago Landmarks next month for the go-ahead to put up a 75-foot electronic sign in right field at historic Wrigley Field if the city insists that approval is required, a team official said Monday.

In 2004, the City Council landmarked “historic elements” of Wrigley as part of an agreement that paved the way for 12 more night games — for a maximum of 30 per season.

The designation covered the exterior and marquee sign at Clark and Addison, the quaint center field scoreboard and ivy-covered brick walls and the uninterrupted sweep of the bleachers and grandstand.

Technically, the new LED sign unveiled at the Cubs Convention over the weekend — along with a right field patio deck that amounts to a “rooftop inside the stadium” — does not require Landmarks Commission approval.

“It doesn’t affect any of the historic features. It does not change the bleacher height or the outfield wall. It’s a way to continue to modernize the park, but keep within the historic tradition of Wrigley Field,” said Mike Lufrano, Cubs general counsel and executive vice-president of community affairs.

But, Lufrano said, “We’re happy to work with the city if they believe it does [require Landmarks Commission approval]. If they ask us to go to the meeting in February, we’ll be there.”

Other sources said Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has signaled its desire to go through the Landmarks Commission.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who opposed the Toyota sign installed above the left-field bleachers in 2010, did not return repeated phone calls on the new LED board that would exacerbate advertising creep at 98-year-old Wrigley.

Sources said Tunney has told the Cubs he has no plans to oppose the sign.

Because of its long rectangular shape, the new LED board is not expected to be used for video-replay. But it could be a prelude to a host of team ideas to squeeze more money out of Wrigley.

The Toyota sign could someday be replaced by a video scoreboard. The Cubs could renew their 2008 requests to modify landmarking restrictions that have tied the team’s hands, lift the ban on Friday night games and increase the number of night games closer to the league average of 54.

The Cubs could even revive Tribune Co. Chairman Sam Zell’s controversial plan to sell naming rights to Wrigley.

Emanuel wants to find a way to save Wrigley without forfeiting 35 years’ worth of amusement tax growth, which would happen under a plan previously floated by Cubs owner Tom Ricketts.

If the mayor is serious about making that happen — and using the Fenway Park model pioneered by new Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein when he was in Boston — the only way to do that is to allow the Cubs to milk more money out of Wrigley.

On Monday, the mayor’s office would only say, “We will discuss these proposals with the Cubs, just as we have discussed previous proposals on their plans for Wrigley Field.”

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