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Tunney pitches parking plan as part of Wrigley deal

Updated: May 5, 2013 2:57PM

The Cubs provide 1,400 parking spaces at Wrigley Field — the lowest number “by far” of any team in Major League Baseball — Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said Wednesday, pushing for either free remote parking or construction of the 400-space garage promised, but never delivered, as part of a bleacher expansion.

Tunney portrayed an agreement as nowhere in sight, two days after Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts’ self-imposed deadline to nail down a $500 million deal to renovate Wrigley and develop property around the stadium.

“There are so many moving parts, I’m not exactly sure what we’ll be able to announce, but hopefully announce they’re staying at Wrigley Field . . . at least until they win the World Series,” Tunney said.

“There’s lots of different parts to this. When there is [a deal], it won’t be a resolution of the many asks that are out there, but a confidence that they’re staying in Lake View,” he said. “I just think there’s a lot of new issues that have come up over the last couple of weeks that weren’t part of what we were talking about six months ago. Six months ago, there wasn’t the hotel. So now we’ve got a hotel. Things like that.”

Tunney said Ricketts’ decision to build a 176-room hotel — complete with “full-service food and beverage” and a large health club — across the street from Wrigley exacerbates the neighborhood’s parking and congestion problems.

Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for Ricketts, would only say, “Parking has been discussed. It’s been a topic of conversation. But, I have nothing to announce.”

The aldermen argued that the 2003 agreement that paved the way for more night games required the Cubs to add 1,000 remote parking spaces, but only 270 spaces have been delivered.

As part of a subsequent bleacher expansion, Wrigleyville residents were also promised a 400 space-parking garage in a “triangle building” adjacent to the ballpark. The Cubs have now scrapped that garage in favor of an open-air plaza.

On Wednesday, Tunney suggested the Cubs make good on those parking promises in one of two ways: by building a 400-space garage on a gravel cemetery lot they own at Clark and Grace or by providing free remote parking that currently costs $6 for a 20-minute ride.

“Wrigley Field has about 1,400 spaces, which is like the least of any baseball team in America — by far. . . . Boston has 4,500. Same congested neighborhood. So, we’ve got work to do. . . . You wonder why the neighbors are concerned about parking, traffic and congestion,” he said.

Tunney noted that the gravel cemetery lot is “as big as the stadium.”

“Can they build [a garage] on that? There’s land [but] building is expensive. . . . They’re exploring all their options — a combination of certain additions in the community and a more robust remote parking plan. My suggestion was, since you’ve been trying this for 10 years and it’s like $6 plus a 20-minute ride, how do you possibly [provide] free remote parking. Maybe they should explore that possibility. It’s cheaper to find a remote strategy. . . . It would be an operational cost.”

For all the talk about parking, the signage dispute between the Cubs and the rooftops remains the biggest impediment to a deal.

Under repeated questioning, Tunney once again refused to say whether there was any level of signage inside the ballpark that he would be willing to accept.

He would only say, “There’s a landmark ordinance in place. We’ve got to look at that very seriously. There’s also a private agreement [with] the rooftop owners. They have a lot invested in their businesses also. The city codified them, made them make these buildings safe, put a lot of money into it. We established a rooftop district zoning-wise that allowed this commercial activity in a residential district.”

Ricketts has offered to bankroll a $300 million Wrigley renovation without a public subsidy — and build a $200 million hotel development on McDonald’s property he purchased across the street from the stadium — if the city agrees to lift restrictions on outfield signs and night games and opens Sheffield Avenue for street fairs on game days.

With support from Tunney, rooftop clubs that share 17 percent of their revenues with the Cubs have countered with a plan to generate $17.9 million a year to bankroll the stadium renovation by putting seven digital signs on top of their buildings instead of inside the ballpark blocking their views.

Emanuel has been trying to broker a deal that would allow the rooftops to survive and thrive and still give the Cubs the sign revenue they need to renovate the landmark stadium.

The Cubs have been pushing for a quick resolution to avoid losing another construction season. But they opted to keep talking after Monday’s midnight deadline came and went without a deal.

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