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Rahm opens door to 40 night games a year for Cubs

Mike Peck stands top left-field bleachers trying catch balls hit during batting practice before baseball game between Chicago Cubs Texas

Mike Peck stands at the top of the left-field bleachers trying to catch balls hit during batting practice before a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the Texas Rangers, Monday, May 6, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) ORG XMIT: CXC101

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Updated: June 10, 2013 2:02PM

The Cubs could play 40 night games-per-season at Wrigley Field — and six more when dictated by Major League Baseball’s national television contract — under a mayoral plan proposed Wednesday that sets the stage for 56 “night events” in Wrigleyville.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel started delivering on promises made in his “framework” agreement with Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, but in a way that will not please some Wrigleyville residents.

The 30-game ceiling on the number of night games would be raised to 40 next season, but the Cubs would schedule just 35 of those dates. The other five would be held in reserve for night games dictated by Major League Baseball or its national TV contract.

If MLB dictates more than five night games-a-season, Emanuel’s plan calls for the City Council — or the corporation counsel if time is too short — to authorize up to six more night games without “counting” those games against the 40-game ceiling. Playoff games, re-scheduled games or the All-Star Game would not count, either.

All of that is in addition to four concerts-per-season and six 3:05 p.m. starts on Fridays, starting this season.

Will DeMille, president of the Lake View Citizens Council, said he still believes the six 3:05 p.m. starts should be counted as night games. He also favors a limit of 37 night events, including games and concerts, as proposed by the LVCC last year.

But DeMille said the mayor’s ordinance is “better than the unlimited number of night games” proposed by the Cubs. And he’s happy there’ll be a “trial period” for the late afternoon starts to measure the impact on traffic.

City Hall sources said the Cubs initially demanded an “unlimited number” of night games.

“They bought a team agreeing to 30 night games. We agreed to make the changes to 40. . . . They will hold back five. There’ll be six games that start at 3:05, which starts this year. And then, there’ll be an ability to add the Bruce Springsteen and other type of concerts that happen in the evening,” Emanuel said.

“If, in fact, there is a desire for additional night games, there’s a process set up. And it’s only gonna be because they are doing well [enough] that the league says, `We want the Cubs to be playing at night.’ If the Cubs are starting to win, everybody will be cheering in the city and that will be a good thing for the city.”

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) co-sponsored the night game ordinance.

Cubs spokesman Julian Green said, “We appreciate the work which went into drafting the ordinance and the support of the mayor and alderman. This shows the process is moving forward.”

Last week, Ricketts unveiled architectural renderings, then threatened to leave Wrigley and Chicago if he doesn’t get the outfield signs he needs to help bankroll the $300 million stadium renovation because of a threatened lawsuit by rooftop club owners who share 17 percent of their revenues with the Cubs.

Emanuel responded by saying he does not believe there’s a serious threat the Cubs will leave Chicago because “There’s now certainty around what they needed.”

On Wednesday, Emanuel called the night game ordinance “one step in a series of implementations as it relates to that framework” agreement with the Cubs.

In other words, promises made will be kept. There’s no need for the Cubs to leave Wrigley.

“There would be no framework . . . if they did not agree, finally, to a safety plan, a traffic plan a parking plan and investments and enhancements in the neighborhood . . . on parks and other quality of life type investments,” Emanuel said. “[Tunney] fought aggressively and was a big advocate for those type of investments to finally — not be on paper, but had to be done.”

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