Renovation plans for Wrigley Field may be revealed this weekend
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com January 16, 2013 10:18PM
Wrigley Field at Clark and Addsion on Cubs Opening Day, Thursday, April 5, 1012. | John H. White~Sun-Times
Updated: February 19, 2013 2:27PM
The Cubs plan to unveil detailed renderings of their plans for a renovated Wrigley Field during a Saturday session of their annual Cubs Convention at the downtown Sheraton this weekend, the culmination of a recent series of more private, local showings in the community — and an indication, some insiders believe, that public funding for the project is imminent.
Cubs officials would not comment or update any potential progress on what is believed to be back-channel communication on the funding issue that has been ongoing since Mayor Rahm Emanuel cut off talks in May on a then-imminent deal. That was in the wake of a proposed smear campaign against Emanuel pal Barack Obama through the Super PAC of Cubs ownership patriarch Joe Ricketts.
The Cubs seek to fund roughly half of the $300 million renovation project through subsidies from the financially strapped city.
This despite the fact the team’s own business executives project an annual $95 million in additional revenues directly resulting from renovations, according to a source with direct knowledge of the team’s analysis. That represents more than a 30 percent increase from pre-renovation revenues.
Asked Wednesday whether the Cubs were any closer to finalizing renovation plans, baseball operations president Theo Epstein said: “I think there’ll be some sharing of information on that later this week. I don’t want to be a spoiler.’’
Amid the usual pre-spring optimism of worst-to-first shockers and playoff dreams, Epstein left open at least the glint of possibility that longtime trade chip Matt Garza could remain a Cub throughout the season.
Garza, who was a phone call away from being traded last July until an elbow injury sidelined him the rest of the season, is a free agent after this season, and nobody denies he’s the likeliest Cub to be traded for prospects this July.
But if the Cubs are still playing games that matter by then?
“Absolutely,’’ Epstein said. “We teach our hitters to take a yes-yes-yes-no approach, to be aggressive as if every pitch is going to be a pitch they can drive until it’s not and then they take it. That’s the same thing you do for a season. Once you get to spring training you’re there to win until you’re not. You’re always keeping one eye on the present and one eye on the future.’’
Anthony Rizzo has never been to Italy, spent his whole life living in South Florida, and wanted to play for the star-studded U.S. team in this spring’s World Baseball Classic.
Then came the lone invitation: from Italy, the homeland of his great-grandfather.
“It’s a pretty cool opportunity to get,’’ the 23-year-old first baseman said. “I’ve never done anything like this.’’
Cubs management supports his decision to play. Teams typically reserve concern only for pitchers who might risk injury by getting out of normal spring routines. Besides, Rizzo isn’t exactly expected to be gone long in March, given Italy’s stature in the game.
“Now if they pull off the upset and go all the way, it might be another story,’’ Epstein joked.
Don’t tell manager Dale Sveum that a 20-game improvement over last year would be good in 2013. “The one thing you hate doing is saying .500 would be good,” he said. “Because it’s not good. It’s not 101 losses, but .500 isn’t getting you to the playoffs, either.’’
◆ Epstein on the likelihood of avoiding arbitration with the three players (Garza, Samardzija and James Russell): “I don’t anticipate anything getting contentious this year.’’