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Cubs move street fair planned for Sheffield to parking lot

Updated: September 21, 2011 12:34AM

With Wrigleyville residents and merchants bringing the heat, the Cubs have struck out in their efforts to close down a block-long stretch of Sheffield Avenue for nine days to make way for a family-friendly, interactive street fair.

The so-called “Wrigleyville block party” will still be held, beginning Friday, when the Cubs open a three-game series against the New York Yankees.

But, instead of shutting down Sheffield, the food, games and a Budweiser music stage featuring some of Chicago’s top cover bands will be set up on a parking lot owned by the Cubs that borders Clark Street on the west side of Wrigley Field.

The event will be duplicated during the July 1-3 series against the Sox and from Aug. 19 to 21, when the Cubs renew their heated rivalry against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said the compromise was demanded by area residents and merchants.

“Sheffield is a major arterial street. You’re blocking traffic for nine days where people have to be-re-routed. The community felt that was too much to handle,” Tunney said.

“We went through a number of community meetings. The basic premise was, ‘If the Cubs want to do it, let ‘em do it on their own property.’ We’ve also limited the hours and the occupancy [to 1,000 people]. They’re shutting down at 8 p.m.”

Gus Isacson, executive director of the Central Lakeview Merchants Association, agreed that the event was “better suited on their own private property” than on a public street.

The 8 p.m. closing time will “release people into the community,” so local bars and restaurants can share the wealth for people “who want to continue enjoying themselves,” he said.

“They’re trying to entertain their fans and have an exciting event around the ballpark, even if the team doesn’t win. I don’t think they want to be doing this. The Cubs are not in the street fair business. But, this is what they have to do to stay relevant” during a dismal season when attendance is down, Isacson said.

Wally Hayward, Cubs executive vice-president for sales and marketing, said the team is determined to make “family-friendly activities part of the culture” around Wrigleyville.

But, he said, “We wanted to make sure we listened to the community and the local businesses. They had some concerns about closing [Sheffield] down for nine dates. Instead of cancelling this, we decided to create the Wrigleyville Block Party” on Cubs property.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this year that Wrigleyville merchants and residents were reacting coolly to the Cubs’ plan to duplicate for the three biggest series of the season — June 17-19 against the Yankees, July 1-3 against the Sox and Aug. 19-21 against the Cardinals — the carnival atmosphere created during the Allstate College Football Classic between Northwestern and the University of Illinois.

It was the first college football game at Wrigley since 1938 and the Cubs marked the occasion with an event that closed down Sheffield between Waveland and Addison. Fans did not need tickets to the game to participate.

Now, the Cubs plan to hold a similar street fair on those dates, but on their own property. The first is Friday, Saturday and Sunday between the hours of 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

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