Cubs, city complete deal for Wrigley renovations
CHICAGO -- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts unveiled a $500 million plan for the renovation of Wrigley Field, which includes a video scoreboard in left field as well as significant improvements to the Wrigleyville community.
The Cubs and the city of Chicago reached an agreement on the proposal, which has been reviewed in community meetings over the past few weeks and will continue to be discussed. The Cubs must formally submit plan development designs to the city for more public hearings before it is finalized, and that could be completed within the next few weeks.
"If this plan is approved, we will win the World Series for our fans and our city," Ricketts said.
Ricketts called Monday a "milestone" for the Cubs. The team first revealed its five-year renovation plan at the Cubs Convention in January. No public dollars will be needed to save the 99-year-old ballpark.
"I always believed, and I still believe, it's in everyone's best interest to do what's right for Wrigley Field, not only economically," Ricketts said during a news conference on the ballpark's concourse. "It's a special place and has a special role in baseball history."
Besides being home to the Cubs, Wrigley Field also is the third-largest tourist attraction in Illinois and provides a huge economic boost to the city of Chicago.
If approved, the renovation plan would create 2,100 new jobs and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue for the city, state and county. The jobs include 800 construction jobs and 1,300 permanent jobs, and this would be among the biggest investments currently under way in the city of Chicago.
The addition of a 6,000-square-foot video scoreboard in left field has been a tough selling point for rooftop owners, who feel it will block their view. The Cubs, though, say the views will be largely preserved, in part because they will take over the sidewalk on Waveland Avenue behind the left-field bleachers. The video board can be further cantilevered over the public street to help further minimize impact on rooftops.
"We want to be thoughtful about how it is placed and be respectful to people and how they are impacted," Ricketts said.
Wrigley currently has a manually operated scoreboard, which would remain.
"I like Wrigley Field and I'm very traditional," Ricketts said. "But the fact is when you look at what fans are asking for now to improve their game-day experience, and you add the economic value of a video board, it becomes obvious that it's the next best step for us."
More night games would also help, and the proposal increases the number of games under the lights from 30 to 40. That number could change if Major League Baseball or its national television contract require the Cubs to play more than five home night games in any season. Those games will be authorized by special ordinance and will not count against the 40-game limit or require additional cost to the Cubs, according to the proposal.
There is a special ordinance for concerts (maximum of four), with no additional cost to the Cubs. These do not count as night games and are permitted on weekends. Anything beyond four concerts will count as a night game.
The Cubs also would be able to play six Friday games, starting at 3:05 p.m. CT, instead of the current 1:20 p.m. CT start. Executive vice president of community affairs Mike Lufrano said that if the proposal is approved in time, the Cubs could add 3:05 p.m. starts to this year's schedule for the six home games with start times still listed as "to be determined" (June 7 vs. the Pirates, June 21 vs. the Astros, July 5 vs. the Pirates, July 12 vs. the Cardinals, Aug. 2 vs. the Dodgers, Aug. 16 vs. the Cardinals).
The city of Chicago has agreed to vacate the sidewalk and one street lane on Waveland Avenue (from Sheffield to Clark) at no cost to the Cubs, which will be incorporated into the ballpark, subject to a requirement to maintain eight feet of sidewalk.
The city also will vacate the sidewalk on Sheffield Avenue (from Addison to Waveland) at no cost to the Cubs, which will be incorporated into the ballpark, subject to a requirement to maintain eight feet of sidewalk. The Cubs want to block off Sheffield Avenue for weekend home games between Memorial Day and Labor Day, beginning two hours before the game and ending at the end of the second inning.
The Cubs want to add a new 14,000-square-foot, two-story Captain Morgan Club on Addison Street with a merchandise store and space for a visitors' clubhouse, to replace the existing street-level restaurant.
The top priority is to renovate the home clubhouse. Players at other ballparks have access to batting cages during games; the Cubs' batting cages are under the bleachers and players instead use a batting tee in the clubhouse and hit into a net.
"We don't want to be telling our players this is a first-class organization and give them second-rate facilities," Ricketts said. "It's not just how it looks and how it feels but how it works. We'd like to get batting cages built, better training facilities built. The ability to do that will be subject to how quickly the process moves."
The additional revenue will be channeled into the baseball operations budget.
"It's my responsibility to generate as much revenue as I can to give to the guys in the baseball organization so they can put that back on the field to make us more competitive," Ricketts said. "This is a big step in that direction."
Ricketts, whose goal since he and his three siblings took over the team in October 2009 has been to preserve Wrigley Field, said he remained optimistic throughout negotiations with the city of Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the community, led by Ald. Tom Tunney of the 44th Ward.