The Wrigley Restoration and Beyond (UPDATES)

The Wrigley Restoration and Beyond (UPDATES)

Once upon a time, a perennially powerful baseball club moved into a new ballpark.  That park eventually became known as Wrigley Field, a name that has represented a popular brand and an idea for almost a century.  The basis for that idea is up for debate, but it ranges from hope to everlasting failure.

Soon, that will all change for the Chicago Cubs.  There is a rebuild of epic proportions underway to establish the next generation of Cub greats, and on the marketing side, Wrigley Field is about to undergo a major facelift that will cause fans to simultaneously rejoice and complain.  But ultimately, like everything in baseball from the designated hitter to expanded wild cards, it will be accepted, and it will generate additional revenue that will allow the Cubs to improve their player scouting, player development, retention of core players, acquisition of prime free agents (should those even exist in the future), and further philanthropic efforts in the Chicago community.

The good news is that, even in advance of the July 11 Commission on Chicago Landmarks Meeting, the council had already approved the bulk of the Cubs' proposed changes (stories you can find here, here, here and here).  Because Tom Tunney, the Lakeview alderman, decided to be a butthole about this after agreeing in principle to the changes, the special meeting on June 27 did not both to deal with the outfield signs, including the proposed Jumbotron.  Naturally, this is Chicago politics at work, and my theory was that Mayor Rahm Emanuel would force the plan through (others agreed).

Prior to Thursday's meeting, there were already plenty of approvals, including the green light for numerous additional advertisements along the outfield walls and the scoreboard clock itself (blasphemy!).  While the Cubs will not use all of the available space given to them, it is good that they asked for more now than having to beg for more later, giving them much more flexibility to maximize the Wrigley cash cow without having to kowtow to the City of Chicago every time they want to do a new paint job.  The Cubs were again irked by Tunney's stalling, but they were likely to get what they wanted anyway:


Maybe they'd even throw in some home run fireworks, just for laughs.  Or maybe not, as Fran Spielman reports before the big shebang:

Instead of building a 6,000-square-foot video score­board in left field, the Cubs have settled for 4,500 square feet. The Jumbotron will be 95 feet wide, down from 100 feet, meaning five feet less of rooftop blockage. The back will be tailor-made to blend in with the 99-year-old stadium’s restored exterior.

Instead of putting up a 1,000-square-foot see-through sign in right field that might move or rotate, the team will get a static 650-square-foot see-through sign.

And while the team has held out the possibility of setting off fireworks to celebrate home runs — just as they do at U.S. Cellular Field — sources said City Hall will not authorize pyrotechnics at Wrigley.

These are pretty good concessions all things considered, and it was good of the Cubs to seek bigger at the beginning knowing that there was a good chance they'd have to scale back later.  And of course, the nix of home run fireworks is probably a good thing since Wrigleyville is a residential area and I'm sure all the NIMBY folks will freak if that was greenlit.  We'll await official word but Fran is usually very good about this stuff.  And of course, this being Chicago and politics being what they are:

Several legislative hurdles remain. The Wrigley project still must be approved by the Chicago Plan Commission and the City Council. But the two biggest roadblocks — those giant outfield signs — have now been cleared.

At this point this shouldn't be a problem at all.  The rooftops may complain, and there might still be minor concessions, but if the Mayor is happy and the team got the signs they wanted, this profiles as a win for the Chicago Cubs and the city of Chicago.

Update 12:54 PM: Danny Ecker is at the meetings, waiting for the residents to flip their lids (and apparently for the Ricketts and Cubs contingent to show up), and had this to say:


If that is the case, we're looking at a sign barely smaller than the original proposal of 6000 square feet, with most of it dedicated to replay video and the rest for static advertisement space and Wrigley-themed decoration.  Not a terrible thing, and probably a bit of a "screw you" move by the Cubs with the backing of the Mayor if this passes. Serena Dai adds:

From Serena's story:

A proposed 6,000 square foot jumbotron will now be 4,560 square feet with a 462 square foot neon sign on top, and a 1,000 square foot sign in right field will now be a 650 square feet neon or logo, according to the recommendation of the historical preservation staff.

The outside of the right field sign must be painted "matte green" to match the exterior of the ballpark, and the outside of the video screen must be reviewed before approval. Two lights will accompany the video screen, at 12' by 17' each.

Overall, the left field sign will 55 feet tall, down from 60 feet.

Serena's timeline has a picture of a lady decked out in Cubs regalia for anyone interested.  It's pretty dedicated...#committed, as it were.

Update 1:53 PM: Fran Spielman says that Rahm's aides and the Cubs gang are in chambers talking...


Maybe they just want to make the rooftops sweat and/or they're setting up golf dates.  Stay tuned.

Update 2:06 PM: From Fran again:


Oh cool, legalese.

Update 2:25 PM: Tom Tunney wants to play whisper too:


Wonder if they have glow-sticks and if they're telling ghost stories.  Fran is now wondering what's taking so long, and so are we.  My guess is that Rahm and friends are telling Tunney that his bribe money maxes out at $X and he can't get any more, so STFU and let's move this along.  Tunney, of course, will keep doing his thing to look good for his ward...


*sigh* But I do feel better knowing the Mayor is on the Cubs' side, or at least he should be.

Update 2:35 PM: Oh noes!  The citizens are restless!


I would be extremely interested to hear what Rahm had to say to the community.  I should ready my popcorn...

Update 2:51 PM: Serena Dai said the Wrigley portion of the meeting finally began, and here's the first big statement:


With no precedent, but with the Mayor's backing and the need for the Cubs to remain in the area to keep Wrigleyville viable, I think they'll just make up new guidelines.

Fran Spielman adds:

Well then.  I guess the Mayor really is gonna grease those wheels!

Update 3:00 PM: Serena has additional updates on the signage:



Sounds like they're working on that new guideline already. I don't know the exact legalese but it sounds like this isn't a big deal and will easily pass.

Update 3:17 PM: Danny Ecker with the signage dimensions and scope...

This is apparently only 30% of all signage, so I'm not sure what the other 70% entails.  As for the Jumbotron itself:

Gotta do things big in Chicago, amirite?

Update 3:34 PM: Fran Spielman has the dimensions for the left-field board now...

Fran also says that the signage agreement lasts for 20 years, which will probably be around how long Wrigley Field lasts post-restoration (see below for what we surmise will have to happen to "preserve" Wrigley Field for the future).  But as of right now, the Jumbotron appears to be approved.  More after I get home from Wrigley (sans Jumbotron).

Update 4:00 PM: Last one before I hop the train...


*Drops mic*



So What Now?

There are probably other things the Cubs could do, like fix the cupholder positioning:




And of course, we being not that large, we're still cramped in our seats and stuff like this happens:

Did I mention Anno's not that big?  I'm about 5'8", 150 pounds and the seats at Wrigley Field are just so small.  I hope this is one of the cosmetic things they change up, as well as resetting the seating sections such that the fans don't have to worry as much about the existing support beams blocking a view.  I also wonder what they'll do regarding the concrete-catching nets (yes, those exist!) and of course, the crumbling concrete itself, because fan safety is tantamount.  Finally, the footprint of the stadium is pretty restricted by the streets surrounding Wrigley Field, so I see very little that can be done to improve the flow-through of fans in the main concourse despite the renderings provided to us after the Cubs Convention.

Look at that seat!  Just look at it!  He's not even that big!

Look at that seat! Just look at it! He's not even that big!

Is there a way to re-section each seating area so the poles aren't right in front of a seat?

Is there a way to re-section each seating area so the poles aren't right in front of a seat?

Watch for falling concrete!

Watch for falling concrete!


Makes you wonder how they're going to reclaim some space so you don't have to feel all sardine-y.

Makes you wonder how they're going to reclaim some space so you don't have to feel all sardine-y.

No obstructions, not a bad seat in the house.

No obstructions, not a bad seat in the house.

Despite this large victory for Cubs ownership, the fact remains that Wrigley Field is very very old.  At some point engineers will have to find a way to reinforce the existing support beams, or they may even have to tear down the upper deck and rebuild anew.  That might not be a terrible idea given how disruptive the support beams are for fan views of the field.  An idea I had for this was inspired by how they did the decks in AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, which itself was also inspired by Wrigley Field's old-timey feel.  The decks are nestled in such that there are no obstructed views and no support beams needed.  Again, this would actually require that the upper deck at Wrigley be scrapped.  But I do like the way AT&T is set up.

There will come a day when Wrigley Field will serve out its useful life.  At that point, what will happen?  Will the Ricketts family (or whoever the owner is) tear it down and build anew on the same site?  Will they instead move to a new site (hello, Rosemont, Cicero and DuPage County!) and keep Wrigley standing as a museum like the Colosseum in Rome?  We've talked a bit about why Wrigley Field, and Wrigleyville itself, may not be easy to move out of, as have others.  The time frame for this really depends on how long the Ricketts' consultants think that Wrigley can last in its current state, and how long it can continue to last post-restoration.  When they get to the crossroads, the Cubs will have to explore another stadium to play in while Wrigley gets repaired.  But for now, we as Cubs fans should be thankful that our favorite team is finally going to be able to operate like a true major league team.

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