CHICAGO (AP) —
Wrigley Field took a step in the direction of every major league baseball
park in the country Thursday when a city commission unanimously approved a
major expansion of planned renovations including several more electronic
signs and erecting a Jumbotron in the iconic home of the Chicago Cubs.
After more than a
dozen people spoke on behalf of long suffering Cubs fans — discussing the
neighborhood, the rooftop venues across the street and even birds that fly
over the famous ballpark — the city's landmarks commission agreed without
any debate to a renovation project that is dramatically bigger than a $500
million plan approved last year.
Jumbotron above the ivy-covered outfield leftfield wall and another
electronic sign above the right field wall that it already approved, the
commission agreed to the Cubs request to add five more electronic signs,
expand the bleachers, erect outfield light standards and build bullpens
beneath the bleachers. Expansion of the bleachers could begin as soon as
the baseball season is over, the team said.
If the city
council gives final approval to the Wrigley makeover, the century-old
ballpark packed into an urban neighborhood could have a more modern look,
much to the dismay of the owners of buildings across the street, who fear
the signs will block the view of fans who watch the games from rooftops.
owners all but promised a lawsuit if the Cubs go ahead with the expanded
"If it looks like
it violates our contract, we'll have to take action accordingly," said
Ryan McLaughlin, a spokesman for the rooftop owners.
But the team
apparently has run out of patience.
"We cannot wait
any longer," said Crane Kenney, the Cubs president of business operations.
Cubs' owners have
said the renovations are essential to bringing in more revenue for the
team, which hasn't won a World Series since 1908, the longest losing
drought in Major League Baseball.
ownership on Thursday did not sound like they were willing to entertain
the solution put forth recently by the rooftop owners, who pay the team a
chunk of their revenues under a 20-year agreement. The rooftop owners want
the team to limit the number of signs to two and forget about the other
"We got approval
for seven signs," Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for Cubs chairman Tom
Ricketts, said after the nearly four-hour meeting. The Ricketts family,
whose scion Joe Ricketts founded the online brokerage company Ameritrade,
bought the Cubs in 2009 and has been sparring with the rooftop owners
was required to vote on the project because Wrigley is a landmark. The
issue now goes to the City Council for final approval. The councilman for
the neighborhood including Wrigley voiced his opposition to the commission
even voting on the project, saying neither he nor the community had been
given a chance to express their concerns.
"What we're doing
today is not fair," Alderman Tom Tunney told the commission. "You know
But while other
members of the council often defer to the wishes of the local
representative, they also are known to do what Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants.
He has touted the renovation as creating jobs and bringing revenue to the
vote may have moved the renovation closer to reality, but one thing is
clear: Nobody is touching the ivy. That issue was settled weeks ago when
the Cubs retreated from a proposal to tear out several feet of ivy to
accommodate the bullpens.
When the ivy
climbs one of the most famous brick walls in the United States it is, in
itself, a protected landmark.