I’ve been to Wrigley Field. While it’s nice that it hasn’t changed much since it was first built a zillion years ago, the place is actually kind of a dump. I guess it was easier to impress people in 1914. The Chicago Cubs really need to renovate it, which is exactly what they’re looking to do.
The city of Chicago and the Ricketts family – who own the Cubs and Wrigley Field – are close to a $500 million deal that would include $300 million in renovations to the famed landmark that would be paid for entirely by Cubs ownership.
Look, I really hate the Cubs and the corporatization of nostalgia as much as the next guy. While “throwback” parks were cool when they started to be built in the 90s, they’re also really annoying for their soulless exploitation of the history of baseball. Citi Field, I’m looking in your direction. And everyone praises the way the Red Sox have renovated Fenway Park, but there has still been quite a bit of teeth-gnashing over things like the seats on top of the Green Monster.
So the renovation of Wrigley Field, which is more or less the same as it has always been, is troublesome for that reason. And you’d think that’s how most Cubs fans feel. That is, not all that interested in changing Wrigley Field, a.k.a. the best bar in the National League, just to line the pockets of the Ricketts family.
Which is more or less the point Tom Tunney, alderman for Wrigleyville, has tried to make in the past. But not really. Mainly, he wants to protect the interests of his constituents, who happen to be the people who own rooftop stands with views of Wrigley Field, and run street fairs outside the stadium. These are people he has stood up for in the past and any threat to them from the Cubs gives him pause. Further (h/t to Chicago Magazine) he still controls permits for street fairs outside the stadium, so if the Cubs wanted to run their own, they would still have to go through him. Hence, he is a man the Ricketts family needs to keep happy.
The rooftop owners don’t really have a legal leg to stand on should the Cubs put in a huge sign or video screen that could potentially block the view from across the street. They’ve threatened to sue, but the point of that threat is to tie up the renovations in court rather than anyone thinking they could actually be permanently stopped.
Besides, it would be horrible public relations for the Ricketts family to screw over a bunch of local businessmen even if it is well within Cubs ownership’s rights to do so. This, of course, is another reason Tunney and Mayor Rahm Emanuel are involved in this discussion.
Emanuel is also the only person who can grant an easement on Wrigley’s landmark status, an important roadblock to any renovations to the park. Thus, this is an extremely complicated, political issue for everyone involved.
However, the deal seems to be making all parties happy enough that it might actually go through by the Cubs’ home opener on April 8. The Cubs get to add in a video screen and advertisement signs, along with other renovations, and play more night games. The city gets a parking garage and a $200 million hotel near the stadium to help business, and Alderman Tunney is supposedly being allowed more security for the crowds before and after those night games.
My favorite part of this controversy is the offer made by Rosemont, IL mayor Bradley Stephens: 25 acres of completely free land to build a replica of Wrigley if the city won’t be flexible enough for Cubs ownership’s liking. Some solid trolling there.
The deal will eventually get done, even if it isn’t done by April 8, and everyone will have their own opinions on the situation depending on how their favorite interests come out.
Either way, Wrigley Field, the Cubs, and Cubs fans still suck and I hope they lose forever. Sorry, Cubs fan writers on this site.