Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is getting what he wants, pretty much, with a $500 million deal to renovate 99-year-old Wrigley Field. As is Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. Now let's see what they do with it.
The city and the Cubs reached a deal over the weekend to improve Wrigley that does not raise taxes but does make changes to the stadium that probably won't please everyone. The additions include more night games; a video scoreboard that could be twice the size of the vintage model in center field and advertising signage in the iconic bleachers that could block rooftop views; reconstructed concourses for fans and expanded clubhouses for the players; a hotel and new team offices across the street and increased parking. The Stew took a recent look at the deal (valued at $300 million in January) that included some keen artist renderings. The agreement comes six days after the original deadline of the Cubs home opener, which was extended when obvious progress was being made.
Via the Chicago Tribune:
For the rest of Chicago, the agreement is a signal that the 99-year-old stadium, loved for its old-time charm but reviled for its ancient amenities, will enter a new era that Emanuel characterized as a major victory.
"For nearly a century, Wrigley Field has been a cherished institution in Chicago and the Wrigleyville community, as well as a cathedral of baseball," Emanuel said in a statement put out Sunday by the mayor's office, the Cubs and Tunney. "This framework allows the Cubs to restore the Friendly Confines and pursue their economic goals, while respecting the rights and quality of life of its neighbors. … It will have a long-lasting positive effect on Chicago."
In exchange for Chicago taxpayers not taking a hit, the city will relax zoning and landmark restrictions and Cubs ownership will finance the project. A bureaucracy still needs to approve of specific plans, and the Cubs won't play games elsewhere while the changes are made, so the makeover will take years, and all of the plans are subject to change. And it's possible that some rooftop owners, who have a deal with the Cubs until 2017 to return 17 percent of revenue to the team, might be unhappy with how new signage and a new scoreboard affect some views.
Others probably won't be happy, either.
There will be ballpark purists, who probably didn't like the bleacher renovations of recent seasons, who won't approve of any significant changes to the Friendly Confines. Many didn't like the idea of adding night games in 1988. Nearly half of the Cubs home games will happen at night, probably starting next season.
Some fans in Boston probably were reluctant to embrace the changes made at Fenway Park in recent years but, despite the recent sellout streak ending, renovations there helped the team and the stadium.
If this deal keeps Wrigley standing, safe, updated and financially viable/lucrative, it makes sense — even if the physical changes take some getting used to. And even if we don't ever get fully used to them.
Finally: Will this help the Cubs win the World Series? It couldn't hurt, right?