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Cubs Wrigley Renovation Plans Now Up To Approval From Emanuel, Tunney

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 22, 2013 10:30PM

Photo Credit: LM Murray

Both the Tribune and Sun-Times follow up on Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts’s offer to finance Wrigley Field renovations with up to $300 million of the ballclub’s money, if the city relaxes the restrictions on advertising, night games and other items currently prohibited by the landmark status placed on the ballpark.

Both papers write the main obstacle standing in the way of Ricketts’s proposal being approved is 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney, who had expressed reservations regarding renovations at the Friendly Confines in the past in the interests of the rooftop clubs surrounding the park that have accounted for 10 percent of the campaign funds Tunney’s raised since he became alderman. Tunney told the Sun-Times he’s open to negotiation on the subject of adding more night games to the Cubs’ home schedule, while the Tribune, more tellingly, reported Tunney hasn’t completely dismissed easing the landmark restrictions so the Cubs could erect billboards.

"I think a lot of balloons are being floated," Tunney said Monday. "A lot of what they said has not been presented to the community."

The Cubs and rooftop clubs are almost halfway through a 20-year deal where the rooftop clubs funnel 17 percent of their revenue to the Cubs in exchange for the unfettered views of Wrigley Field that are a major selling point for the rooftop clubs. Murphy’s Bleachers owner Beth Murphy released a statement saying any plan for raising billboards at Wrigley “violates our current 20-year contract with the Cubs and would jeopardize the tremendous economic contribution rooftops make to Chicago as businesses, taxpayers and members of the community. Destroying one business to benefit the other shouldn’t be the answer — we believe a better solution exists.”

"The rooftops are a fabric of the experience at Wrigley Field," Murphy added. They probably were before they became a business, when the only ones watching a game from the rooftops were renters playing hooky from work and enjoying some brats grilled on a cheap barbecue grill. It’s wise moving forward to pay attention to Tunney’s words. As we learned from the Lakeview Walmart fiasco, if he says he’s opposed to something, chances are six months later he’ll be the one backing the proposal.

If Tunney and the rooftop clubs are amenable to the Cubs’ plan, marketing and business experts say Mayor Rahm Emanuel would be a fool not to agree to it. The devil, however, is in the details, and Ricketts is not only asking for relaxing the restrictions on the ballpark’s landmark status and more night games, but a hotel near the ballpark and a carnival-style thoroughfare along Sheffield Avenue. Tunney noted answers regarding a parking plan, now that the Triangle Building that included a parking structure has been scrapped, and impact of the Cubs’ proposal on the community need to be addressed.

A source close to the Emanuel administration told the Sun-Times said the mayor will not let Tunney stand in the way of a proposal that lets the Cubs renovate Wrigley Field without city subsidies, but that any such proposal must still go through proper channels like being vetted before the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.