Landmarks Commission OKs Wrigley Sign Changes

Chicago Plan Commission, City Council must also approve $500 million renovation plan of Wrigley Field

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Chicago's Landmark Commission approves changes at Wrigley Field, with tweaks to the original plan. Rob Elgas Reports

    The Commission on Chicago Landmarks on Thursday signed off on a proposal for two large video scoreboards in Wrigley Field, handing the Rickett's family a key win in their plan to renovate the Friendly Confines and a big setback to nearby rooftop business owners.

    Commissioners voted 6-0, approving the pair of structures that are a part of the family's $500 million renovation plan. The Chicago Plan Commission and the City Council must also sign off on the whole deal.

    "We want to make sure this ballpark stays around for the next 100 years, and given today's approval we believe we'll be on track," Cubs spokesman Julian Green told NBC Chicago following the day's marathon meeting.

    The outfield signage will be smaller than the team anticipated, however. Instead of building a 6,000-square-foot video scoreboard in left field, the Cubs have settled for 5,700 square feet with 4,500 for a digital video screen. The Jumbotron will span 95 feet across as opposed to 100 feet, and will feature a custom design on the back intended to match the stadium’s historic exterior.

    In place of a 1,000-square-foot see-through sign in right field, the team will get a static 650-square-foot see-through sign. They’ve also agreed to scrap plans to set off fireworks to celebrate home runs.

    Owners of rooftop businesses adjacent to the park have fought against plans for large signage that would potentially block their views. They're contractually obligated to share 17 percent of their gross revenue with the Cubs through the 2024 season and earlier this spring threatened to sue if that agreement was broken.

    Fans taking in the game on Thursday evening had mixed reactions.

    "People come here for a reason. They like to see it like the old times," said Kim Johnson. "I can see it both ways."

    Beth Murphy, owner of Murphy's Bleachers, called the commission's decision a "blow to anyone who cares for historic and special nature of Wrigley Field."

    Seven members of the Chicago Landmarks Commission unanimously approved portions of the roughly $500 million renovation plan in June, though the signage remained a sore spot in the plans.

    On the eve of the vote, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), whose ward includes Wrigley Field, said he couldn't back the plan unless certain last-minute demands were met. They included reducing the sizes of the Jumbotron and the advertisement in right field.

    "We have a statement that we think the signs are too big and they don't fit in the character of the historic ballpark, so as I've said for months, we're still negotiating the size, the height, and the width, and how it impacts the community," Tunney said after last month's meeting.

    The Ricketts family, which bought the Cubs in 2009 for $845 million, initially sought tax funding for renovation plans. With that out in the new agreement, the owners are seeking new revenue streams, including the large scoreboard and sign.

    The Cubs maintain the proposed changes to the park are necessary to keep the organization financially viable.

    Earlier this week Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has been assisting with negotiations between the Cubs and Tunney, said the group had a “very good meeting” and were “literally feet away from a win-win situation.”