After months of negotiations, parties have created a proposal that includes more night games, a video screen, an overhauled parking plan, a new hotel and neighborhood entertainment. Mary Ann Ahern reports.
In announcing a hard-fought agreement for a $500 million Wrigley Field renovation, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said the proposal will put fans closer to the team's ultimate goal.
"If this plan is approved, we will win the World Series for our fans and our city," Ricketts told reporters, noting the proposal will generate resources needed for championship-caliber players. "We need this plan in order to bring our fans a winner."
The Cubs and city of Chicago on Sunday announced a "framework" to make over the historic North Side baseball stadium. The proposal includes more night games, a video screen, an overhauled parking plan, a new hotel and neighborhood entertainment.
Ricketts said the changes will help close the gap between the state of the Chicago stadium and other newer parks "all while preserving the best of Wrigley Field."
No drawings will be released to the public until the team begins the city's formal approval process in two weeks. Until then, Ricketts said the proposal calls for 1,000 free remote parking spots with a shuttle to Wrigley Field. A video board in left field and a right field sign similar to the existing Toyota sign are also in the plan as well as 40 night games, four concerts per year and more flexibility for off-season and smaller events.
In an exclusive interview with NBC 5, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he thinks the plan strikes the right balance for the neighborhood and the field.
"The goal was to allow investments that improve both Wrigley Field as well as Wrigleyville, and I think we got the right balance there," Emanuel said.
Emanuel also gave Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) credit for representing area residents in negotiations. "He fought hard for a security plan, a traffic plan, a parking plan and investments in the neighborhood so everybody would gain. Those are significant investments that need to be done and haven't been done in the past."
It remains unclear how the agreement will sit with owners of buildings across the street from Wrigley who provide rooftop views of the ball games under an agreement with the Cubs that goes back years. This month they threatened to sue if the renovations obstruct their views, which they claimed would drive them out of business.
In a statement released Monday, the Wrigleyville Rooftop Association said it will play "an active role" in the community process to approve the plan.
"We are pleased the Chicago Cubs will participate in a community process to flesh out these details more in-depth," the group said in a statement. "However, no community process, city ordinance, or agreement without our consent can or should dismiss contractual rights granted to us by the Chicago Cubs in 2004.
Alluding to past statements regarding legal action, the organization said, "Rooftop owners reserve the right to use any and all means necessary to enforce the remaining 11 years of our 20-year contract."
It's not clear how large the new video screen or second sign would be, and a statement from the team said only that "the Cubs will work with the city on placement of both ... to minimize impact on nearby rooftops to the extent consistent with the team's needs."
The city and ball club said they hoped that the agreement would allow the Cubs to obtain necessary city approvals for the work by the end of the current baseball season.
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 will seek to open new revenue streams outside the stadium. Under the agreement, the Ricketts family would be allowed to build a 175-room hotel, a plaza, and an office building with retail space and a health club.
"We are anxious to work with our community as we seek the approvals required to move the project forward," Ricketts said in the statement.
The site of Babe Ruth's "called shot" home run in the 1932 World Series and more heartbreak than Cubs fans would like to remember, the 99-year-old Wrigley is only younger than Boston's Fenway Park. It has long been a treasured showplace for baseball purists — night games were only added in 1988 — but team officials for years have desperately wanted a true upgrade, saying it costs as much as $15 million a year just to keep up with basic repairs.
Getting to an agreement hasn't been easy. After failing to reach an agreement when Mayor Richard Daley was in office, the family kept talking after Emanuel took office in 2011. Emanuel the next year said city officials and the Ricketts family were in the "final stages" of talks on a renovation plan that could include public help.
In recent weeks, fans also had to deal with the unlikely specter of the Cubs leaving Chicago. With the talks bogged down, the mayor of nearby Rosemont piped up, saying the village located near O'Hare International Airport would be willing to let the Cubs have 25 acres free of charge to build a replica of Wrigley Field.
|Cubs Owner Details Wrigley Field Renovation|