As the Chicago Cubs celebrate the start of a new baseball season, both the mayor and the team’s owners are quick to point out that the major renovations at Wrigley Field were not done using any taxpayer funding.
The Ricketts family is spending nearly $600 million over five years to update the Friendly Confines.
The major overhaul has been contentious at times, with the Cubs often at odds with 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney – and Mayor Rahm Emanuel finding himself to be the one to hammer out deals between the city and the reigning World Series champs.
Even at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new Park at Wrigley on Monday, the tension was evident.
“The mayor made it clear the city could not give us the kind of financial support the White Sox got in rebuilding Comiskey Park, or the Bears got,” Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said in introducing Emanuel.
"He was upfront about it from the very beginning,” Kenney told reporters after the ceremony, just hours before the home opener. “He said, ‘Listen, we cannot help you with the kind of resources that were used to help the other clubs.’”
"They came and they wanted a break on the amusement tax, all of this, and I said I’m not gonna have the taxpayers subsidize this, it’s not gonna happen. Twice they tried, not happening,” Emanuel said Monday morning, explaining that he did offer support in other ways.
“We’ll make sure all the regulations and everything like that that is encumbered, we’ll run through and get that done for you so you can do what you want to do at Wrigley Field,” he recalled of conversations with team owner Tom Ricketts.
As far as the ceremony went, Tunney shrugged off not being invited onstage.
“Tug of war is healthy,” he said. “All these ideas are through a lot of rigorous give and take.”
Despite the tension, Emanuel praised the renovations, calling Cubs management “great partners.”
“From a drawing to this, your mind’s eye doesn’t totally capture what they did here,” he said, scanning the new plaza.
"This was a parking lot, this was dust so that’s where we’re standing - think about it,” he added. “Look at this, we’re standing in a parking lot filled with dust, not even paved, and now they’ve turned it into a real neighborhood plaza.”
The mayor also pointed out the new security plan around Wrigley, which includes restricting truck traffic before and after games and will be reevaluated after the first week.
“This is new, so we’re gonna try, you know, have an evening game, have a day game, we’re gonna come back after two games and look at how did this work,” Emanuel said.
The hotel on Clark Street will be ready next year, along with new apartments along Addison Street.
Though Emanuel usually attends Opening Day, he did not plan to do so this year, as he would be spending Passover with his family.