As the Chicago Cubs’ self-imposed deadline for a Wrigley renovation/funding deal is coming in just a few days (April 1), the news on those renovation talks is flying fast. There are a number of big updates to discuss, so don’t let the bulleted format fool you – this is dense, important stuff …
- Mayor Rahm Emanuel has remained largely silent about the renovation fight in the last few weeks, despite the $500 million non-tax-payer project likely meaning a great deal to both the city of Chicago and the Mayor’s personal feather collection. He broke that silence yesterday, but is clearly still trying to stay out of it, at least publicly. “In every negotiation, there’s always a moment in which the fog lifts and everybody can see the win,” the Mayor told the media at an unrelated event. “I’ve encouraged the parties to stay talking. I’m encouraged that they stay at the table, that they see the fog lift and see what’s in front of them. We’re not there yet, obviously. April 1st is coming. But I think there’s enough wins there for everybody to declare a victory and have enough to go forward. We’re actively trying to make sure that …. all parties see what’s in front of them, the potential and how far they’ve all come to reach, what I think is a good agreement across the board.”
- The Mayor added that he is completely unfazed by any threats that the Cubs might move out of Chicago. “I’m not worried about it. If they want to go to Rosemont — they just announced they’re gonna build a hotel [in Wrigleyville]. And if it was a serious thing, they wouldn’t be at the table negotiating.” That’s arguably true for now, but the Cubs do have that April 1 deadline. Maybe the Cubs aren’t so eager to remain at that table if the deadline passes without a deal. Just listen to Ricketts Family spokesperson Dennis Culloton when he was asked what happens if the deadline passes without a deal, per the Sun-Times: “We will have that conversation then. Our focus is on getting a deal done with the city. You know what our deadline is. I’m not gonna speculate on that. We will remain focused on the positive.” If the deadline passes without the Cubs feeling like there’s a deal there, they’re going to explore other options. They could not be making that point any more clear. Would they actually consider moving? I still doubt it. But they are quickly becoming the caged animal.
- (An aside: in the DNAinfo piece on the Mayor’s remarks, I absolutely adored this closing sentence: “Emanuel made the remarks at a news conference after the announcement that the city will receive a $100 million federal loan to complete the Riverwalk project downtown.” Subtle, DNAinfo writer Ted Cox. Subtle.)
- Dave Kaplan’s City Hall sources tell him “that they are very concerned that if a deal is not reached by Monday that it could throw the whole process into chaos.” In the same piece, Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens says that his city is eager to make a very serious pitch to Tom Ricketts, in person on Tuesday, if the Monday deadline passes.
- Kap also mentions a couple of letters written by a neighborhood group, requesting that Emanuel and Tunney demand the Cubs do certain things before the renovation goes through, which we discussed earlier, in case you missed the details.
- Despite all that, though, it’s worth noting that even Kap doesn’t see the Cubs leaving Wrigley Field in the end. “I just don’t see the Mayor not getting a deal done,” Kap tweeted. And if Kap doesn’t see a move as a realistic possibility, then I’m not sure how anyone could.
- Confirming a report by George Ofman, Cubs VP of Communications and Community Affairs Julian Green conceded that one of the issues right now is size of the JumboTron that the City and neighborhood would permit in Wrigley Field, per a Tribune report. Sources tell the Tribune that the Cubs are holding fast to a 6,000 square foot minimum for their board (the Trib says the Old Scoreboard is about 2,025 square feet), but the City wants it no larger than 3,000 square feet. The location of the board, and the extent to which it would block rooftop views, is also being discussed (seems logical that it would have to be in left center, since there are no rooftops there). The fact that they are dickering about the size and location of the JumboTron, however, is actually a good sign to me. It suggests that the sides have found agreement on the broader issues – will there be signage at all, will there be a JumboTron at all, etc. – and now they’re down to the details. That’s not to say the details couldn’t derail things, but at least it’s progress.
- On Wednesday night, the 44th Ward Community Directed Development Council had a closed door meeting about Wrigley renovation issues, and Green confirmed to the Tribune that the proposed hotel (on the McDonalds property) would be seven stories, with retail on the first floor, the athletic club on the next two floors, and rooms on the next four floors. More interestingly, Green said that the Cubs presented a plan for a new office building on the triangular-shaped property just west of the ballpark (the mythical Triangle Building returns!). Although the building would presumably not take up the entire property, as the Cubs have said they would use some of the property for an open air market type space for the community, it would be six stories and 125,000 square feet. It would have Cubs offices, a conference center, more retail space, and a play area for kids. There were renderings circulated at the meeting, so here’s hoping those leak. I’d like to see them.
- Following the development meeting, Tunney sent an email to his constituents in the 44th Ward, updating them on the situation:
Last night, the 44th Ward Community Directed Development Council, which is comprised of residents and business leaders in Lakeview, met with Cubs Executives to discuss Wrigley Field renovations. While many residents are in favor of the stadium renovations and a hotel on the current McDonalds site, there are still several community concerns that need to be addressed before a plan can move forward. The Lakeview community has continuously asked to see a comprehensive remote parking plan, updated traffic studies, increased post game security, and a complete signage proposal. There are many moving parts to this development. We cannot rush into this agreement without a plan and community process as this development will have an impact on the Lakeview community for years to come. Constructive conversations with the Cubs continue. We all hope that solutions can be reached that will benefit the Cubs, the entire Lakeview community, and the City of Chicago.
My office has received feedback from many people who do not reside in Lakeview or even the City of Chicago. I have been elected to represent my constituents. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to move toward reaching a solution. Please contact my office if you have any comments or concerns regarding this matter.
- Thanks to BN’er Mike for passing on the email. It sounds to me like Tunney is feeling some pressure from residents (and, ha, non-residents), and he wants to remind them that he’s simply trying to do the best thing for them in the long-term. (You may read that sincerely or as dripping with sarcasm, depending on your prejudices in either direction.) I’m guessing he’s getting a lot of heat from residents who feel like he’s representing only the interests of the rooftops. One question I’ve had for a while: what exactly does the parking situation have to do with the renovation of Wrigley? I understand that parking has always been an issue, but it’s not as if the renovation, itself, will impact parking – the Cubs aren’t adding any seats. So why should a parking plan (which actually just means: Cubs, you pay for more parking) be used as a bargaining chip in this discussion? That’s an actual, as opposed to rhetorical, question, because I could be missing something.
[Disclosure: some of the rooftops advertise on BN, but that has not impacted the way I've covered this ongoing story.]