Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: The Mayor Speaks, JumboTron Fight, Tunney Letter, Rosemont Meeting, More

respect wrigleyAs 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.]

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

74 responses to “Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: The Mayor Speaks, JumboTron Fight, Tunney Letter, Rosemont Meeting, More”

  1. JB88

    The parking piece is just dripping with irony. Doesn’t Tunney realize that thousands of his constituents have a veritable cottage industry in illegal parking during the season? I’d wager that his residents rake in collectively millions per year in parking fees they pay to people who decide to drive to Wrigley.

    1. HRSoler

      Totally agree

      1. D.G.Lang

        you agree that the residents/parking lot owners pay the drivers to park?

    2. D.G.Lang

      I don’t think that the residents pay the drivers to park, more likely that the drivers pay the residents/owners of those parking lots.

  2. hawkcub

    Wow lots of good info. Seems Rahm is getting a little nervous the political gift he was given may be in jeopardy. At the same time he is trying to be careful not to step on Tunney’s toes.

    1. CubFan Paul

      Rahm may eventually have to step on Tunney completely, not just his toes. The Mayor is feeling the heat from the Ricketts’ deadline.

      $500Million of private money is a lot of leverage. That’s why everyone is talking except Tom Ricketts.

    2. Tom A.

      Mayor Rahm should be worried. He has a big mess with the extent of killings that still are happening throughout our city. He also has a big mess with the closing of schools throughout the city. Now, if he let’s $500 million of stadium monies slip through his fingers and exit the city, he could be experiencing one of the worse terms ever in the history of a City of Chicago Mayor.

      The more I hear and read, the more disgusted I am with Mr. Tunney, as well as the bar and rooftop owners. Greed is a terrible thing and the more they try to justify it, the more it reveals its ugliness. I wish the Mayor would appoint a committee of knowledgeable accountants to look through all of the political funding and ownership details of these people that simply are trying to steal monies from the $500 million pot. This continues to smell of bad politics. And, if it true that Mr. Tunney is starting to feel some pressure because of all of this, then I feel better that our modern press coverage is moving us forward to stand up against this type of greed.

      No matter how much you try to convince me, (1) if the rooftop owners were paying a market rate for the views that they get into Wrigley Field, the Cubs would be fully open to that proposal — and that market rate would mean that they would PAY to the extent that their views would be the best use of the sight-lines, (2) if Mr. Tunney was sincere and trying to represent the best interests of the community, he would not be benefiting from these actions through political donations and his owned restaurants — it happens everywhere in this world that people get into politics to try to protect or better their personal interests and (3) the City of Chicago closes its eyes to many issues — if parking is such a problem then fix it and how could anyone on a zoning board that that it would be a good idea to build seating on the roof of a building and allow people up there full of alcohol ?

  3. cubfanincardinalland

    Really nice article this morning Brett. I believe in reading between the lines. Emanuel has shown lousy leadership skills, but he is a master politician, and that is all about survival.
    His statement really is utterly non-sensical. His statement tells me that this thing is doomed, he is positioning himself to pass the buck.
    “I’ve encouraged the parties to stay talking”? Rahm, you are one of the parties for crying out loud. Who do you think is holding up a deal on this thing, it is the city.
    Rahm is already removing himself from the process, that is what politicians do well, shift blame and avoid responsiblility when things go wrong.

  4. Fastball

    I am really tired of this. April 1st will come to pass. These city of Chicago politicians will have forced Ricketts hand. Next week Ricketts will open the gates on proposals to move the Cubs. It may not be Rosemont. It could be anywhere. There was a time in Major League Baseball that teams moved cities all the time. It was a virtual round robin of teams moving from one city / geographic locations to another. Boston Braves, Brooklyn Dodgers, It’s a long list of teams having moved over the history of baseball. If I was Ricketts my ear could be bent on a proposal to relocate my team. There are cities who are just dying for a big time pro sports franchise. They would roll out the red carpet and make it so Ricketts would have the offer of a lifetime. I think about this at times and realize that virtually every team in baseball has moved and they all expect Cubs and Redsox have built new stadiums and moved. The Yankees built a new stadium albeit they didn’t move very far. The Reds moved about 1 1/2 blocks to their new stadium. Something has to give and it will 72 hours from now. A decision won’t be made but the proposals will start coming out of the woodwork. In the end I think Ricketts will get a deal from somewhere else and it will be so lucrative for him and hassle free a change will be inevitable. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ricketts sells Wrigley to Northwestern and it is remodeled to become a football, soccer and track facility for Northwestern. I would laugh my ass off if that happened or something along those lines. Those rooftops would be interesting to watch Big Ten Football from 6 Saturdays a year. The longer this goes on it becomes less and less about a loyalty to Chicago and the local fans of the Cubs. No matter where the Cubs call home there will be Cubs Fans. As soon as the organization puts a real product on the field in the next couple seasons say by 2015. Cubs fans will come and watch and every game will be sold out with people actually in the seats.

    I don’t want the Cubs to have to move. But reality is setting in. It’s a Love It or List It situation at this point. You can still love it a lot. But the new place will sure look pretty damned nice and it will be move in ready. No matter how this shakes out Ricketts is going to List It. Then this will be Chicago History! It will be talked about like the Dodgers moving to L.A. The Cubs will make history and they still won’t have won a World Series.

    1. Bill

      I hope you are right and the team moves. I’ll root for the Cubs wherever they play. These constant battles with the city and Tunney aren’t worth the hassle.

      1. caryatid62

        None of this will happen. Ever.

  5. DarthHater

    Dear Alderman Tunney:

    In response to your thinly disguised FU to non-residents of your ward, please take note that, while it may be true that you are elected to represent your constituents, it is equally true that the other 49 members of the Chicago City Council are not elected to represent your constitutents and the Mayor is elected to represent all Chicagoans. Just a little FU back atcha.

    Sincerely,

    The Entire World Outside Lakeview

    1. Tommy

      He’s gotta stick his neck out for the people that line his pockets. Yeah – can’t know this for sure, but if that’s not the case, this doesn’t make any sense at all!

      1. Tom A.

        I agree Tommy. We don’t know for sure many things. But, we do know several things. There is enough smoke surrounding Mr. Tunney, maybe there is also fire !

  6. North Side Irish

    The parking issue is tied to the increase in night games. The area around Wrigley is zoned for parking permits, but that is only enforced during night games. Basically, Cubs fans can park on the street during the day when residents are at work. But when residents come home after work and can’t find parking, it’s an issue. Plus there are plenty of residents who have off street parking, but will park on the street and then sell a guest pass during Cubs games.

    1. Tom A.

      Now that makes complete sense. Thus, if the Cubs get their increase in night games, there also should be some action on their part to assist with these parking issues.

  7. Daniel

    Just a thought…I know how silly it is and could be completely unfeasable. But, wouldn’t it be cool if the cubs bought the rooftop buildings, demolished then and built a hotel over there. One with balconies facing the stadium. Suite style, party style, etc. I think it’d be neat anyways…

  8. North Side Irish

    Serena Dai ‏@ssdai 2m
    #Cubs may start parts of renovation without the comprehensive deal http://bit.ly/YY0TFq #WrigleyField

    This would kinda undermine any threat to move…

    1. Marc N.

      Would but couldn’t

  9. Patrick W.

    I’ve got a solution: Build a retractable Jumbo-tron. The top half could be visible for the entire game, just raise it between innings and before and after the game. Somebody get on that.

    1. TWC

      Obviously, you work for the rooftops.

    2. BluBlud

      did the RTO ask you to come here and suggest that. :)

      1. Patrick W.

        No, I’m just a super genius solution finder. A solutionist if you will. :)

    3. MightyBear

      A retractable Jumbo Tron might be pretty cool. After batting practice and before the game they could raise the Jumbo Tron to a cool tune like Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. Doo do doo. Doo do doo.

  10. itzscott

    >> 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? <<

    The renovation, itself, will not impact parking anymore than what is currently the situation, although added night games & concerts likely will…. but I'm sure that's not the point.

    #1 rule when negotiating states that those who ask for more at the beginning end up getting more at the end than if they would if they did not ask for more initially.

    #2 rule (the key rule that applies) is that if you make a concession, get something back in return.

    Seems to me that while a renovation itself will not impact parking, the Lakeview community is likely using that as ONE of their conditions for a concession of theirs to try to alleviate some of the parking problems that currently exist.

    1. BluBlud

      you must work for the rooftops.

  11. JoeyCollins

    I really think the Cubs will end up getting what they want out of this deal, the question is this year or next. If the Ricketts really think they need a plan by April 1st they should do nothing but take meetings with suburbs the entire season. Listen politely to anything Tunney wants to say, but dont go to him at all, make him keep coming back until the deal is everythIng the Cubs want. I dont think they will ever move but if once a month Tunney and Rahm get to read about a new proposal from a different suburb it might get them thnking.

  12. itzscott

    I live in NYC and work for a Hong Kong based corporation that has no clue what this is all about.

    1. BluBlud

      It’s a joke man. I know you don’t work for the rooftop.

  13. MatthewJ

    I hope all Cubs fans respond by boycotting the rooftops this year. Would love to see them sit empty game after game. Same with Murphy’s and the other establishments holding this thing up. If you get there early, go spend your money inside the stadium instead. I know that’s what I will be doing – hope others join in.

    1. Camiata2

      I agree with your sentiment and will join you in the boycott. I’m going to the home opener (bleacher seats), and will refrain from the bars around the area before and after the game.

    2. Dave

      I agree!

    3. HRSoler

      Agreed

  14. Indy57

    Rule number 1A in negotiating: Both sides in a negotiation have pressure. The goal is to determine your “opponents” pressure points and to exploit them. The community and the City have enormous pressure on them. Remove the Cubs from their midst and their businesses, property values and tax revenues take a big economic hit. The Cubs are gong to spend $500 million. They can renovate or build a new stadium for that amount. The revenue they can take in from a new stadium deal, advertising and night game TV contracts all work in the Cubs’ favor. Maybe not as many fans come to games because the Cubs are not at the “old” Wrigley. However, the additional revenues enhance their ability to field winning teams, which is what people really come to see anyway.

    People lose a negotiation when they arrogantly fail to realize the other side holds a better “hand.” Tunney, the City and the community need to realize they have a weaker position or they will find themselves in a very unenviable position.

  15. Mark

    Why not build a parking garage below the stadium and ultimately below some of the rooftop buildings? They did it for Soldier Field and many of the downtown Museums. Everyone chips in to build it. It could be for players, staff, season ticket holders and then be used for the bars etc throughout the year. It would be a win win for the city and the team.

  16. Kevin

    At this point my hope is for the Cubs to listen to all offers starting April 2nd. I have never ever heard of any sports team with so many restrictions. The Cubs can still have talks with the city but the city will have so much less leverage and may end up giving in and giving them full control of their club from this point forward.

  17. cubmig

    Final score if the Cubs move: Billy Sianis & Goat 1
    Chicago Cubs 0

  18. King Jeff

    I was under the impression that parking was a pretty big revenue generator for teams that own their own lots. I don’t see why the Cubs wouldn’t want to look into this, unless they are, just at a later date, after the more important issues are solved.

    1. Tom A.

      Yes it is. Maybe the city can take over (through eminent domain) the buildings that support the rooftops that now only steal views into the stadium. They use that property to house a public parking facility which will generate lots and lots of money for the city. City happy, neighborhood happy, Cubs happy — only parties not happy might be rooftop owners and bar owners surrounding Wrigley Field as their buildings are now parking. I would love something like that to happen !

      5,000,000 people happy and Tunney and a dozen rooftop and bar owners unhappy. That seems about right and fair !

  19. cavemencubbie

    Parking issues, night game issues, roof top issues, jumbotron issues. I am not even sure the present Wrigley footprint would allow for seating expansion. Let’s face it, Wrigley is an old stadium in a neighborhood that is not conducive to restoration, let alone bringing it into the 21st century. 500 million goes a long way to building a new stadium somewhere. Wrigleyville beware.

  20. Pat

    I think the parking issue does relate to the renovation since that wavier (businesses need to have enough parking to support their capacity) essentially gets removed once the renovation goes into place, and would need to be addressed. The only reason the Cubs are not required to have adaquate on-site parking is that the stadium pre-dates automobiles as a comon form of transportation. So the only reson they are not held to that standard is because they have a grandfather clause situation. Even minor renovations can elimiate all standing gradfather clauses. I know several people with businesses in older buildings who are extremely limited in what they can do without losing their grandfather clauses. A major renovation like what is being discussed with Wrigley would almost certainly wipe them out. Tunney would need to allow that particular code to be ignored.

  21. jstraw

    Ace, thanks…you’re damned good at this.

  22. Pat

    Only that this is the last chance the community will have to address those concerns. The renovation will not cause more traffic, but there was nothing they could do when the traffic did increase. So it is tied to the renovation in that the renovation plans open the door to have the issue addessed. Without the renovations they could do nothing.

    Look at it this way, the community, city, whatever, by rights could require the Cubs to come up with around 20,000 parking spaces if they want to proceed. So I don’t see it as hand in the cookie jar to expect something back for waiving those rights.

    1. Kevin

      Maybe the city can pay for ample parking from the 12% amusement tax that all Cubs tickets are subject to. The Cubs have received zero benefit from this tax.

    2. Tom A.

      20,000 parking spaces ??? Most people go the the game via mass transit.

      If they do provide parking, I bet a few thousand spots would be sufficient. I say tear down the buildings that support rooftops and across the street bars to provide convenient parking for buses and then look for land that provides game-day parking alternatives within a couple of miles of the stadium — along with shuttle buses.

      1. aCubsFan

        This is why Cubs broadcast to park at the remote lot at Devry and they provide shuttle buses between Devry and Wrigley. But, a lot of people still want to park within walking distance of Wrigley. I remember as a kid of parking in a church parking lot north of Wrigley.

  23. Ivy Walls

    Rahm is waiting, possibly tomorrow or Sunday to come in and close the deal and look good to all the constituents he actually serves. My guess is the Jumbotron is essentially small potatoes to the city, but something that threatens a parasitic business, as for parking Cubs and city should partner and build lots near the Interstate and shuttle or build a light rail to the ball park, old fashioned street car.

  24. True(ly) Blue

    Brett, You stated a few weeks ago that you thought that most “Die Hard” Cub fans would not support a move to Rosemont (or another Western or Northwestern suburb). I disagree as I think most visitors and posters to this blog are “Die Hard” Cub Fans or they wouldn’t be onsite and it seems to to me that a majority of these folks support a move if the Cubs can’t cut a deal with the city that is favorable to the Cubs.
    Also if they stay I don’t understand the attachment to the old and outdated scoreboard. Replace the old monster sooner rather that later.

  25. DONNIE621

    Gee I agree there are so many vexing issues for the neighborhood. Issues that seem to leave one gored ox after another littering the streets. Because of all the problems associated with the renovation of Wrigley… it seems the only way to solve this thing is to examine other venues, like Rosemont. Leaving a residential area and building where the Cubs can have ultra modern facilities only makes sense. Rosemont could use another hotel, office building and entertainment venue (Cub’s park O’hare).

    And, of course all these things will be unnecessary if the Cubs leave. The Ricketts could re-purpose the land and return Wrigleyville to the quiet community it once was and apparently yearns to be again. No worries about that bright scoreboard, all those people paying to park on your lawn, buying overpriced food and alcohol at your bars, crowded streets. No need to have a new El stop or improve the streets around the park. All that can returned to the fine W-Ville taxpayers. Where it belongs. Mr. Tunney can go back to being a back bench hack. Mr. E can deal with the really serious issues that plague the city. Moving seems to be the only solution that works to the benefit of everyone…Except the city they would have to find someone else to shake down.

    1. MatthewJ

      Well said. Mind if I steal elements?

    2. caryatid62

      Except the Cubs would lose money, the neighborhood would lose money, and the taxpayers of whatever city was dumb enough to carve out tax breaks and financial incentives for the Cubs to come to their town would lose money.

      The Cubs aren’t going anywhere.

  26. cavemencubbie

    Donnie, you said it all!

  27. DONNIE621

    Thanks guys… Matt be my guest. Borrow at will.

  28. Stephen Smith

    I just self-published a novel about the Cubs that I began years ago. “Ball Games – There Are Lots of Ways to Score” was meant to be satirical fiction but it seems to be turning into farcical fact. Except my Cubs are moving to Bensonville – after the owner’s ‘renovations’ include renaming Wrigley “Hamburger Helper Stadium” and having the players don NASCAR type uniforms with 50 different Kraft brand logos. My book has a happy ending. I hope the Wrigley Field does. You can review “Ball Games” at iTunes, Kindle and Nook bookstores or at smith-creative.net. Be very afraid.

    1. Drew7

      Authors…smh

  29. Cheryl

    April 2 can’t come too soon!!!

  30. Kevin

    In this poker game of “Chicago Hold’em” the Ricketts are “All In” and we are down to the last 3 days to find out if the city “Calls”.