Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: The Mayor Sounds Very Optimistic, the Outfield Walls Are Probably Moving

respect wrigleyAs the Wrigley renovation talks have dragged on, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has kept his comments extremely innocuous, if not overtly political-speak. There’s a deal to be had. Taxpayers. Compromise. Hanging chads.

Yesterday, however, the Mayor opened up a fair bit, and sounded exceedingly positive about a forthcoming resolution, per the Sun-Times. He described the talks as in the “bottom of the 9th” inning, which should strike you as a very good thing once you get past the immediate Cubs bullpen/Carlos Marmol jokes rolling around your head.

“We’re closer than ever before,” the Mayor said, per the Sun-Times. “I want to thank Mr. [Tom] Ricketts for his commitment to staying in Chicago …. The broad outlines of a framework are there. We’re just working on the details. We’re making very good progress. I want the conversations to just finish now so we can take it to the second stage, which is a submission to the planning development process.”

It sounds like, although this week’s “deadline” for a deal came and went, my sense of things has been correct: the broad parameters of a deal have been in place for some time, and the Cubs are committed to staying in Chicago. The particulars require finessing because of the many, many interested parties, and the process itself has a variety of procedural requirements that simply take time. But it seems like everyone believes we’ll get there.

And when the deal arrives, it sounds like it will involve bumping each of the left and right field walls out as much as 10 feet* to simultaneously accommodate rooftop views, and to add concessions space for the Cubs under the bleachers. The Sun-Times report has the full details, including some anonymous quotes, but the short version is each of the Cubs and the City have a different view of why the wall expansion is coming. The Cubs say it’s because they want to be able to have the JumboTron in left and the ad sign in right closer to the rooftop buildings, which will help reduce the negative impact on their views into Wrigley (the closer the signs are to the action, the more they cut down on the angles the affected rooftops have for seeing into Wrigley). The City says it’s because the Cubs want more space inside Wrigley.

Whatever the case, it sounds like a win/win for the Cubs and the rooftops, so it’s very likely to be part of the renovation plan. It doesn’t sound like, at this point, bumping the walls out will have any impact on seating (the bleachers already overhang the sidewalks, and the wall bump-out would just reduce or eliminate that overhang).

*No one seems to be talking about this aspect, but, if the walls are bumped out that dramatically, the sidewalks on the Waveland and Sheffield sides of the park will essentially be gone (if not also some parking or even a lane of traffic). If that happens, doesn’t it seem like the street fairs idea – i.e., where the Cubs would be able to use a closed-down Sheffield (and now maybe also a portion of Waveland) to sell food/goods/whatever and generally create a party atmosphere for games – is more likely to happen? Sheffield is already closed during games anyway, and, without a sidewalk there, everyone is going to be in the streets anyway. The concessions aspect of the street fairs – and the attendant impact on local businesses – has been the stickiest issue, but with a physical change to the area that makes it look even more street fair-y, I have to wonder if it’s coming.

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

26 responses to “Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: The Mayor Sounds Very Optimistic, the Outfield Walls Are Probably Moving”

  1. Simon

    Would they be changing the dimensions of the field or just extending the exterior walls?
    I like the idea of shutting down the streets, maybe only because I don’t live there, but creating a party like atmosphere would be fun.

    1. TNN2

      They are only talking about extending the exterior walls. No field dimensions would change.

  2. TNN2

    Waveland is never going to be closed as long as the fire department is there.

    1. HackAttack

      I thought the fire station there was an auxiliary station. That they didn’t go directly to fires. They went to other fire stations when trucks from those stations were out on calls and needed back up for that area. I might be way off base. But I thought that’s what I had heard.

  3. Diamondrock

    I visited Fenway for the first time this week, and they do the street closing thing in the area. Obviously that part of Boston isn’t residential, but it creates a really nice atmosphere.

  4. butlerdawgs

    Does anyone know the meeting schedule in Chicago? I mean, if they do reach an agreement I assume it would still have to go through the normal public process, plan commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, etc., which could take some time as well before it’s officially official official.

  5. Boogens

    Hi Brett, not trying to be intentionally dense, but how does bumping out the outside walls by another 8 – 10′ help with the sight lines for the roof tops? I don’t see how that would impact the placement of the Jumbotron or other signage since the bleachers already overhang that area.

  6. Jon

    I don’t know if this has been brought up, but will the renovations eventually get rid of those collenades that create all those obstructed views inside the stadium?

    1. TNN2

      No.

      Those columns are what hold the upper deck up in the air. An underappreciated part of what makes Wrigley great is that the upper deck seats are so close to the field. If you wanted to remove the columns to open up better sightlines for the lower deck you would also have to move the upper deck back away from the field and add more columns behind (away from the playing field) those sections.

      There are a couple problems with that. The first is that you would lose a lot of the intimacy that exists right now. The second problem is that you would then need to add more columns in places where there simply isn’t room. The first base side is especially problematic. The sidewalk over there narrows to about 4 feet wide in one spot so it would be very difficult to find space to plant additional columns. The third base side has room if they wanted to completely rebuild the exterior over there (which I’m hopeful they will do anyway since I hate the chain link fencing).

      I do think that they could rearrange the angle of the aisles in a way that would improve sightlines, at least for plays at the plate (which are about 95% of the plays in baseball).

  7. Cub Fan Dan

    Some thoughts…

    1- “The Cubs plan also includes a proposed ornamental bridge across Clark Street …Those air rights over Clark may trigger compensation to Chicago taxpayers.”

    They’re already shelling out $500mm out of pocket, using no public dollars, & adding new hotel/motel tax to the city. The bridge is clearly to help city services by easing people traffic. I dont think the Cubs should be compensating anything.

    2- Regarding the OF walls: “This is not being done for the rooftops. We’re doing this to help the Cubs. But, there is an added benefit that will further reduce the impact on [rooftop] sight lines.”

    BS. Though they would like more space, the Cubs have a plan in place that worked for them that involved no moving of outfield walls. Clearly to appease the rooftops.

    3- Closing a lane of traffic on Waveland & Sheffield is fine, but should impact the Fire Station. I wonder how that will be addressed?

  8. Tom A.

    Thank you for this post Brett. I am starting to be excited about it actually happening.

    I bet if there were no sidewalks on the Wrigley side of Waveland and Sheffield, that space would allow for many things to be done, including the improvement of the site-lines for the rooftops. It may mean that Murphy’s and the other bars across the street need to be off the sidewalk to allow for foot traffic. But, what the heck — City happy, Cubs happy, most rooftops happy and only the trouble-maker that is the owner of Murphy’s less happy.

    I say that is perfect !

  9. DONNIE621

    RE says we are in the bottom of the 9th???? Does this means the Cubs are losing? The only way we get to the bottom of the 9th is if the Cubs are behind.

    Still waiting for the “Fat Lady” to sing and right now I don’t even hear her clearing her throat!

    1. DarthHater

      What makes you think the Cubs are the home team in this contest? ;-)

  10. Kevin

    Bottom of the 9th with the score 0-0

    1. Tom A.

      Bottom of the 9th with no runs, no hits and plenty of errors !

  11. 5412

    At one time they discussed moving the bleachers back out over the sidewalk so it is still there with a roof over it.

    5412