On the triangular shaped parcel of land just west of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs intend to build an open-air plaza with shopping, concessions, video screens, advertisements, and an area for community events. Sounds swell, and it also sounds like a fine, community-directed use of property that has otherwise laid essentially fallow for far too long.
But, as anyone who’s ever watched an episode of ‘Parks and Recreation’ knows, some community members will find a reason to complain about everything. Because the Wrigley Field renovation process is subject to various commission approvals and community inputs, things like the plaza will have their contours shaped by those complaint-oriented folks (in addition to actual, helpful, thoughtful community members). It is to be expected.
Given that the framework of the renovation plan, including the plaza, has been agreed to by Alderman Tom Tunney, you wouldn’t expect him to be giving an exceptionally loud voice to those complaint-oriented folks, but it seems that he is, and he recently said some strongly oppositional things about the plaza. Then again, if you’ve been following the process closely, maybe it isn’t completely unexpected.
“What [the Cubs'] opinion has been is, ‘We’ve got to build a bigger mousetrap so everyone will spend their money at Wrigley Field, but not necessarily on the Clark Street corridor,” Tunney reportedly said at a recent community meeting, per Patch.com. “They want to build a lot of food and beverage opportunities in addition to the hotel and everything else, because they’re jealous of all the things that are happening and they’re not getting the dollars for. I’ve only heard this about 20 times.”
I don’t think anyone could argue that the Cubs don’t want to generate additional revenue with the completion of the plaza, but I also don’t think you can reasonably argue that the Cubs, as one of the many business in the area, don’t have a right to try and sell some grub on their property if that’s where folks want to eat.
Cubs VP of Communications and Community Affairs suggested to Patch that the plaza project, and the renovation in general, is likely to generate more business for the bars and restaurants on Clark Street, not less. And it isn’t as if those bars and restaurants don’t already benefit by being located next to Wrigley Field.
“The first thing I want to say is to suggest that we’re jealous of bars and restaurants on Clark Street is laughable,” Green said, per Patch. “We’re partners with a number of them on Clark …. We’re an important engine for these bars and restaurants. What some people fail to mention is that there are more than 81 bars that certainly benefit from the economic engine that is Wrigley Field. We’re not only hoping [this renovation] will benefit these businesses in Lake View, but across the city.”
All in all, it’s probably a small dust-up. Tunney has to represent the interests of all businesses in his ward, and who knows the context in which he made his comments. It doesn’t sound like Tunney is pushing to block the Cubs’ plans for the plaza (but what about those street fairs on Sheffield?), but instead is just concerned about a possible negative impact. Shrug. From the Cubs’ perspective, the net impact will be positive.
The impact to the Cubs will definitely be positive, and I think community members will enjoy having the extra open-air space for various events. Still seems like a great idea to me. Complainers gonna complain.