At 10am tomorrow morning, the Chicago Cubs will present the Wrigley Field renovation plans to the Landmarks Commission, a body charged with signing off on changes to certain landmarked aspects of Wrigley Field. The meeting was requested by the Cubs after a meeting between Chairman Tom Ricketts and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, at which the Mayor reportedly agreed to help the Cubs fast-track things. (This is fast?)
At tomorrow’s meeting, the Cubs will not be able to count on the support of the man who, together with the Mayor, signed off on a renovation framework designed to get the Cubs to agree that they will stay in Chicago at Wrigley Field. That man, Alderman Tom Tunney, has remained intransigent throughout the process, and, despite that framework, has designed to battle nearly every detail of the renovation process, itself. The battle is set to continue tomorrow morning.
In a letter sent to the Cubs on the eve of the Landmarks Commission meeting, and obtained by Crain’s Chicago, Tunney says he will not support the Cubs’ renovation plans until and unless the team agrees to five changes, some of which are significant:
1. The JumboTron in left field must be reduced in size from 6000 square feet to 3500.
2. The advertising sign in right field must be reduced in size from 1000 square feet to 600.
3. The proposed pedestrian bridge connecting the proposed hotel to the plaza west of the ballpark must be axed (Tunney doesn’t see the point; to which I’d say it reduces human congestion, and, let’s be honest, funnels more fans into the plaza).
4. The patio extending off of the hotel and over Patterson Street must be removed (too close to homes).
5. The proposed hotel lobby must be located on Addison Street or Clark Street, not Patterson Street (that’s a residential street).
You can read more about Tunney’s beef in the Crain’s piece, or in the Tribune’s take.
Although the tenor of Tunney’s position – “I will not support you unless you reduce what you want significantly” – is forceful, I’m not sure that anything he’s demanding is a surprise. To my mind, the biggest ones are the sizes of the JumboTron and advertising sign in right field, and he’s always maintained that the Cubs’ desired signage was too large. I don’t know that we’d yet heard he was going to formally oppose the Cubs’ plans on that basis, but I guess it makes sense that he would.
That said, I remain profoundly frustrated that the alderman charged with representing his citizens continues to kowtow to a small handful of interest groups at the expense of the largest economic driver in his ward. The Cubs want to erect signage in their own building. They’ve taken steps to minimize the impact that signage would have on anyone outside of the building, and it sounds like the impact will be negligible Therefore … What. The. Eff. Let them freaking do what they want to do with their own building already.
Alderman Tunney is the Cubs’ alderman, too. Query whether he ever actually considers that when reflecting on his duties.
As I take a few steps back, I should remind you – and myself – that, even after the framework was agreed upon, everyone understood that the specific of the renovation might change as the process went along. The framework’s details were almost entirely made up of the things the Cubs wanted. Whether or not we feel like the Cubs should get everything they want, it was probably never going to happen that way. The Cubs may have to bend just a little bit more, even if that is facially absurd.
I guess we’ll see what happens tomorrow morning at the Landmarks Commission meeting. As I’ve pointed out before, the members of the Commission are appointed by the Mayor, though projects running through them usually have sign-off by the alderman whose ward is at issue.