Tomorrow, Chicago’s Landmarks Commission will take on one of the most important issues remaining in the approval of the comprehensive Wrigley Field renovation plan: them big ‘ole outfield signs. It’s a question on which the Commission punted two weeks ago when Alderman Tom Tunney expressed his disapproval of the Cubs’ plan for 6,000 square foot JumboTron in left field and 1,000 square foot see-through sign in right field.
Although Tunney signed onto the framework agreement about the renovation plans, he has always felt the Cubs’ desired sizes were too large. His hope – and maybe the hope of the Commission, as well – was that he could, in the two weeks between meetings, convince the Cubs to come down in their demands. For their part, at least publicly, the Cubs have repeatedly said that they have already bent so much in this deal that they need what they need to fund the renovation without public dollars, and they aren’t coming down.
Yesterday, speaking at an unrelated event, Mayor Rahm Emanuel – who has reportedly grown frustrated with Tunney and wants this deal done – suggested that things will go smoothly tomorrow.
“We’re just a few feet away – I mean, literally, a few feet away – from a win-win situation,” Emanuel said Tuesday, according to DNAinfo’s Ted Cox. Emanuel, I’m guessing, was alluding to the fact that the Cubs and Tunney are disputing the “feet” involved in the sizes of the outfield signs. On that end, Emanuel expressed confidence that a compromise would be reached in advance of tomorrow’s Commission meeting, which would obviate the need for the Commission to choose one side or the other. Given the Mayor’s confidence and desire to see this deal done without any public dollars, it’s fair to wonder if he applied a little pressure to Tunney, and, whatever compromise we see will favor the Cubs’ end of things.
Further supporting that suspicion, when asked about Alderman Tunney’s involvement in the process, the Mayor told DNAinfo, “The Alderman has been a tireless advocate for a better traffic system, a better safety system, a better investment for the community from the Cubs [and better parking].” Might Alderman Tunney have received additional concessions from the Cubs on those items in exchange for what they want in terms of outfield signage?
Whatever the case, we’ll definitely find some things out tomorrow. While numerous aspects of the renovation framework require approval from the Plan Commission and then, ultimately, the full City Council, if the Landmarks Commission signs off on the outfield signs as the Cubs want them, one of the most contentious issues will probably have been resolved.
… or we could learn that Tunney is not yet satisfied, and plans to oppose a great deal of the renovation plan through the rest of the planned development process, and before City Council. If that happens, the Cubs will be up against it a little bit, as projects are rarely approved without the local alderman’s support. I don’t expect any of that to happen, mind you, because I tend to think there is otherwise too much political momentum behind a $500 million, privately-funded, very-visible project to let it fall apart at this point.
Either way, let’s hope we don’t learn that the Landmarks Commission isn’t on board. That would be an entirely new, unexpected, and difficult wrench to figure out. Given Mayor Emanuel’s comments, however, I’m not too worried.*
*Outside of the natural worry that has accompanied the three years of this process, since things always go wrong and surprises always pop up.