When City Council last week approved the Wrigley Field renovation and development plan, it did so on the understanding that, as part of the implementation of that approval, the Chicago Cubs would not build a pedestrian bridge spanning Clark Street, between the proposed hotel and plaza. The Cubs were likely not thrilled with that decision, having fought hard to include the bridge, which would have featured valuable advertising, in the plan.
Separately, the Cubs and the Ricketts Family have been clear that, although City Council approved the plans, the organization will not order a single shovel on any part of the project until they’ve got some certainty that the owners of the rooftop building that outline the outfield at Wrigley will not sue when the Cubs put up two large outfield signs, which have already been approved.
On their respective faces, these two issues – the bridge thing and the rooftops-don’t-sue thing – have nothing to do with each other. Heck, they’re on opposite sides of the ballpark. But a proposed solution may be picking up steam, and it could simultaneously address both issues: a new patio deck in right field. We touched on it briefly when discussing City Council’s approval, but, because it is a relatively new plan, it has not yet had time to be fully fleshed out, here, or by City Council.
In short, as part of the renovation, the Cubs would construct a patio behind the right field wall (which would be moved back an additional eight feet, beyond the seven feet already approved), which would overhang Sheffield Avenue. This patio could potentially extend all the way across Sheffield, and maybe even connect to a bridge to the Addison Red Line L stop.
On the patio, the Cubs would place the approved 650 square foot advertising sign behind the right field wall, and could also potentially place – on the street-facing sides – advertising that would have been placed on the now scuttled Clark bridge (though the traffic on each street is probably not comparable, especially when a game isn’t being played). Placing that 650 square foot sign at the back of the patio would potentially remove it completely from the rooftop views. You can read more about the proposed patio, and see some renderings here at DNAinfo.
While it sounds like a potential solution, it is not without problems. First, according to a report from the Tribune, several neighbors/neighborhood groups have already expressed concerns about the utility and aesthetics of the patio. Second, based on the renderings included in the DNAinfo piece above, the patio does look like it has the potential to stand out like a big, ugly thumb. As with any changes outside of the park, it would have to be very tastefully done to win approval, even if it was supported by the rooftops.
There are also potential issues, at least as I see them, from the Cubs’ perspective. First, a “bridge” from the L to the east side of the park is nice and all, but I suspect part of the reason for having the bridge on Clark is because there is more foot traffic on that side, and that’s where the plaza – and commercial opportunities – will be. Second, as noted above, advertising opportunities on a Sheffield patio are probably not equal to a bridge spanning Clark Street. Third – and this is a big one – will that 650 square foot sign still be visible regularly on television if it’s placed far back from the outfield wall? The rate for that sign will be determined in large part by how much it will be show on television.
I have no idea whether these issues – or the community issues noted by the Tribune – will prove an impediment to this otherwise relatively creative solution to two seemingly unrelated problems. For their part, the Cubs say that they are open to discussing this approach, and the Mayor recently suggested, per the Sun-Times, that the Cubs and rooftops may be able to find common ground on this solution to the sign issue.
I do know that the timing of a change like this to the plans could post a construction problem, if starting construction after the season is the goal. Because this new patio would require not only a change to the ballpark, but also more taking of public land on Sheffield, it is my understanding that approving it would have go through the same planned development process as the overall plan, which can take weeks, even if everything goes quickly and smoothly. And City Council doesn’t meet again until September 11. The Sun-Times piece indicated that the Southport Neighbors Association – one of the most vocal neighborhood organizations throughout this process – has scheduled an August 14 community meeting at which the patio plan will be discussed.