While the Chicago Cubs haven’t made any moves this week in Orlando, they’ve continued apace back in Chicago. That’s because, today, the team received the final approval needed before the necessary tweaks to the Wrigley Field renovation and development plan head to the full Chicago City Council tomorrow for the big sign-off. You’ll recall that we’ve done this dance once before, but certain changes to the plan required that the Cubs go through this all again. Tomorrow is the culmination.
Today, the City’s Panel on Transportation and Public Way approved the most notable of the plan tweaks, allowing the Cubs to move the outfield walls at Wrigley even further into Waveland and Sheffield Avenues than previously approved. For details on the approval, I’d recommend this piece from Danny Ecker at Crain’s.
That tweak, and the rest, are expected to be approved without any issue tomorrow by City Council. But, as was the case last time, full approval by City Council won’t be the end of the story, because the Cubs are still holding back construction until they know that the owners of the rooftop buildings around Wrigley Field won’t sue to block the Cubs’ ability to erect two outfield signs, the proceeds from which are being used to help fund the renovation. There is also the matter of the booze-in-the-plaza ordinance to be worked out, but the rooftop deal remains the biggest hurdle to construction getting underway (at least as far as we’ve been told over the last few months).
I expect that we’ll learn of approval tomorrow, and then hopefully we’ll get a statement from the Cubs with some substance on (1) where talks with the rooftops stand (and what the plan is to get whatever assurances the Cubs need), (2) when we can expect significant construction to get underway, (3) whether the timeline for construction has been pushed back a full year, and (4) which parts of the renovation plan will get underway first (including the outfield signage, and any other revenue-generators). I am hopeful that the reason there hasn’t been a whole lot to say about the timelines/discussions over the past two months is because the Cubs were prudently waiting out the conclusion of the legislative process before saying much of anything. To me, that makes sense.
If the Cubs intend to sell the 2014 season as the 100th birthday of Wrigley Field, I think it would behoove them to be as transparent as possible about all things Wrigley. The renovation is too important to the future of not only the ballpark, but also the organization, for the Cubs to not offer as much information as possible to the very fans they’d like to see supporting The Friendly Confines for another 100 years. Also, I know I nudge you frequently in this direction, but … you should care about this stuff, too. Wrigley’s continued existence is important for all kinds of “fan” reasons (sue me, I love the place (actually, don’t sue me … )), but doing it right will also help drive additional long-term revenue for the organization. That means more money to spend on the organization and the on-field product.
The Winter Meetings will continue to take most of my focus tomorrow, but I’ll also be anticipating Wrigley news. Hell, it could be more important than anything that happens tomorrow in Orlando.