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respect wrigleyThe revised Wrigley Field renovation and expansion plan – which is more like the revised-revised-but-actually-original renovation and expansion plan – hit a snag yesterday when Mayor Rahm Emanuel indicated that the plan would not be passed upon by the Landmarks Commission next week as the Cubs had previously expected. Aspects of the plan – relocating the bullpens into the outfield walls, which are protected by landmark status, is the only specific aspect that’s been mentioned – were not discussed with the City before the Cubs’ announcement, according to the Mayor. Therefore, more time is required to work on the plans.

For their part, the Cubs responded to the Mayor’s remarks with a very courteous, but very general statement about being willing to answer any questions about the bullpen relocation, and looking forward to resolving any final issues. (Sun-Times, Tribune)

Cubs business president Crane Kenney was on the radio with David Kaplan and David Haugh this morning, and he was asked what happened. Kenney went into an explanation of what the Cubs want to do with respect to the bullpens, and expanding the doors in the outfield so that the relievers can see out onto the field. Kenney said that the Cubs have worked with the Landmarks Commission for months and months on the bleacher expansion, but the bullpen aspect was “not a focus.” Kenney said it was the Cubs’ responsibility to cover all of the bases, and if the commission is uncomfortable with the size of the doors, the Cubs will deal with it or even take that part of the plan off of the table, if necessary. You got a sense that this is not a major issue, at least from the Cubs’ perspective, and Kenney made it sound like the only issue is the size of the doors in the outfield (i.e., because it could impact the bricks and ivy).

My (thinly-veiled) instinct has been that, while there may be some truth to the confusion in what the Cubs had shared with the City/Landmarks Commission (those entities are collections of human beings, after all), there is a certain political convenience in the Mayor’s Office being able to distance itself from the revised plan, after being criticized by some who didn’t like that this felt like a back-room deal. Now, the Mayor’s Office has the opportunity to say, “Hey now, this clearly wasn’t a back-room deal, because we didn’t even know about parts of the revised plan – the Cubs just dropped that on us, and we’re going to push back on them.”

If so, fine. Dance the dance. The Cubs appear content to own responsibility for any confusion, so maybe everyone can still win.

Mayor Emanuel further hinted at the importance of optics when he said, “The investments are … an economic boon to the city, but have to be done in a way that allows the process to work and they don’t try to circumvent or shortchange the process,” according to the Sun-Times. Once again, it looks like a bit of politicking: the Cubs aren’t special and can’t get stuff without going through the same process that anyone else would have to go through. That’s the message the Mayor’s Office wants to send out. Again, fine. We’ll temporarily forget that the Cubs have been working with the City on this revised plan for months, which is very hard to see as “circumventing” or “shortchanging.” I understand the game, and if that’s all this is, as I said, everyone can do his or her thing and still win.

What I still don’t have a great grasp on, however, is how meaningful this push back is going to be. Will it delay the time line? (Kenney was asked about that one, but he mostly begged off, indicating that the time line is really up to the Landmarks Commission, not the Cubs.) Will it impact the Cubs’ outfield signage plan, which Mayor Emanuel would not discuss directly? That’s the part of this discussion that really matters, isn’t it? That’s the one part that the Cubs really want to get, but for which there is real opposition out there.

I still have more questions than answers at this point. If the revised renovation and expansion plan will not be discussed at next week’s Landmarks Commission meeting, and if everyone has said all they’re going to say right now publicly, we might have to wait a little while for answers.

Mayor Emanuel did mention the outfield signage indirectly, by the way, and here’s how the Sun-Times summed it up: “The mayor did say he views Boston’s Fenway Park as a ‘model’ for the delicate ‘balance’ he is trying to strike at Wrigley.”

If so, then the Cubs should be golden. Why? Well, perhaps it’s because the Red Sox have done it so well, and folks don’t notice for that reason, but Fenway Park is littered with ads:

fenway outfield ads

I count 24 visible in-park ads in that shot alone, and I guarantee I’m missing some.

If Fenway’s advertising approach is the “model,” then the Cubs’ request for seven signs in the outfield is downright modest.

 

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