In his interview with The Score yesterday, the one in which he revealed a five-year extension with the Chicago Cubs, President of Business Operations Crane Kenney addressed this week’s very public whoops with the City of Chicago as the Cubs were readying to finally get the renovation/expansion/development plan for Wrigley Field underway. Having announced that the team was going to move forward with the project even without a side agreement with the rooftops (although a legal battle is probably looming, then, the Cubs appear to be on fairly solid ground), the Cubs revealed their specific revised plans for the renovation, which included a widening of some of the doors in the outfield and relocating the bullpens under the bleachers.
That aspect of the plan, which would require Landmarks Commission approval (the outfield wall, with its bricks and ivy, is protected as a landmark), “blindsided and infuriated” Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Sun-Times), who indicated that, although the Cubs had been working with the City on their revised plan, the Cubs had not made the City aware of the plan to relocate the bullpens and impact those outfield walls.
In the days that followed, the Cubs – primarily Kenney – went on a media blitz, hat in hand, to explain how the mix-up happened and how it’s going to be fixed. As Kenney explained yesterday on the radio, the focus in the talks with the City this time around has always been the bleacher expansion and the signage in the outfield (because obviously). Kenney said that there were some drawings in those talks that did show the expanded outfield doors – and Julian Green tells the Sun-Times that the team did provide documents that included the plan for the outfield doors – but the Cubs are claiming responsibility to the extent that they did not more clearly explain/highlight/emphasize/etc. the outfield door plan.
If you read between the lines, it sounds like the Cubs are saying: yeah, we did provide the information to the City, but they obviously didn’t see it, and that makes it our fault. I think that’s probably a bit hard on the Cubs, but (1) they’ve gotta know by now that any little tiny issue could become a huge issue at a moment’s notice, (2) they’ve gotta know by now that they have to hammer home every tiny little thing so that it doesn’t later become a huge issue, (3) the Cubs probably could have done better, and (4) the Cubs are willing to say it’s their fault.
And if that helps get things back on track, then fine: it was the Cubs’ fault. Slap, slap.
So how do they fix it? Well, according to Kenney, the Cubs immediately reached out to the Landmarks Commission to say they would gladly take the entire bullpen relocation off of the table for now (and the Tribune reported that the Cubs sent a letter to that effect as early as Wednesday). There’s no reason, from the Cubs’ perspective, that the entire renovation project should be held up by the bullpen relocation, and, therefore, it definitely should not be held up now that the Cubs are saying, “Hey, we’re not even going to ask for that right now. Take it off the table.”
That should be enough, right? The Cubs had hoped to get the project passed upon by the Landmarks Commission on Thursday, June 5, but, according to Green in the Sun-Times piece, the team still hasn’t heard back yet from the Commission. If the team can’t present its plan on Thursday, they might have to wait until July, which is when they were hoping to actually break ground.
Based on everything laid before us over the last several days, it certainly seems like the Cubs have done plenty to get back on the Commission schedule for this Thursday.
Let’s not forget: the $575 million, privately-funded project in the City of Chicago, “brokered by Emanuel”, is a huge feather in the Mayor’s cap. Is he really going to sink that – or even delay it significantly – because the Cubs asked to widen some outfield doors, and then said “never mind”? Seriously? When you step back for a minute, you can see how crazy that would be, right? It took me a few days to get there, and bottom-line this thing, but that’s where we are.
We’ll never know for sure, but this is probably one of those situations – the kind that so frequently seems to befall the Cubs for some reason – where there was a perfect-storm confluence of things that led to the flap: the Cubs were probably a little unclear in the way they communicated the plan for the outfield doors (and probably underestimated their importance when focusing instead on the signage issues and the bleacher expansion), and various political entities were probably looking for some cover after appearing like they back-roomed yet another deal with the Cubs. I can understand how these things happen, but they’re just so damn frustrating. Even Cubs players, at this point, are tired of hearing about how the project is about to start … and then it doesn’t.
If the Mayor was truly “blindsided and infuriated” by the outfield doors – seems a bit strong, no? – I can only shake my head at everyone involved for allowing things to get to that place. I love the bricks and ivy at Wrigley Field, and I respect the importance of the Landmarks Commission (and public utility of landmarks – they belong to all of us, not just their “owner”). But it’s the slight increase of a couple doors stacked against an enormous project that’s good for everyone, including the City. And now the Cubs are saying the City can forget about those doors for now. Let’s take a moment for some perspective.
In the end, the basic truth remains: as it pertains to the Cubs and the City, getting the renovation/expansion underway ASAP is in everyone’s interests, regardless of a public power play about some doors. The Cubs say they screwed up, OK. The Cubs offered to remedy that screw-up immediately in a way that complete eradicates the problem in time for the June 5 Landmarks Commission meeting, OK.
Now what? If the Cubs aren’t allowed to proceed this week, I’d love to hear the explanation.
Actually, strike that. The explanation would probably make me miserable.
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