One week ago today, the Wrigley Field renovation story changed. Again.
This time, it changed theoretically for the better, with the Chicago Cubs receiving approval from the Chicago Landmarks Commission for their revised renovation/expansion/development plan, which will cost upwards of $575 million. The plan includes all of the stuff you’ve come to know and love over the past 19 months – ballpark fixes, better player/fan amenities, hotel, plaza, etc. – together with a dramatically expanded home clubhouse (which will go underneath the plaza to the west of the park), new lighting, new bleacher seating, relocated bullpens, and seven outfield signs, including two video boards.
The latter item was the biggy, as it has been the subject of the very rooftop fighting that has held up the project since it was approved by City Council last year (at the time, it was just two outfield signs – when the Cubs could get the rooftops to agree to accept those signs, they decided to go ahead and ask for permission for seven, which they’ve now received). With seven signs approved, what happens now? Do the Cubs put them all up, and wait for the rooftops to sue? Each side has said they plan to continue talking, and trying to come to a peaceful solution.
So, one week later, where do things stand?
After the approval came down, Tom Ricketts spoke to the media about the decision, expressing appreciation for the decision and for the work of a bunch of folks to make it happen. He did not mention a groundbreaking date, instead saying that the Cubs look forward to keeping things moving, etc. For what it’s worth, a team source told Paul Sullivan that the start of work on the new clubhouse could come within two weeks.
Cubs VP of Communications and Community Affairs Julian Green told Dave Kaplan that some of the work will begin within a couple weeks at some of the surface parking lots, and that the clubhouse work will begin at some point soon (with an eye toward completion for Opening Day 2016), but there is no hard date. Green reiterated to Kaplan that the Cubs plan to have the bleacher expansion, including the outfield signage, in place for the start of the 2015 season. If that actually happens, that would be a huge step.
Of course, whether the Cubs put up seven signs or something less than that remains to be seen. On that front, we haven’t heard anything new with respect to negotiations with the rooftops post-Commission decision. The Cubs now have a huge leverage chip in their pot – installing all seven signs could have a significant impact on the rooftop businesses, who recently offered to reverse course and accept the original two sign plan – and will presumably wield it in any ongoing negotiations.
Unlike the past year of failed negotiations, however, the Cubs have now expressed a willingness to move forward despite lawsuit threats, and, in theory, if talks break down this time around, the Cubs will simply move forward and deal with the fallout thereafter.