Although there is no update just yet on the status of the Chicago Cubs’ ongoing negotiations with the owners of the buildings whose rooftops outline the outfield at Wrigley Field, there was something of potentially modest interest happening this weekend.
As you may or may not know, as part of an ongoing development process immediately next to Busch Stadium in St. Louis, the Cardinals have been creating (well, trying to create) a kind of commercial/shopping/restaurant-type area beyond left field called Ballpark Village. As part of that construction, the Cardinals have erected a rooftop seating area, across from the ballpark, which is integrated with both the commercial amenities of Ballpark Village and Busch Stadium, itself (right down to attendance – the rooftop seating is counted as part of the stadium attendance). It’s a way of extending the Cardinal experience outside the ballpark, adding additional revenue opportunities, and giving fans something “different” to do when they come out for a game.
Why do I mention this? Well, this weekend, Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney and Vice President of Stadium Operations Carl Rice checked out Ballpark Village, according to a Tribune report. Obviously the Cubs will be developing the area around Wrigley Field as part of the comprehensive development plan over the next half decade, and seeing how another organization is doing something similar makes sense.
But a part of me couldn’t help but wonder about the possibilities for additional development around Wrigley. We know there will be a commercial area, including the plaza and the hotel, just west of the ballpark on the triangle property and across Clark Street. But imagine if the Cubs could somehow integrate the ballpark, itself, with a handful of rooftop buildings, similar to what Ballpark Village is becoming. That would allow the Cubs to add seating, commercial space, and fan amenities to Wrigley Field without actually expanding Wrigley’s teeny tiny footprint (something that will be pretty much impossible, beyond the outfield wall bump out that’s coming as part of the renovation). There always has to be caution to preserve Wrigley’s “neighborhood” feel, however.
This is all just a thought experiment in the possibilities, as we’ve not yet receive any indication that the Cubs are actually considering – for example – purchasing any of the rooftops to use in this way. But it is interesting to think about the integration possibilities, if that’s a route that ever became plausible.
For now, I’d imagine that’s nothing more than a far away vision, if it’s being considered at all. The Cubs simply need to get some kind of agreement in place with the rooftops – an agreement that the rooftops won’t sue to shut down construction when it begins, primarily – so that the renovation can get underway as soon as this season ends. Then we can start thinking about all of the additional possibilities.