Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Details on Time Line, Rooftop Issues, Political Planning

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Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Details on Time Line, Rooftop Issues, Political Planning

Chicago Cubs News

respect wrigleyAt a presentation to various media outlets yesterday, the Chicago Cubs revealed more details about the revised Wrigley Field renovation plan, which is set to be discussed before the Landmarks Commission on June 5. You can read more about that presentation here, here, here, here, and here, among other places.

Some of the most important points:

  • The price tag for the renovation/development project has climbed from $500 million to $575 million, primarily due to the dramatically expanded clubhouse plan, which team baseball president Crane Kenney said emerged after club officials saw how awesome the new facilities in Arizona are, and seeing how they were being used. The Cubs are also expanding the bleachers a little bit (expansion!), adding an auditorium behind home plate, and relocating the bullpens to the outfield.
  • As we heard yesterday, the plan is to break ground on the clubhouse in July, and have it open for use by Opening Day 2016.
  • The entire project, assuming everything goes according to schedule, is scheduled for complete in advance of the 2018 season. That’s actually the same time line as was originally announced back at the Cubs Convention in 2013. In other words, barring further delays, the Cubs didn’t actually lose any time over the last year (though they did lose a year of signage revenue).
  • Kenney said that if it comes to pass that the Cubs can’t do what they need to do at Wrigley Field to generate revenue (“control our own park”), they will have to look elsewhere. Unlike other “threats to move” in the past, which were deemed – by me, but others as well – as not credible, Kenney said that the Cubs would first look to other Chicago locations. Given the close relationship between the Cubs and the City of Chicago of late, that one there is actually fairly credible. Consider it a more direct threat to the neighborhood, not to Chicago.
  • But it doesn’t sound like it’s going to come to that. Kenney indicated that the Cubs have been working with the City on this revised plan for a couple months now, once it became clear that negotiations with the rooftops weren’t going to come to a positive conclusion. As I’ve said before, given how quickly this revised plan – which is actually mostly just the original plan – is to be passed upon by the Landmarks Commission, and given how problematic it would be to come up with something like this only to have it squashed by the City, I believe the Cubs are fairly confident that this is a legitimate plan that can be fit within the contours of what was approved last year. The obvious you-never-know-with-the-Chicago-political-machine caveat is required.
  • See, for example, comments from a Mayoral official in the Sun-Times piece indicating that the bullpen move, for one, is a “material change”, about which the City was unaware, that will require a thorough review. The outfield signs, however, were expected, apparently. Kind of seems like that’s the part that you’d be worried about failing to get approval at this point, but, still, any political posturing with an anti-renovation bent makes me nervous. Seems like all aspects of the revised plan should have been discussed in advance of this announcement. (Then again, I have reason to believe the bullpen relocation plan has been under consideration for a very long time, even if it wasn’t in the most recent iteration of the renovation plan. In other words, it would surprise me very much if this is brand new information to anyone actually involved in the negotiations over the past year and a half.)
  • UPDATE: Dave Kaplan adds this bit of information on the bullpen issue –

  • So, rightly, the Landmarks Commission could take issue with the Cubs messing with the bricks and ivy, since that’s a landmark issue. But if the Cubs want to move the bullpen, generally-speaking, that’s pretty much their own prerogative. Doesn’t seem like this is going to be a major problem, given what really matters in the renovation, but you just hate to see opponents given any excuse to be pissed off or defiant.
  • The rooftops remain mum on the specifics of the revised plan, having previously indicated an intention to sue if their views are blocked. The Cubs wanted seven outfield signs, the rooftops were concerned, and the Cubs worked with the City and the rooftops to come up with a two-sign compromise that would work for everyone. Given that the compromise still isn’t enough for the rooftops, I really can’t blame the Cubs for concluding that, if they’re going to be sued either way, they might as well go for what they actually wanted all along. You just hope that their confidence that the City will approve is well-founded. From there, the lawsuit will likely proceed, raising a different layer of uncertainty.*
  • *(Best guess remains that the Cubs could proceed with the renovation, including the signage, while the lawsuit is pending, and, eventually there would be a settlement. An injunction strikes me as unlikely, but, even if things went that way, at least the legal process would likely be resolved more quickly than if it were a mere damages suit. If no settlement is to be had, each side will rely on its contract arguments, the better of which – from what we’ve seen so far of the contract – seems to go to the Cubs.)
  • Kenney suggested that there was no animosity with the rooftops, but instead that it was just a matter of all sides not being able to make the numbers work. He added that the rooftops might not be as hurt by the outfield signage as some think, given the “tailgating” atmosphere. Not sure how far I’d take that argument, though it’s probably relevant to possible future damages. Planting the seed, I suppose.
  • Apropos of nothing: remember that charity bike race set to take place in August that was cancelled back in March because of the possibility of construction? At the time, it seemed odd that an August race would be cancelled because of construction, given that we were always expecting purely offseason construction. Now, it doesn’t seem so odd.
  • The Cubs released revised renderings of the changed elements of the renovation/expansion plan:


Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.