A Comprehensive Update on the Wrigley Renovation Plan – All of the Details on What’s to Come

1_PROPOSED_MARQUEE_VIEWThe renovation of Wrigley Field, as you my have noticed, is a complicated business, involving several layers and interested parties. With an agreement now in place, and the approval process to begin, it’s important to lay out – in excruciating detail – everything* involved in this renovation process. What’s changing, what’s new, who gets what, what happens when, and on and on.

As the approval process goes on, and the renovations take place, things will change. They always do. But, as I sit here on April 15, 2013, this is what we know, and this is the plan. The majority of the information here comes directly from the lengthy Wrigley renovation proposal to which the Cubs, the City, and Alderman Tom Tunney have agreed, and which was sent to the media earlier today.

*Of course, if the past three months (hell, three years) have taught us anything, it’s that there’s no way I could actually presume to discuss everything that could come up. But this is everything of which we are presently aware.

Improvements to/Preservation of Wrigley Field

  • Details of the planned improvements/preservations are available, together with pictures, here. These haven’t really changed since the Cubs first announced the plans at this year’s Cubs Convention back in January, and that post remains your best background on everything the Cubs plan to do to Wrigley, itself. In short: better player facilities, better fan amenities, reasonable modernization, and no more crumbling concrete.
  • The player facilities improvements are expected to be the immediate priority in the renovation, with completion desired before the start of the 2014 season.
  • JumboTron and Right Field Sign

  • In left field, the Cubs plan to place a large video board (they are colloquially known as JumboTrons, much in the way all booger tissues are known as “Kleenex”), approximately 6,000 square feet in size. The board would be three times as large as the The Old Scoreboard in center field, which would remain in place.
  • The Cubs will decide on precise location of the JumboTron, depending on the stadium’s abilities, with the goal of preserving rooftop views/minimizing impact on rooftop views.
  • The JumboTron might be cantilevered over the streets/sidewalks on Waveland to further that goal, if possible.
  • In right field, the Cubs plan to place a 1,000 foot advertising sign, similar to the Toyota sign currently in left field (which would, itself be replaced by the video board). That is approximately three times the size of the Toyota sign.
  • Once again, the Cubs will choose the precise location, with the goal of reducing the impact on the rooftop views. Given that the sign is described as “in the style” of the Toyota sign, I’m guessing it will be designed to be as see-through as possible.
  • The JumboTron is expected to display replays, statistics, and, of course, advertisements. It is not presently expected to include a Kiss Cam, and crap like that.
  • The expectation is that these items will be in place for the 2014 season.
  • Outfield Wall

  • The Cubs will be permitted to bump out each of the outfield walls, taking up the sidewalks currently on Waveland and Sheffield, as well as one lane of traffic on Waveland. The precise distance is not yet stated, but is believed to be about eight to ten feet. There will still have to be sidewalks, though.
  • The bump out will not affect the in-park dimensions, but will create additional concession space inside of Wrigley Field.
  • The bump out will allow the Cubs to place their outfield signage slightly closer to the rooftop buildings, reducing the impact on their sight lines.
  • In-Stadium Signage

  • There will be new signage within Wrigley, which will be placed at the Cubs’ sole discretion.
  • The new signage is expected to include a restoration of The Old Scoreboard (and a new LED sign below, likely), a new LED ribbon board along the upper deck of the grandstand, a “new sign on wall in right field” (which I assume means a sign like the Target logo or Under Armor ad in the outfield), and new ads behind home plate. These are likely to come in time for the 2014 season, given their revenue-generating capability.
  • The plan released by the Cubs today does not mention a new LED board in left field, like the one now on the wall in right field. The original plans revealed at the Convention did include a new board in left field. I guess we’ll see on that one.
  • Night Games

  • The Cubs will be permitted to schedule 40 night games, up from their current allotment of 30. (Subject to the points below.)
  • The Cubs will also have flexibility for night games that are mandated by MLB, pursuant to a national broadcast, for example. (This occurs when a team is good, and MLB says, “hey, we want that good team to be shown in one of our national slots!” – in other words, the flexibility thing shouldn’t be an issue for a couple years.)
  • The flexibility is a little tricky to explain. Here’s the exact language in the Cubs’ proposal: “If Major League Baseball or its national television contract requires Cubs to play more than five home night games in any season, such games will be authorized by special ordinance and will not count against the 40-game limit or require additional cost to Cubs.” Lawyer parsing alert: does this language mean that the Cubs can schedule only 35 night games on their own in advance of a season, because they have to preserve up to five dates for MLB? According to that language, the Cubs are permitted to go over 40 games *only* if MLB requires the Cubs to flip *more* than five games from day to night. If the Cubs schedule 40 night games, and then MLB asks them to flip 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 games, the Cubs would have violated this provision.
  • A guess on how this is resolved? The Cubs schedule 35 night games, and work with MLB to ensure that they get at least three or four games “mandated” by MLB as night games each year. That way, the Cubs can get as close to 40 as possible every year (and then can go plenty over 40 in years in which they are good and MLB wants the Cubs on many national broadcasts).
  • The Cubs and the City will reevaluate this plan after five seasons to see if it’s working. If it isn’t, the Cubs might get more night games – but, either way, they won’t have any night games removed. (This is pretty important because, as you’ll recall, the Cubs’ CSN TV deal is up after the 2019 season. In five years, the Cubs could add additional night games, and increase the value of their broadcast rights just in time for that negotiation.)
  • There are still no permissible Saturday or Sunday night games, except for those mandated by MLB for a national TV broadcast.
  • None of the following count against the Cubs’ night game limit: playoffs, All-Star Game, concerts, games rescheduled because of a rain-out, and other events where fewer than 15,000 people are expected to attend.
  • The increase in night games could come as soon as this season. The plan calls for a night game ordinance to be introduced in May of this year, and voted on by City Council no later than the June City Council meeting.
  • Friday Games

  • The Cubs additional want the ability to schedule 3:05pm CT games on Fridays. They will seek six 3:05pm CT Friday games, up from the current allotment of zero.
  • This Friday game plan is also to be implemented by an ordinance introduced to City Council no later than May, and voted on no later than June.
  • Concerts

  • The Cubs will be permitted to host up to four concerts per year at Wrigley Field, up from the previous allotment of three.
  • Concerts do not count as “night games.” However, any concert in excess of four does count as a “night game.” So, the Cubs have the flexibility to schedule an extra concert or two in a given year if they feel like they won’t use up their night game allotment.
  • Street Fairs

  • The Cubs will get their street fairs on Sheffield avenue, subject to some limitations. The fairs may be conducted for weekend home games between Memorial Day and Labor Day beginning two hours before game and ending at the end of 2nd inning.
  • Once the open-air plaza on the Triangle Property is completed, use of Sheffield for the fairs will be reconsidered. In other words, the fairs might be moved to the plaza once it is ready to go.
  • Hotel

  • The new hotel (affiliated with Sheraton) on the McDonald’s property will be a minimum of 91′ tall, and will have 175 rooms, 75 parking spaces, a 40,000 square foot athletic club, retail areas and dining areas.
  • Advertising signage will be permitted on the hotel.
  • A bridge will be constructed over Clark to connect the hotel to the new building on the Triangle Property. The bridge will be home to a “Welcome to Wrigleyville” sign … which … be careful, Cubs. There’s a fine balance between historic/delightfully tacky and just tacky.
  • Triangle Property – Building and Open-Air Plaza

  • The long-awaited Triangle Building is kinda-sorta happening. It will be 85′ tall, and will be at the north end of the Triangle property. It will house Cubs offices, hotel meeting space, a kids area, and retail.
  • Like the hotel, advertising will be permitted on the Triangle Building.
  • The building will be – as near as I can tell – adjacent to an open-air plaza on the other end of the Triangle Property, which will be used for community events (example: ice skating rink in the winter, farmers market in the summer). There will be large video boards in the plaza that will be used for advertising, movies, and viewing Cubs games.
  • The plaza area will also be home to various retail/restaurant/bar locations. It appears that the goal is a Cubs/Wrigley-themed fun/food/family area.
  • The Cubs also received an agreement from the City not to allow any new billboard signage viewable from the ballpark. (Large-scale advertising in this area, apparently, is going to be solely the Cubs’ business, and no one else’s.)
  • Captain Morgan Club

  • A new, two-story Captain Morgan Club (probably replacing single story version currently on Addison) will be constructed, which will house the bar, as well as a Cubs retail area, and the visiting clubhouse. (Insert joke about boozing up the opponents before the game.)
  • Other In-Park Changes

  • The Cubs plan to build connection points in right and left field between the grandstand and the bleachers, which could prove tricky, given that bleacher seating is general admission.
  • Beer sales will be extended from the middle of the 7th inning to the end of the 7th inning, or 10:30pm, whichever is earlier.
  • Community

  • The Cubs will make annual contributions for community projects, which projects will be jointly determined by Alderman Tunney and the Cubs. The amount of the contributions are $500,000 per year for 2014-2018, and $250,000 per year for 2019-2023. If you are prone to political cynism, this is where that cynism goes.
  • The Cubs will pay for a new traffic light on Clark Street ($350,000!), and two more will be paid for by the CubFund (a fund set up by the Cubs over the years to pay for community needs).
  • Thirty new security personnel will be assigned to Cubs games, ten of whom will be paid for by the Cubs.
  • The Cubs will contribute $1 million to the School Street playlot and park.
  • Parking

  • The Cubs will reconstruct the Eddy Street (Brown) lot, which will add an addition 100 parking spaces, increasing the total there to 300.
  • The Cubs will now provide shuttles to remote parking lots for free, rather than charge $6. The remote parking spots are free, though there is a limit of 1,000 spots.
  • The parking plans will be readjusted if the cost to the Cubs for the free remote option exceeds $100,000 after three years.
  • No new parking garage is currently planned.
  • Rooftops

  • The clear goal is reduce the impact of the renovation on the rooftops, and the Cubs appear to intend to fulfill the current contract with the rooftops (which runs through 2024, and provides the Cubs a 17% revenue share from what the rooftops earn).
  • The rooftops issued a press release soon after Tom Ricketts met with the media today, in which they say very nice things about the process moving forward, but preserve their right to enforce their contract if necessary.
  • We aren’t going to know whether a lawsuit is forthcoming until the final plans are in place, and the rooftops have an opportunity to evaluate just how negatively they will be impacted by the two outfield signs. A lawsuit to block the renovation seems unlikely to succeed, whereas a suit for damages – if the Cubs block their views, causing them actual damages, and if doing so is an actual breach of the agreement – is possible.
  • Approvals/Process

  • In the Planned Development process, the community offers input on a variety of aspects of the plan (as they already have with respect to night games, for example) by way of zoning controls and statements, as well as review and comment on specific project plans. This process occurs before City Council votes on a particular plan, and is designed to help guide the project into an approvable form. Some of the particulars of the renovation plan will likely change throughout the Planned Development process, but probably not the general framework.
  • The Landmarks Commission will have to approve various aspects of the plan, given that Wrigley Field is subject to certain landmark restrictions. It does not appear at this time that the landmark designations are going away as a part of this renovation. That said, the landmark restrictions are not expected to impede the implementation of this plan. Indeed, the City of Chicago is expected to support the Cubs’ application for Class L property tax status, which provides a tax incentive to entities that renovate landmarks.
  • City Council will have to approve aspects of the plan, and certain items will require ordinances on an ongoing basis. That said, with Alderman Tunney’s support, this should not be an issue.
  • The renovation plan calls for the Planned Development process to start as soon as possible, and the final approvals to be granted prior to October 2013. Not that the Cubs are expect to be able to start renovations in October, right? I mean, that’s when the playoffs happen!
  • The City will coordinate the approval process in such a way as to aid the Cubs in meeting a construction schedule that minimizes the risk of interfering with the baseball schedule.
  • The Cubs will receive rezoning as necessary to effectuate the renovation plans.
  • A fun inclusion, in bold and italics, at the end of the Cubs’ renovation plan: “Except where specifically noted above, it is not intended there will be any additional cost to Cubs nor will Cubs be asked to pay any special fee or cost not imposed on other Chicago professional sports teams (for example, no special Wrigley Field tax or policing costs, except as noted above).”
  • written by

    Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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