Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Alderman Tunney Tells the Cubs to Get to Work

respect wrigleyPerhaps there is a tone-deafness that can be perceived only outside of the community in which the galling statements occur. Or perhaps, as outsiders – to the city or the neighborhood or the political process – we are unable to understand the forces animating the ostensibly odd things that people say.

Alderman Tom Tunney, whose ward includes Wrigley Field, and who has been an extremely visible voice in the excruciating process to allow the Ricketts Family to fund the renovation of Wrigley and a surrounding development project, wants everyone to know that he’s now pushing the Cubs to get the renovation underway. You read that correctly: the project that ground to a screeching halt over the course of 2013 in large part because of political intransigence is now being kicked in the ass by the most prominently involved member of that political machine.

Tunney spoke with the Sun-Times, criticizing the Cubs for failing to start the renovations that City Council approved earlier this year. Tunney believes the Cubs should have already secured the necessary permits and started work, something the Cubs have indicated they are not yet ready to do. The hold-up is the Cubs’ fear that the rooftop owners will sue – potentially shutting down construction and injecting the uncertainty (and time-suck) that necessarily accompanies a lawsuit – as soon as they begin constructing outfield signage.

Tunney responded that any dispute between the Cubs and the rooftops is none of his concern, and the Cubs should nevertheless start renovating Wrigley. This is, of course, disingenuous, because Tunney knows that the money to finance the renovation and development project – no public dollars, Alderman – is coming predominantly from the erection of two large outfield signs. Tunney also knows that those signs have been the subject of a long-standing dispute between the Cubs and the rooftop owners – the very owners on whose behalf Tunney worked so hard throughout the sparring in the run-up to the renovation deal in the first place.

The temerity Tunney shows in taking such a public position would be shocking to me if he hadn’t already shown it before.

In that regard, then, nothing here is a surprise. It is technically correct that construction at Wrigley Field could begin at any time. There is nothing stopping the Cubs, the rooftops frequently point out, from working on the seating bowl, the roof, the bathrooms, the interior amenities, the player facilities, etc. The rooftops would not sue to stop the Cubs from putting in a new set of batting cages. But the Ricketts Family is understandably concerned about writing huge construction checks before they know for certain that their revenue-generating signs will not be blocked legally.

Between Tunney’s remarks, and a report last week that the Mayor’s Office is assisting with some of the Cubs’ lingering concerns, at least attention on the renovation – and the stalling thereof – is ratcheting back up. The Cubs have communicated in various ways, however, that they do not expect to begin any substantial portion of the renovations this offseason, instead focusing on basic structural/electrical work. The hope was that new player facilities – badly needed player facilities – would be in place for the 2014 season.

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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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