Quite a bit has happened since the last time we checked in on the Wrigley Field Plaza Saga, when the City announced that everyone – well, besides the Chicago Cubs – had reached a compromise. So before you jump in, I’d catch up there.
The City Council’s License Committee met yesterday, discussing, among many things, the Wrigley Field Plaza. During that meeting, they approved an ordinance that will go before the City Council for final approval today.
That ordinance is essentially a set of restrictions on the Wrigley Field Plaza with which the Cubs are extremely displeased. Notes from the meeting, including comments from Alderman Tom Tunney, Cubs Executive Vice President Mike Lufrano and members of the community can be read at Crain’s Chicago Business (Danny Ecker), DNA Info (Ted Cox and Ariel Cheung) and the Chicago Sun Times (Fran Spielman).
Among the biggest new takeaways from yesterday: the Cubs warning that the City may be liable for financial damages, should they choose to proceed with a plaza plan that artificially restricts the number of Wrigley Field concert dates. Apparently, according to the ordinance approved by the License Committee yesterday, the Cubs will be prohibited from holding concerts at Wrigley Field (not just the plaza) during the school year (Labor Day until June 15).
The previously agreed upon and approved (by the very City Council that presides over it today) 2013 ordinance allowed the Cubs to hold up to four concerts a year, at any time of the year. Had a fifth concert been added, the Cubs would be forced to forfeit one of their 30 night games. That was the deal. But now, the Cubs are rightfully concerned that the new plaza rules – that have not yet been agreed to by all parties – are extending inside Wrigley Field, changing long-standing agreements and compromises decided upon years ago.
Other than that, the Cubs remain deeply concerned over their ability (currently inability) to allow fans to enjoy the plaza even without a ticket to the game/event of the day. “And on game days,” Lufrano said, “we’re required to deny admission to fans and neighbors unless they pay a ticket price, which we do not want to charge to fans on the plaza. … The owner wants to let visitors in for free.”
That issue becomes especially sticky when the 12 non-game event limit is imposed. The Cubs have plans for playoff watch parties that would allow Cubs fans to be in Wrigleyville, watching the playoff games on the plaza while the team is (hopefully) on the road playing in them. But because each and every one of those individual games would count as an event, the team would eat into their own bank of non-game events just for being successful (and would have a hard time planning the calendar the rest of the year). The way Lufrano put it, every non-game event spent on a playoff game detracts from other events/activity that would bring commerce to the neighborhood.
Regardless of the Cubs’ concerns, the ordinance passed yesterday by the License Committee will be sent to the City Council for approval today. So let’s make a long story short, given the impending/expected news:
Yesterday, a City Council committee cleared the way for a Wrigley Field Plaza with an ordinance forged from a deal between Alderman Tom Tunney and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The ordinance restricts access to the plaza (to fans with tickets) and would also prohibit the Cubs from obtaining a traditional outdoor patio liquor license for the plaza itself (including the rights such a license provides). It also places restrictions on the number, size, and type of non-game events, and enforces closing times that are different (earlier) than other (admittedly smaller) outdoor patios in the area.
That deal will go before the City Council for final approval today, and the Cubs remain unhappy with their lack of say in the matter. As always, we’ll keep you apprised of any new information. I expect there will be some very soon.