City Hall next step in Wrigley sign debate

May 6, 2010 (CHICAGO)

If approved by the Chicago City Council, the Toyota advertisement would go on the left field of the bleachers at Wrigley Field.

More than 100 people- both supporters and opponents of the plan- attended the landmarks meeting. New Cubs owner Tom Ricketts has said he'd engage the community with his plans for the team and its home. The proposal is a first big test; Ricketts said a new sign in left field is a critical, multi-million dollar revenue generator that will keep the ballpark healthy.

"Maintaining Wrigley Field is expensive, just as anyone here who has owned an older home will tell you. When things break it costs money and things break, and on top of that keeping it safe for the fans and improving it so fans have a better game day experience is expensive," said Ricketts.

Supporters arrived an hour early to get seats. They back the Cubs' plan for a 365-square foot sign that will be illuminated only when the scoreboard is. Proponents say the sign will benefit a cherished national institution.

"I appreciate anything the committee can do to keep this ball park alive and to approve this wonderful part of Wrigley Field," said Ernie Banks.

"I don't think any fair-minded person can argue that the sign and the proposal don't meet with the letter and the spirit of the law," said Joe Krzewinski, supporter.

At issue-- the ballpark's landmark designation doesn't allow for signs bigger than 100-square feet.

"People wanted Wrigley Field to be designated a landmark to preserve the nostalgic feel of the ballpark. There is nothing nostalgic about encouraging me to buy a Toyota," said Matt Gerrard.

Wrigley Field is in Alderman Tom Tunney's ward. He said he's concerned about the precedent allowing the sign would set.

"We are going to continue to work with the Cubs for a plan where signs are permissible and where signs shouldn't be erected," said Tunney.

Preservation Chicago and Landmarks Illinois also registered their opposition. They, like Ald. Tunney, said they want to see the ballclub develop a plan for long-term signage policy. Ricketts repeatedly would not go for that, which raises the question of whether other signs are in the works.

"First of all, there is no plans for any more signs in the outfield. Secondly, if it were, I can't imagine it would be possible to find a spot that would work," said Ricketts.

Another concern-- the sign could block the view of Wrigley rooftop owners, who share their profits with the Cubs. Like the preservationists, they say they want the ballclub to put out a master plan for signage in the park.

Ald. Tunney thinks there's more negotiation to be done before council will be presented with a motion to approve the sign, but Ricketts says every day without the sign is money lost to the team.

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