Emanuel pitches 'Fenway Plan' for Wrigley

April 16, 2012 8:37:39 PM PDT
Advertising, JumboTrons and street fairs are all part of a plan by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to make sure the Chicago Cubs organization gets the money it needs to renovate Wrigley Field.

The plan, similar to the one that saved Fenway Park in Boston, could ease Wrigley Field's landmark status and pave the way for the Cubs to raise as much as $150 million in advertising and sponsorships.

Emanuel wants to renovate the 98-year-old ballpark without overburdening taxpayers. He reportedly is calling it his "Fenway Plan," modeling changes at Wrigley after similar changes to Boston's historic ballpark that paid for expensive renovations there. Fenway Park is the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball.

Emanuel's plan includes creating game-day street fairs on Sheffield, which would shut down the area near Sheffield and Waveland. He is also looking at sponsored gateway arches on area streets that would welcome people to Wrigleyville. Under the plan, fans could also see more concerts and football games at Wrigley, along with more outfield signage behind the bleachers. A JumboTron in right field is also a possibilty.

A number of aldermen support the mayor's plan.

"We have incentives for big companies that come to the Loop, why can't we help a local corporate neighbor, the Cubs, to have a larger impact on the economic vibrancy of the neighborhood," said Ald. Ricardo Munoz, 22nd Ward.

The plan drew mixed emotions from some Cubs fans Monday.

"It sounds exciting. I don't see why they shouldn't do it. Anything that makes the area generate more money is probably good for the city," said fan Graham Bowman.

"I like the ballpark as it is, old. I don't really like the ads coming up-- like the Toyota sign, I'm not a fan," Patrick Karczewski said.

Changes at Wrigley Field have faced years of political opposition. For some Wrigley Field purists, increased advertising around the Friendly Confines would be an abomination and insult to the park's storied tradition.

"I think you got to keep the stadium alive. There is a lot of history here," said Robbie Asbell, one of thousands of tourists who make visiting Wrigley one of their top priorities, making it one of the top three tourist draws in the city. "I think it's awesome."

Nothing was set in stone Monday, but the city says it is close to a deal with the Cubs.

A spokesperson for the Cubs-owning Ricketts family released the following statement Monday: "Discussions continue with the mayor's office, the city and the county. The family is very encouraged by the mayor's leadership and by the great interest shown by the governor and legislative leaders."