Wrigley Field renovation project approved

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved a massive renovation project for Wrigley Field after a four-hour meeting Thursday.

The proposal includes seven new outfield signs and the re-location of bullpens to the outfield under the bleachers. Rooftop owners have threatened to sue the Cubs for violating their contract if they block the views, and many Lakeview neighbors at the meeting said they oppose the proposed renovations for other reasons.

"This was all about acting in the best interest of the Chicago Cubs, and the best interest was this revised expansion plan package that we have, which included seven outfield signs to generate as much revenue as possible to begin this huge project," said Julian Green, Cubs spokesperson.

Ald. Tom Tunney says there needs to be more time for public input.

"It is a quality of life issue, residents of my ward expect me to represent them," Tunney, of the 44th Ward, said during the meeting.

Wrigley Field is the second oldest ballpark in baseball, and just about the only one in the middle of a residential neighborhood, so there is little precedent for renovations to the field. But the Cubs say those updates are necessary to be competitive with other teams financially.

"Nobody benefits from litigation, or more delay, if it can be avoided, but this is not the forum or time to discuss those negotiations, or a bunch of what-ifs," said Crane Kenney, Cubs president.

The Cubs say the total renovation and construction package will cost more than $500 million dollars and bring thousands of jobs to the area, not to mention tax dollars.

"The plan approved today for Wrigley Field is a step forward for the Cubs and the neighborhood. Not only does it upholds the architectural heritage of the stadium that Chicagoans can enjoy, but will generate thousands of jobs," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. "I fully expect the owners to initiate the restoration of Wrigley Field and to invest in the surrounding Wrigleyville area, including traffic flow, security, and public parks. In addition, discussions with the rooftop owners should - and must - continue so that this plan remains a win-win."

Some fans, however, aren't convinced.

"We're waiting for World Series, I don't know about you, I'd like to see it in my time, and I know if the corporate partners will pay for the signs, pay for the renovation, the Cubs will definitely bring the World Series home," said Trudie Acheatel, a Cubs fan.

The mayor-appointed landmark commission agreed the plan- which sees bullpens moved to nether regions of the outfield, at least 5 more corporate suites and better facilities for players and fans -- respects the ballpark's history and does not harm the "uninterrupted and memorable" sweep of the bleachers. But the rooftop owners can still sue over blocked views, something Mayor Emanuel does not want.

"You lost this vote unanimously what do you make of that? My personal opinion is landmarking is not following the landmark designation, however, we knew that this was coming because the mayor directed them to vote yes," said Beth Murphy, spokesperson for the Wrigley Rooftops Association.

The Cubs say that the earliest the new Jumbotron could be installed is Opening Day 2015.
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