Saturday, January 19, 2013
Cubs need city's help for Wrigley upgrades
By Bruce Levine and Jesse Rogers
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and his business front office are asking the city of Chicago for some assistance in their proposed $300 million renovation of Wrigley Field.
The team announced Saturday its plans to start rehabbing the 98-year-old ballpark. It hopes to begin construction in the fall of 2014 if the city will sign off on the project and relax the landmark status on the historic site. The team had hoped to have money from an amusement tax retired to a fund that would help in part pay for the new construction. That idea was tabled by the city in late summer for political reasons.
"We have an opportunity here that is tremendous," Ricketts said at the Cubs' fan convention Saturday. "Give us some relief on some of the restrictions and we will take care of the rest."
The owner was referring to restrictions on any major constructions of a landmark status building.
Cubs president of baseball operations Crane Kenney made a presentation of the proposed renovation to 1,000 fans at a special seminar Saturday.
"I think we would like to be treated like the other 29 clubs," he said. "If they are going to be allowed build their business and put signs were they need them and hold games when they need them, they (the Ricketts family) are prepared to write the whole check themselves."
Kenney said the team does not need the landmark status altered for most of the ballpark renovation.
"Most of the elements that the landmark status covers we would never want to touch anyway," he said. "We just need the ability to add some of the marketing elements we need and the ability to host games when we want to."
The team is not sure it wants to add a digital scoreboard to go along with the historic center field hand-operated scoreboard that was installed in 1937.
"It's interesting how that has changed in time," Kenney said. "All of our focus groups have swung the other way. That is if it is done right; that is the key element. If it is done right and gives the fans a chance to see a great play again and to learn more about the players, they are supportive."
No official renderings or starting date is in place.
Kenney said his renovation team and the mayor's people have been in constant contact throughout the process.
"Everything you do needs the city's approval," Kenney said. "Any building in the city, you can't (start work) without getting the right permits for electrical and plumbing or mechanical, so we need city support to get this off the ground, and thousands of jobs are waiting. We expect to get a lot of support from the city because, certainly, we could use more employment in the city."