Community leader demands Cubs scale back renovation plan - New York News

Community leader demands Cubs scale back plan for more night games, signs

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CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

A Wrigleyville community leader demanded Tuesday that the Cubs scale back their request for more night games and signage at a renovated Wrigley Field, nix plans to enlarge the stadium's footprint and reduce the height of a hotel they plan to build across the street.

Jill Peters, President of the Southport Neighbors Association, demanded sweeping changes as the Cubs prepared to show their hand on one of the most controversial elements of the team's $500 million plan to renovate 99-year-old Wrigley and the land around it: stadium signage.

Early next week, the Cubs plan to release long-awaited renderings of: a 6,000-square-foot video scoreboard in left-field; a 1,000-square-foot see-through sign in right-field; new signs on the right-field wall and behind home plate; an LED "ribbon board" along the upper deck grandstand, and 35,000 square feet of advertising on a 91-foot-tall hotel and open-air plaza.

Only then, will rooftop club owners who share 17 percent of their revenues with the team know the impact on their birdseye views of the stadium. That's even after the right- and left-field walls are extended outward by ten feet to minimize blockage.

And only then will Wrigleyville residents know how much the influx of new advertising will impact the character of their neighborhood.

"They want an office building, a hotel and lots of signage, but the detail is not there yet," local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said Tuesday.

"We're going to try to keep the hotel as low as possible and still give them the ability to have a hotel. But, we can't get into the crux of it without seeing the architect's plans."

The Cubs are encountering strenuous opposition, even before showing all their cards.

After a Monday night meeting between the Cubs and Southport Neighbors, Peters is demanding no more than 37 "night events"-per-season, including concerts, 3:05 p.m. game starts and regular night games.

The "framework" hammered out by Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and Mayor Rahm Emanuel includes 40 night-games — up from the current, 30 game ceiling — with the possibility of up to 11 more when required by Major League Baseball's national television contract. In addition, the Cubs would be permitted to stage four concerts per season and six, 3:05 p.m. starts on Friday afternoons.

"Night games create excessive drinking, damage to property, crowd issues and other crimes. We've had robberies, shootings and home invasions. We want them to keep the promise they made and hold to what the Lakeview Citizens Council recommended: No more than 37 night events with everything included," Peters said, demanding 50 more post-game security personnel outside the ballpark, up from the Cubs' plan for 30.

Peters also declared her opposition to taking out a lane of parking on Waveland and a sidewalk on Sheffield to enlarge the stadium's footprint, with no compensation to Chicago taxpayers.

She noted that the Cubs plan to continue unloading buses on Waveland and hold street fairs on Sheffield during summer weekend home games.

"That will snarl the neighborhood. You'll have nowhere to go in that narrow radius around the ballpark," she said.

As for the hotel, Peters said renderings unveiled Monday night show a "tiara-style crown" on the Addison side that would raise the height of the hotel from 91 feet to 117 feet.

"It's massive. The size is not compatible with a residential neighborhood. The hotel will literally be abutting homes and it's completely out of scale. It needs to be scaled back," Peters said."They've asked for the stars. We want to bring them down to earth and come out with a result we can all live with."

Ricketts has said he's operating under the "the assumption that there will be lots of community meetings, lots of discussion and we will end up with this plan."

Cubs spokesman Julian Green reiterated that view in response to Peters' demands.

"The plan we've presented to the public is the plan needed to bring the resources to this team to accomplish our goal of wining a world championship," he said.

"Getting input will certainly guide some of our designs. But, there are certain things we need to have: a 91-ft. hotel; the ability to generate revenue from corporate signage and trying as hard as we can to minimize impact on rooftops views. Our proposal seeks 40 night games, which we believe is striking a balance with the community. The Major League average is 54."

As for 3:05 p.m. starts, Green said the Cubs had them before and need them again to attract fans who like working half-days during the summer.

"It would significantly increase our sales on those Friday games," he said, noting that the Cubs' plan addresses traffic, parking and public safety concerns.

Ryan McLaughlin, a spokesman for the rooftop owners, said in an emailed statement they've been waiting since January to get some details on the Cubs plan for "signage" at the ballfield. "It's our belief that the Cubs' proposal will differ significantly from the existing offer made by the [r]ooftop owners," McLaughlin said.

Rooftop owners are proposing what they say will be a "multi-million dollar revenue stream for the Cubs generated by digital signage and a Jumbotron mounted on the [r]ooftops," McLaughlin said in the statement.

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