Wrigley Night Game Deal OK; No Beer On Plaza, Yet

Jonathan Daniel

A Chicago City Council committee approved the tweaks to the Cubs' new night game plan, but put the team's proposal to sell alcohol on the planned outdoor plaza on hold.

In the absence of actual construction on Wrigley Field renovations, the Cubs are at least making progress on other portions of their proposals for changes to the way the franchise operates.

Wednesday, the Chicago City Council Committee on License and Consumer Protection (is that committee name long enough for you?) approved a compromise proposal regarding a new limit for the number of night games the team can play, reports Fran Spielman in the Sun-Times:

The night game ordinance approved last summer authorized the Cubs to play up to 46 night games per season, up from the current allotment of 30. But, it capped the number of Saturday night games at two-per-season and gave the city “unprecedented” control over when rained-out games are re-scheduled.

The new version reduces the overall number to 43, but allows the Cubs to schedule 35 night games and add eight more, including three Saturday nights, if Major League Baseball chooses the Cubs for a weekend broadcast.

In exchange, the Cubs will provide free remote parking for up to 1,000 cars, up from 500 cars at $6 per car currently. In addition, the team has agreed to beef up crowd control — for two hours after games on Sunday-through-Thursday and three hours on Friday and Saturday — by hiring ten additional security guards.

That seems fair enough. Currently, the Cubs have exactly 35 night dates set on the preliminary 2014 schedule that was announced last September. It's likely, given Fox's desire to have Saturday night regional broadcasts during the summer, that three Saturday home dates will be switched to night games, with a 6:15 CT starting time. That would make 38 night games; whether the Cubs have five other dates changed from day to night depends more on how well the team is doing and whether ESPN is interested in having a Cubs game on their weeknight schedule. (In other words, it's not likely there would be those five additional night games in 2014.)

The other proposal before the committee, for the Cubs to be able to sell beer and wine on the planned plaza on the triangle property, was tabled:

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) promised changes after community feedback on his "sports venue license" ordinance that, as currently written, would authorize year-round liquor sales — up to 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends — on a plaza that would also feature live music.

"It’s a brand new type of license, so we’ve got a lot of work to do. . . . The community wants more input. . . . I’m sure we’ll have a substitute," Tunney said.

Pressed on what changes he anticipates, Tunney said it’s an open question whether liquor sales should be year-round. Area residents are also concerned about loud music. They would prefer a quieter form of activity, such as farmer’s markets or a skating rink, the alderman said. 

The Cubs have had some "street fairs" on the open plaza over the past couple of years that included live music; those fairs didn't seem to attract as many people as the Cubs might have hoped. As you can probably guess, or you know if you've been there, these are things that are done outside Fenway Park in Boston, and the Cubs seem determined to replicate that atmosphere, even though the character of the neighborhood around Fenway is much more commercial than the residential area adjacent to Wrigley. Whether such things would be popular or beneficial to the community remains to be seen.

One more thing was approved by the Council committee:

The revised night game ordinance again authorizes the Cubs to hold up to four concerts per season at Wrigley. But, it includes a steep schedule of fines to prevent a repeat of a storm-delayed Pearl Jam concert that ran until 2 a.m. last summer and kept area residents awake.

The fines range from $5,000 for the first half-hour after 11 p.m. to $15,000 for shows that run until midnight and $30,000 for each half-hour after that.

This is a good thing. There are some bands that would likely pay those fines, just so they can keep playing. I wasn't at the Pearl Jam show, but the Bruce Springsteen concert I attended in September 2012 ended after 11:30; if these rules had been in place then, I doubt Springsteen would have had any issue with paying those "rates" to run long.

Eventually, construction will begin on Wrigley renovations, likely next fall, and run for four or five offseasons.

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