SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- I'm always at spring training when the annual Wrigleyville area neighbors meeting with Cubs and local officials happens, and I rely on the reports of our own Ballhawk Ken and David Sameshima to cover this meeting. This year, I'm sorry I missed it; this Tribune article makes it sound pretty contentious. It begins with this:
Parking and traffic were primary items of concern, with one neighborhood activist issuing a grade of F for how congestion is handled at the corner of Clark and Addison streets. Speakers at the meeting demanded answers on traffic and crowd control before they would support any major changes at Wrigley Field.
This seems counterintuitive. There were fewer people attending Cubs games in 2012 than in any season in the last decade or so. I was there every day. Traffic and congestion seemed pretty tame compared to other years and, in my view, crowd control seemed pretty good regarding the neighbors. This, on the other hand, I can agree with:
Jill Peters, president of the Southport Neighbors Association, called on police to do more to stop limousines from idling on residential streets during games and concerts. "They're taking up parking spaces and parking in the crosswalks," Peters said, adding that it will become a bigger problem if the team gets more night games, as it wants.
Over the last couple of years, the city has put up signs telling the tour buses they can't idle on certain streets; it doesn't seem unreasonable to ask the same of limos. Buses also have to park in certain areas waiting for their groups to leave Wrigley; I'd think limos should be subject to the same restrictions.
In the FanPost on this topic, Ballhawk Ken posted this summary:
Cubs had bad year on the field in 2O12, did a lot of community stuff off the field. Police and City Depts did a lot of stuff for community. Some of it rather mundane, but if they don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. Community not satisfied – they want more, more, more. They will never be happy. Except of course when they have the opportunity to bitch, bitch, and bitch some more – especially when tv cameras are on. Some Aldermen have good ideas and appear to work well with Cubs & community. Other Aldermen are named Tunney. Have no fear though – Ald. Tunney says "I get it" w.r.t. jobs, tax revenue and economic development, especially compared to other wards. He sure has a funny way of showing it.
I'll let Ken -- and David -- weigh in further in the comments to this post, but I just wanted to say regarding the comments about Ald. Tunney, that it seems crystal-clear that he's representing one group of people to the exclusion of not only the interests of the rest of the business owners in his ward, but the interests of the other residents of his ward and of the city in general, because of the amount of increased business (and thus, tax revenue) the Cubs' renovation project is likely to bring to Chicago.
If this deal is close to being complete, those involved should check their egos at the door and make a deal, as Phil Rosenthal points out in his Tribune column ($):
Staying put makes much more economic sense than spending up to $1 billion on a new stadium, and the family has shown no signs they wish to move. Between the benefits of the proposed rehab and the prospects for a new local broadcast TV deal, I'm told there's $5O million to $75 million a year the franchise stands to gain. "The focus up until this minute, and through (next week's) opening day, is to achieve a deal with the city of Chicago," said Dennis Culloton, spokesman for the Ricketts family, when asked Tuesday how seriously the Cubs have explored options apart from a Wrigley rehab. The reason for the deadline: "We're staring at the face of losing another construction season," Culloton said. "Our people wanted to order steel and equipment in February."
Seriously, it's time for those involved to get this done. There's too much at stake for the team, the city, the county and the state for everyone to be standing around like middle schoolers saying, "I'm right!" "No, I am!" As noted in Rosenthal's article:
"Their greatest asset is their fans, but Wrigley is as great an asset as the team itself, and that's because of the value placed on it by the fans," said Jim Grinstead, publisher of Revenues from Sports Ventures, a well-regarded newsletter on the economics of sports teams. "Cubs fans have put up with a lot of losing for a lot of years. They're loyal to their team, and that loyalty extends to the ballpark as well. If you move from Wrigley, you risk breaching the trust of your fans."
There really is no place for the Cubs other than Wrigley Field. Regardless of the lack of winning championships there, the history and identity of the franchise is locked into Wrigley Field, to the extent that leaving could cost them hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more. The Red Sox went through a similar bit of angst regarding Fenway Park about 15 years ago, going so far as to draw up plans for a "New Fenway" which was to be built adjacent to the current park. Unlike the Boston location, there's no land to do such a thing near Wrigley, and as I have written before, a large portion of what makes Wrigley Field what it is, is its location. Building a "replica of Wrigley somewhere else" misses the entire point.
In any case, those plans were scrapped when the John Henry group bought the team in 2002, and instead, they went on a years-long renovation plan which is quite similar to what the Ricketts family wants to do to Wrigley Field. This Sports Illustrated article from 2011 details how Fenway was viewed as obsolete, and how it eventually was restored -- this article could describe the Wrigley situation, just replace "Fenway" with "Wrigley" and "Boston" with "Chicago".
Again, it's time for the rooftops to stand down. They shouldn't be driving this argument. The parties involved should sit down and hammer this deal out. No one's going to get everything they desire; the Cubs will have to give a bit, too. But there is too much at stake for the team and the city to not get this done, if not by April 1, then soon after.