Analysis: The Cubs' Wrigley Field Renovation Plans

Courtesy Chicago Cubs

The Cubs recently released the details of their proposal to restore Wrigley Field. Here are my thoughts on some of the more intricate, and controversial, requests the team is making.

The Cubs recently released the official legal documents that comprise their proposal to renovate Wrigley Field and the surrounding area. They have posted the required legal notices on the side of Wrigley Field (you can see one of them in this FanShot). You'll note that there are four separate LLCs asking for various rezoning in that sign:

  • Wrigley Field Holdings, LLC
  • Wrigley Field Parking Operations, LLC
  • Triangle Property Holdings, LLC
  • North Clark Street, LLC

The requests for the first three of those were signed by Crane Kenney, the fourth by Tom Ricketts. I'm presuming that the North Clark Street LLC is the one that owns the property on which the proposed hotel will be built, and the rest are for property owned by the Cubs on the Wrigley Field footprint.

I'm choosing to focus here on just a few parts of the 63 pages in the Cubs' proposal in this post, likely the ones of most interest to both you, the Cubs fan, and the neighborhood in general.

First, let's look at the drawing at the top of this post, which you can see in larger format here (for all images in the body of this post, click on them to open larger versions in a new browser window or tab):

This shows what the Cubs want to do to the west side of Wrigley Field, the side facing the currently-empty triangle property and Clark Street. You can see the wrought iron that the Cubs want to put back on the facade of the ballpark, as it existed in the 1920s and 1930s. This would replace the ugly chain-link fencing and concrete panels that are there now. There will also be an entrance and exit on that side of Wrigley, something that has never existed; that will go a long way toward easing congestion on the concourse and help make exiting the park after games much easier.

Next, the triangle property adjacent to that west side of Wrigley; there have been numerous proposals on what to do with that vacant land, dating back as far as 2001. (Here's a rendering of one such proposal.)

Here are two drawings showing what the Cubs plan for that land:

Triangleproperty_medium

Triangleplaza_medium

The first drawing shows a general view of the property and how it's organized. The second shows the specific plans for the area. The Cubs plan to put a six-story building -- that would make it taller than most of the buildings in the area, which are about four stories -- on the site, which would serve primarily as team offices. The rest of the property would remain open as a public plaza, where they would have public events (including, presumably, continuing the skating rink they've had the last few winters), access to the west-side entrance noted above, and, as you can see, access to the pedestrian bridge the team wants to build over Clark Street leading to the hotel on the west side of the street.

This all looks great to me. Now, here's the thing that is likely to be the most contentious part of the proposal. First, two drawings showing the entire area around Wrigley Field:

Wrigleyairrights2_medium

Wrigleyairrights_medium

Those are interesting in and of themselves, but the most interesting words on them are "Air Rights To Be Vacated". You can see exactly where those are in these closeup drawings of Waveland and Sheffield Avenues:

Wavelandairrights_medium

Sheffieldairrights_medium

These are the proposals that are asking the city to "vacate" certain rights along both sides of Waveland and Sheffield; they would eliminate parking and possibly make those streets one-way 24/7/365, which could be problematical for the neighbors. What I find most interesting about these two drawings are the words "New Air Rights (Starting At 19 Feet Above Grade)". I haven't specifically measured, but 19 feet sounds like it's the level of the top of the current bleacher structure (at least the parts that run along most of the length of Waveland and Sheffield, before they start to curve upward toward the CF seating and scoreboard).

The "new air rights", presumably, are being requested to construct video boards on both sides of Wrigley Field. Now, remember the Cubs have proposed a video board on Waveland that's 6,000 square feet -- 100 feet wide by 60 feet tall.

60 feet tall, above the 19-foot height of the bleachers, means the top of that board would be approximately 80 feet above grade. That's about the height of an eight-story building, twice the height of any building surrounding Wrigley Field. This is what I mean when I say that such a video board would be completely out of scale with the ballpark and neighborhood.

So, as I have written many times, I'm on board with the vast majority of the Cubs' proposal. But I do believe they will have to scale down the size of the proposed video board (perhaps by a third, to about 4,000 square feet) and they also might have to compromise on asking for the changes on Sheffield and especially Waveland, given that there's a fire station there where a fire truck and ambulance make multiple calls during baseball games (I'm sure you've heard the sirens on radio and TV).

If you'd like to read the entire proposal, here's Part 1 and here's Part 2. (Both links are PDFs; to save them to your computer, right-click and choose "Save link as".)

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