Chicago City Council Approves Wrigley Renovation Deal

Courtesy Chicago Cubs

The Cubs will be staying in Chicago, in a renovated Wrigley Field, with work to be done over the next several years, after months of contentious negotiations resulted in an agreement Wednesday afternoon.

At last, it's happening:

The City Council on Wednesday unanimously signed off on the $500 million development, primarily bankrolled by a 5,700-square-foot video scoreboard in left field and a 650-square-foot see-through sign in right.

Local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) opened the debate, talking about the "trying" months he has spent negotiating the fine points of the "framework" agreement that Emanuel and Ricketts hammered out in April.

Tunney continued in what was described by some on Twitter as an "epic rant", giving the entire history of negotiations between the city and the Cubs going back to the Tribune Company days; the only thing missing was him standing on a desk in the Council chamber. But he concluded:

He added, "This is a big day for the city of Chicago. ... Just make sure the Cubs do what they say they’re gonna do. No more head fakes because, if they do a head fake," the City Council and the mayor must and will hold the team accountable.

Included in the approval of the deal were the following items:

After yet another meeting with Tunney, Emanuel announced that the controversial pedestrian bridge over Clark Street would be "deferred indefinitely" and that there would be "further discussion" on the location of a hotel entrance that Tunney wants moved off residential Patterson Avenue.

The mayor also engineered a 10-year moratorium on outfield signs — the duration of the Cubs’ revenue-sharing agreement with rooftop club owners — beyond the two already approved. He urged the two sides to continue their ongoing negotiations.

And the reason for those things being included?

Let's hope that this is the end of the acrimony. There will definitely be changes in the area around Wrigley Field and yes, some local residents will be inconvenienced; some will decide it's too much for them to deal with and leave the area.

I'm old enough to remember well the same acrimony 25 years ago when the Cubs had to get Council approval to put in lights. Just as now, a neighborhood group (you may have seen the "NO LIGHTS IN WRIGLEY FIELD" shirts and placards sold as souvenirs in recent years; 25+ years ago, those were real, in nearly every window near the ballpark and worn by many to games) was loudly against lights, claiming it would ruin life in the area, decrease property values, have people trampling all over their yards at all hours of the night ...

Well, some of the latter happened over the first few years of night games at Wrigley. But you know what? As time went by, many opposed to night games left the area. Others moved in; for them, night games were simply a fact of life. And after 2002, when the night-game limit was increased from 18 to 30 games, what happened?

A whole lot of nothing. No one seriously thinks that night baseball ruins the area around Wrigley; property values have gone way up since 1988, though plateauing somewhat since the recession began in 2008. Businesses have prospered, more so when the Cubs win, but Wrigleyville is a much more diverse and vital neigborhood than it was in 1988.

So it will be, I predict, with these renovations. They are extensive, but they don't even come close to the change made by moving afternoon games to night games. 25 years from now, everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about.

Now we wait for the traditional i-dotting and t-crossing and all the details to be worked out, and the Cubs to announce a construction schedule. I'll keep covering whatever happens.

But for now, yes, it's happening. And it's a good thing for the neighborhood, the city, and the Chicago Cubs.

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