Tuesday morning, the Cubs released new renderings of the signs, outfield work and other things that Tom Ricketts alluded to in the video he sent out to fans last week.
At the time, Ricketts said, "The time to begin is now," and essentially -- if not in so many words -- asked the rooftop owners to stand down from their threats of lawsuits.
These renderings aren't going to make the rooftop owners happy, I can tell you. If you look at the overall Wrigley panoramic rendering above, as well as the right-field scene, you can see multiple new signs that would... pretty much block all the rooftop views.
In addition, new outfield light towers have been put on the renderings -- in the previous incarnation of these renderings, outfield lights were to be placed on the proposed Jumbotron in left field, but nowhere else. It's well known around baseball that Wrigley's lighting is somewhat sparse in the outfield due to the deliberate decision to not put any outfield lights in, when the original lights were installed in 1988.
The signs will no doubt be controversial, at least among rooftop owners. The other thing from these images that will be controversial is the bullpens being moved underneath the bleachers. You can see one proposed location (under right field) in the last of the six images above. Presumably, a similar pen would be located in left field. The controversy here, of course, is that some bricks and ivy might have to be removed to give players a view of the field. That isn't necessarily a done deal -- the bricks and ivy are landmarked, and that would undoubtedly put up a fight with the Landmarks Commission. Further, you wouldn't necessarily have to provide views of the game through the wall -- why not just put TV monitors in? That way, players could have a better view of the game than they could from the outfield.
The other renderings show a club/restaurant that's noted as "3rd base club" on the image file, presumably its location; an auditorium that would be used as an interview room and for presentations; and overhead views of a new clubhouse, that would be located below the triangle property adjacent to Wrigley Field. This would allow the Cubs to start construction on such a facility this summer, as noted by Crain's Danny Ecker via Twitter, and have better player facilities ready for Opening Day 2016. This could be helpful in attracting free agents.
Ecker also tweeted:
Cubs prez Crane Kenney expecting lawsuit from rooftops but holds that outfield signs are "expansion" of the park and don't violate terms.— Danny Ecker (@DannyEcker) May 27, 2014
Well, there's the rub, right? I think Kenney is correct -- you'll note on the renderings that several additional rows of bleacher seating is being added over the right-field bullpen, which would certainly qualify as an "expansion."
But what I really think is, just as some of the original proposals revealed by Tom Ricketts in April 2013 were, these come under the category of "let's throw everything possible we can out there, knowing we won't get it all approved," and by withdrawing some of these proposals -- specifically, some of the signs -- the Cubs might get the rooftops to back off a lawsuit threat.
That's just my speculation, of course, but based on what's gone on thus far, it seems quite possible that's the motivation.
About the proposals in and of themselves -- well, I think that's too many signs, and that the Cubs could do with fewer. The bullpens under the bleachers -- I'm fine with that idea, as long as it doesn't take away from the bricks-and-ivy sweep of the bleachers, which is landmarked. The added bleacher seating -- profitable, right? (As long as the Cubs begin winning.) The new clubhouse? Great idea, great location, doesn't need anyone's approval.
The bottom line, as it has been for more than a year, is this: the rooftop owners need to stand down and assure the Cubs they won't sue, so the expansion/renovation/restoration -- now projected to be a four-year, $575 million project -- can begin.
Stand down, rooftops. It's way past time.