Landmarks Commission To Cubs On Wrigley Renovations: 'Not So Fast'

Courtesy Chicago Cubs

Here we go again.

Recently, the Cubs unveiled a new signage proposal and rendering that included seven new outfield signs. It's hard to tell the entire sweep of the proposal from the image above, so take a look at the whole thing before you continue reading:


Click on photo to open a larger version in a new browser window or tab

Thursday, a member of the Chicago Landmarks Commission said those won't likely pass muster before the Commission, according to Fran Spielman in the Sun-Times:

Seven outfield signs — two of them video scoreboards — are too much for Wrigley Field to handle and will destroy the charm of the century-old stadium, a member of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks warned Thursday.

Before a meeting at which the Cubs had hoped to win approval of their revised Wrigley renovation plan, former lakefront Ald. Mary Ann Smith (48th) made it clear she’s inclined to vote against the proposal, on the grounds that it disturbs one of the "historic elements" of Wrigley. Those elements were landmarked in 2004 in exchange for granting the Cubs permission to play more night games.

Here's what I think, based on the rendering above and where the signs are placed in said rendering. Each of the new signs appears carefully designed and deliberately placed for one reason and one reason only: to block rooftop views. I mean... why else would they be there? Why would the Cubs need a right-field board that gives essentially the same information that's on the left-field board... as well as the LED board that's currently in right field and another such board they're planning to add in the left-field corner? And where are those light standards going to be? From the rendering they appear to be standing outside the ballpark itself... which would require further city approval, I'd think.

Mary Ann Smith continued:

"The wonder of the place is the openness. You can see signage anywhere — and you do. You see signage everywhere and anywhere. And I just think that it’s gonna destroy the ambience," she said.

Warning that the Cubs are coming perilously close to "killing the golden goose," Smith said, "I see less baseball and more commercial retail. I also see so many elements being brought into this ballpark which are transforming it into an entertainment venue, rather than a ballpark."

Well, I think she's right. Yes, of course the Cubs need more revenue to compete. And they should have that new revenue, from sources like the proposed Jumbotron and some additional signage (as well as more dollars from things like the just-announced radio deal and whatever new TV contracts they sign going forward).

But it seems clear to me that the signage in this proposal was giving the big middle finger to rooftop owners. I have to say I have quite a bit of sympathy for that position, given the rooftops' intransigence and the fact that they, and they alone, have held up the Cubs' Wrigley restoration project for over a year. Yes, that's right -- let's call it like it is. This mess is the rooftops' doing, and if the Cubs want to piss them off, that's fine with me.

But in the end, this project is going to get done, and things like the Cubs' new proposed underground clubhouse that's supposedly going to begin being built this summer are great ideas. It's time to get the rooftop dispute settled once and for all. As noted by some commenters when I last wrote about this, the process for doing so is arbitration. Get the arbitrators selected and get this done, already, so the Cubs can get going on this project.

I suspect that will eventually result in the original signage proposal -- which included the Jumbotron and one right-field fixed sign -- being approved, not this giant "flip the bird" to the rooftops.

Because as Mary Ann Smith essentially said, that does mess with the essential character of Wrigley Field and likely won't be approved, while the original proposal sits ready to go, having already been approved by the Landmarks Commission.

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