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Wrigley Renovations: The Cubs Aren't Moving, But...

Why is the Wrigley rehab deal not done yet? Because some Wrigley neighbors are being obstinate. They need to stop and get out of the way.

Jonathan Daniel

This is going to be a bit of a rant, so bear with me.

The reason for this rant is this Sun-Times article which is a summation of the so-called suburban "bids" to get the Cubs to move to their provinces. Here are the key paragraphs that set me off:

What the soliciting suburbs believe — and sources close to the Cubs confirm — is that the siblings of Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts are souring on Chicago and growing increasingly concerned the deal will be modified in a way that denies the team the revenue it needs to renovate Wrigley without a public subsidy.

"Tom has gotten everybody to stand down while he works with the mayor. He understands the emotional value of staying at Wrigley. He’s holding his family together on this. But, they’re ready to roll," said a source close to the billionaire family that owns the Cubs.

Before I get into the rant, here's some relevant related information. I had to make a run to O'Hare Saturday afternoon. The Kennedy was a parking lot in both directions, so I headed toward one of my trusty alternate routes (and no, I'm not telling what those are!); this happened to take me directly past the site that the Rosemont people had proposed for the Cubs.

I cannot imagine a worse location for a sports stadium. There is exactly one way in and out. It's bordered by two expressways and an airport. Plus, it took me an hour to drive in each direction from my North Side home to O'Hare -- a trip that takes 20 minutes if there's no traffic. This, on a nice Saturday when, sure, people are out and about, but there's no specific events going on in that general area. Can you imagine adding ballgame traffic to that? And making Cubs fans from the west or north or south suburbs have to fight it? This applies in the case of just about any suburban location you'd choose. The Cubs now have a (reasonably) centrally located ballpark that's well served by public transit.

And that brings me to my next point, and the beginning of my rant. So much of the identity of the Chicago Cubs is tied up in Wrigley Field that moving them anywhere would risk angering a significant portion of the fanbase. Sure, you can say that historic parks like Yankee Stadium and Comiskey Park, and, to choose another arena with historic meaning to fans, the old Chicago Stadium, were torn down and those fanbases didn't get upset. One of the things you must remember about those is -- in all three cases the replacements were constructed right next to the park that was torn down. So at the very least, fans could at least continue to go to the same location, which does have meaning -- and many other replacement stadiums (Miller Park, Busch Stadium, Rangers Ballpark, among others) were built in this fashion.

When Red Sox management was considering replacing Fenway Park in the late 1990s, they were going to build "New Fenway Park" immediately adjacent to the old one.

Meanwhile, some of the parks that were replaced in the building boom of the last 20 years (Riverfront Stadium, Three Rivers Stadium, Veterans Stadium, among others), were considered awful and not missed in the least by most fans of the teams that inhabited them. (You could probably add Milwaukee County Stadium and the original Rangers park, Arlington Stadium, to that list.)

I think if there were land that close to Wrigley Field on which a replica could be built, there would be much less resistance to replacing it. But there isn't, and so much of what makes Wrigley what it is, is where it is. Building a "replica" in a suburban parking lot is... Not. The. Same. Thing. I've written all of this before.

Now, let's address the points made in the Sun-Times article. So it's Tom Ricketts' siblings who are tired of the politics? I realize they all sit on the Cubs' board. But really, what do they have to do with the day-to-day operation of the team? One of them doesn't even live in Chicago. It's good that Tom Ricketts has gotten them to "stand down", as the article puts it, but he really needs to get them to stand out of the way completely while he and Rahm Emanuel work out this deal.

And that's the last part here, and I was considering breaking my own "no profanity" site rule when writing this, but decided not to. So while you are reading this, please imagine a profane rant by me, directed at Ald. Tom Tunney and the neighborhood groups who are making the Cubs' lives miserable.

Hey, Tom Tunney and the neighborhood groups:


Yes, your neighborhood is going to be somewhat more inconvenienced when the Cubs get what they are asking for in their renovation proposal. Yes, there's going to be more activity and a moderate-size hotel, and some lighted signage where there isn't any now. But you know what? You'd be a lot more inconvenienced, and your property values drop, if the Cubs and all the related businesses left Lakeview.

So, I repeat to Tunney and the groups:


... and let the Cubs do what they're proposing. It's a win-win for everyone: Cubs players. Cubs fans. The city of Chicago. The Lakeview neighborhood. There are a few tweaks to be made, and yes, the Cubs have to give a little, and so do the neighbors. If the neighbors would stop being obstinate, the Ricketts family and the mayor could get this done in a matter of days.

Get it done. All of us as Cubs fans deserve a Wrigley Field that's renovated for the 21st Century, while preserving the best of the past. I won't hesitate to say that I think winning the World Series at Wrigley Field will mean more to me, and I submit to you, than doing it at some sterile, soulless stadium in a cornfield.

And yes, that matters.