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Tom Ricketts, Bud Selig, Rahm Emanuel And Other Dignitaries Lead Groundbreaking Ceremony At Wrigley Field

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It's happened, and now the "1060 Project" is in full swing.

In front of about 350 invited guests and a large media contingent, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, Presidents Crane Kenney and Theo Epstein, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Commissioner Bud Selig and other people who had involvement in bringing the Wrigley Field restoration/renovation/expansion project to fruition held an official groundbreaking ceremony on a stunningly gorgeous October morning during which several of the participants noted that it would have been "a fine day" to play October baseball at the old ballyard at Clark and Addison.

To which I add my own personal feeling about that: "Heck, yeah, and hopefully soon."

Work, as you know, has already begun with the demolition of the outer bleacher walls; eventually the bleachers in left field and right field will be completely torn down and rebuilt, only with room for more patios, concession stands and eventually bullpens underneath. Of course, the main reason for doing that is a video board and other signage that will be ready for Opening Day April 6.

Ricketts said, "After years of working on a solution to save and improve Wrigley Field, we are thrilled to break ground on The 1060 Project. This day marks a significant milestone in our quest to provide our players and fans with the best facilities in baseball."

Mayor Emanuel added, "This restoration project is a significant private investment that will create thousands of jobs, ensure Wrigley Field can be enjoyed by Chicagoans for generations to come, and help the Cubs toward their goal of giving their fans a long-awaited World Series championship. And with this project, the Cubs are investing in more than just their historic stadium. They will continue to be a good neighbor by investing in the surrounding area for traffic flow, security, and public parks. This is a great step for the Cubs and all of Chicago."

There were some disappointed fans who had hoped to see the ceremony inside Wrigley (including BCB's Danny Rockett, who told me he "had a blast outside"), but given that the field is now one big construction site, that wasn't possible. (See the photo above that I took of the left-field side concourse, which is wrapped up in construction plastic and where literally everything that you'd see there during a baseball season has been removed.)

This project has been a long time coming (you can go read all of the more than 100 updates in this StoryStream to see just how long it's taken!). Crane Kenney mentioned that it had been 10 years since the first reports of "falling concrete" had let previous ownership know that the park was in need of more than just the annual maintenance work that had been done each offseason. (I should note here that only a small number of concrete pieces actually fell; some concrete brought in by fans alleging it had fallen on them proved to not even be from Wrigley, but from people thinking they could make a quick buck.)

It's been five years since the Ricketts family bought the Cubs and throughout, they have maintained that they wanted to:

  1. Win the World Series
  2. Be a good neighbor
  3. Preserve Wrigley Field

This project begins the latter of those three, after many contentious scraps with the city of Chicago, the 44th Ward and rooftop owners. The Ricketts' $575 million, privately-funded project, they say, will create 2,100 jobs, 1,300 of those permanent and 800 temporary construction jobs and is expected to generate $1.2 billion in revenue over the next 30 years. Beyond that, with the improvement in player facilities that is to come with the completion of a huge new clubhouse (and batting cages and other player amenities) that will open in 2016, the renovations will help bring the Cubs up to par with other new stadiums that have these types of things for their players. And all of that, as Theo Epstein mentions in his speech, are going to help the Cubs become winners.

I have long been in favor of what the Cubs are proposing to do here -- perhaps not every single detail, but the general idea that Wrigley Field, called a "dump" by some, can be restored to what are considered its glory years, the 1930s, with the beauty it exhibited then along with 21st-Century amenities for players and fans. That includes a video board, which, if done tastefully as promised by Crane Kenney at the season-ticket event Friday, will enhance the fan experience while still preserving the view and the charm that all of us love about Wrigley Field. Similar additions were made to Fenway Park and that's turned into a jewel of a park that will last for many more decades, and I trust that Wrigley Field will be restored in just the same way. They've hired the right people (T. Gunny Harboe, restoration specialist, among others), have listened to fans, and preserved things that are worth preserving. Incidentally, I confirmed Saturday that the individual bricks that were removed from the outer bleacher walls before they were torn down were bricks that had been saved from the 1922 wall when it was demolished in 2005. Those bricks will be replaced in the new walls when they are constructed; the overall look is supposed to be pretty much the same as it has been for the last nine years, only with the addition of the video board and signs.

Tom Ricketts once famously said, "Wrigley Field isn't a museum," and he's right; it just can't forever stay the way it was when you remember it from your childhood and still be financially viable and usable for players. The park has been in almost constant change, in fact, there's almost nothing left of the original 1914 structure. The lower grandstand was moved and an upper deck constructed at several points during the 1920s, the brick walls, ivy and bleachers added in 1937, new dugouts in the 1970s, a new clubhouse in 1984, lights in 1988, a new press box and suites in 1989 and the reconstructed bleachers in 2006. Now we'll have a "new" Wrigley Field blending the best of the old with the best of what goes into modern ballparks.

And hopefully, that all leads to winning. You know, baseball is cyclical. Even teams like the Yankees, who had periods of dominance from 1921-64 and again from 1995 through now, have had down periods (and might be entering another one). The Cubs were actually just like that at one time -- from 1908-45, a 38-season span, they won 10 pennants and two World Series. Of all other National League teams, only the Giants did better in those years (11 pennants, three World Series). A Cubs fan of 1945 would surely have thought it wouldn't take 70 more years before the Cubs would even get back into a World Series.

But it has. And now, with new baseball leadership, players are beginning to filter in who could be part of the next winner, and with a renovated ballpark, those players will be playing in a ballpark that will be the equal of any, and better than many.

Perhaps we sit on the cusp of a new era of Cubs dominance. I'd like that, very much.

Here are all the speeches made Saturday morning at the ceremony, in the order they were made, and then the groundbreaking itself. (Note that video no. 5, which has the speeches of both Tom Ricketts and Mayor Emanuel, is about 15 minutes long -- the others are somewhat shorter. If you are reading this Saturday afternoon, the YouTube processing that will stabilize the Ricketts/Emanuel video might not be quite finished yet.)