Under the category of "It's always something," the Chicago Cubs learned recently that $75 million in federal tax credits that were to help in the Wrigley Field renovation/restoration project could be in jeopardy because of a review of the revised outfield signage plan by the National Park Service, which manages the tax program along with the IRS, according to the Tribune:
In a memo to the Cubs obtained by the Tribune, the agency expressed concern about advertising overkill at Wrigley, which is known for its ivy-covered outfield walls, hand-turned scoreboard and intimate dimensions as opposed to typical corporate billboards at every other baseball stadium. "It is important that the cumulative impact of new signage in the outfield does not, in itself, create such a defining feature that the historic character of the stadium is altered," stated the memo, which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. In a statement, the Cubs said that it is "normal for there to be changes to design and construction as a project evolves and we are working with" the Park Service to finalize approval for those changes. The team said the entire project has been approved by the city of Chicago, and it intends to start construction at the end of the season.
The article is behind the Tribune's paywall, but here are a couple of further excerpts that are the gist of it:
The Cubs are not required to get final certification of their rehabilitation plans before starting work. But the Park Service in general cautions property owners that any work begun before getting formal approval is done at their own risk of losing potential tax credits. If such work is subsequently deemed not to meet the Park Service's standards, then the entire project may be disqualified for consideration of benefits from the federal government.
One of the standards deals with new construction and states, "New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction shall not destroy historic materials that characterize the property. The new work shall be differentiated from the old and shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale, and architectural features to protect the historic integrity of the property and its environment."
As noted above, the article points out that the city of Chicago has approved the Cubs' plans, which they did at the Landmarks Commission meeting in July, but concludes:
The team was hoping to have the Park Service give the team the thumbs up on the revisions before the landmarks commission voted on the changes in July, said Carol Dyson, chief architect and tax incentives coordinator at the state preservation agency. "Much of the work being proposed can meet the guidelines," Dyson said. "The additional signage is something that's a little more complicated to evaluate. It has some visual impact."
Preliminary work is being done now on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues adjacent to the bleachers, mostly relocation of underground utilities, in advance of the planned move of the bleacher walls when the offseason begins. Nothing has been done to Wrigley Field itself yet; in the end, it seems likely that the Park Service will sign off on most, if not all, of the Cubs' proposals. But this article seems to indicate there could still be changes coming before construction actually begins.
As always, we await further developments.