Over the weekend at the Cubs Convention, Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney revealed that the Cubs were going to ask the city of Chicago to close Clark and Addison adjacent to Wrigley Field while games were going on at Wrigley. It was positioned as a "security" issue, in the wake of the Paris attacks from last November.
Quite a number of people don't think this is a good idea, and Tuesday, Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business explains why:
Addison and Clark are not side streets that can be shut for a few hours with only minor inconvenience. They are major streets, both north/south and east/west passageways that are critical for the rest of the neighborhood to access its property, and for traffic to flow from Edgewater south to past Lincoln Park. Those who live in the neighborhood — including me — already have to cope with difficult circumstances much of the year, especially on summer weekends. Right after games, Addison often is shut for an hour or so — which about matches how much time it takes to drive into my garage sometimes. That's life. Part of living in a big city. But shutting both major arteries for several hours at a stretch much of the year would turn "difficult" into "impossible." With Cubs' buses already filling up Irving Park to the north, Belmont a parking lot to the south, and no other four-lane north-south street any closer than Ashland, just what do the Cubs expect residents to do?
I tend to agree with this. I don't live in the immediate Wrigley neighborhood, but I do live close enough that I understand the ripple effects on the entire North Side that such a shutdown would entail. The article notes that the Cubs say MLB is asking for a "100 foot perimeter" around all its ballparks, but closing these streets wouldn't accomplish that.
There's someone besides me or Greg Hinz who has a bit more to say about this, and that's Ald. Tom Tunney (44th). Hinz posts this comment from Tunney:
I finally got hold of Tunney, and it’s fair to say he’s less than thrilled. While security always is a concern and city officials are aware of changing times, "At this time, we don’t see any reasons to close Clark and Addison," says the alderman. The team and the neighborhood already are negotiating over use of the new plaza on the west side of the ball park. "Now they come up with this new idea." Tunney sounded a little more flexible about trying to do something about the pedestrian choke point on the south side of Wrigley, which at one point is only six feet wide. But, he notably added, "It’s been six feet wide for 100 years."
Tunney isn't exactly correct about "100 years." The six-foot distance between the outer wall of Wrigley and portions of Addison has existed only since 1923, when the ballpark was physically moved closer to Clark & Addison, as detailed in this BCB post by Mike Bojanowski last month:
During the 1922-23 offseason, the existing lower grandstand was cut into three pieces. One piece (right field) remained in place, one piece (plate area) was moved toward Clark Street, the remaining piece (left field) was moved northwest to fill in land that had been cleared by the demolition of structures left over from the seminary campus that had preceded Wrigley.
If the Cubs are concerned about the six-foot perimeter, which is a legitimate issue (it does make walking down the Addison sidewalk very difficult when crowds are gathering for games or leaving), then perhaps the parking lane on the south side of Addison could be vacated between Clark and Sheffield and Addison itself moved to the south. This could allow for a sidewalk perhaps eight to 10 feet wider in that stretch. The plaza now under construction on the west side of the ballpark would provide for a perimeter on that side, and if the team is still worried about potential cars or trucks driving onto the sidewalk, they could install bollards on the sidewalk.
But Tunney is right. There's no need to close Clark and Addison during games. Doing that would cause many more problems than it would solve. Hopefully, the Cubs and the city can come up with a better solution.