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Tom Ricketts, Tom Tunney And The Cubs' Wrigley Plaza

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It's time for Ald. Tunney to stop being an obstructionist.

Courtesy Chicago Cubs

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts made a presentation to the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce Wednesday about the Cubs' plans for the soon-to-be-completed plaza adjacent to Wrigley Field.

Ricketts said the team sees the plaza this way:

"We really believe it is a world-class destination, and when we talk about it internally, we talk about the beauty of the field and the way it's framed by the plaza, to be one of those special places on Earth where when you're walking through, like when you're walking through Europe when you come across that special castle or palace and you see people just being there, because being there is an event unto itself and it's cool," Ricketts said. "That's what we want Wrigley to be like."

There's no doubt that the ongoing renovations at Wrigley Field have already made it a better place to watch a baseball game, and that the exterior changes, helping restore the classic 1930s look to the ballpark, have been done in outstanding fashion, being sensitive to history while at the same time providing modern amenities.

The plaza, which could open as soon as later this year, is expected to be a gathering place not only for non-game-day events, but for fans to congregate during games. This is where Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) has a problem. Here's a summary of what's gone on between the Cubs, the City Council and Tunney over the last few years, from the Tribune link above:

Ricketts argued that when the team agreed to move forward with its renovation in 2013 without public tax subsidies, the Cubs struck a deal with the Emanuel administration and Tunney not only for signage and video boards but for how the plaza along Clark Street would operate. He pointed to a November 2013 ordinance that was introduced at the City Council but went nowhere.

That proposal would have created a sports plaza designation in city code, allowing the team to sell beer and wine on the plaza until 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends, with no game-day restrictions. But frustrated with a lack of progress at the City Council and with Tunney, the Cubs last month announced they had filed for an outdoor patio license for the plaza instead, which would allow the team to sell all types of alcoholic beverages during the same hours.

Tunney responded by filing his own ordinance that would create a sports plaza designation, but allow only beer and wine sales limited to the same hours as inside the ballpark, typically until the end of the seventh inning. The alderman's proposal also would restrict game-day access to the plaza to those who have tickets.

Ricketts said the Cubs are OK with selling only beer and wine but said he didn't believe he should have to agree to the other limitations. The team owner argued the plaza is "more than just a beer garden," stressing plans for a lot of community events that "generate no revenue," such as a winter ice rink, farmers markets, yoga classes and movie nights.

Seems to me that Tunney has reneged on the 2013 deal -- and the reason is pretty obvious. Tunney has long been in the pockets of bar owners in the area, who are among his largest campaign contributors. These bar owners are likely afraid that the Cubs' plaza will take away some of their business. Tunney is framing this as an issue of the plaza becoming too "congested," yet he doesn't seem to have a problem with the myriad of bar crawls that are now "congesting" the Wrigleyville area multiple times a year.

Tunney should stick to the deal he made with the team in 2013, I think. He's been nothing but an obstructionist to pretty much any and all of the Cubs' proposals, whether it's been backing rooftop owners or bar owners. He doesn't seem to truly have the concerns of his constituents in mind -- instead backing his campaign contributors.

When the Ricketts family bought the Cubs, Tom Ricketts said, at his very first news conference, that he wanted to do three things: restore Wrigley Field, win the World Series, and be a good neighbor. He and the organization are doing a great job on the first two points, as the ballpark is looking terrific and so is the team. I'd argue that the Cubs are doing a fine job on point three. Now it's up to Tom Tunney to let them.