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The Cubs Meet With 44th Ward Residents

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The Cubs bring their data analytics to the 2017 Wrigley Field Advisory Meeting.

Courtesy Chicago Cubs

Wrigley Field’s placement in the middle of Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood is one of its defining characteristics, we even call it Wrigleyville. However, that cozy neighborhood feel many of us love can also be a source of conflict. As 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney mentioned during last night’s 2017 Wrigley Field Advisory Meeting, “modern baseball stadiums are built on about 30 acres of space — Wrigley inhabits three acres in the middle of a city block.”

The Cubs and their neighbors are keenly aware of the benefits and challenges that accompany bringing 40,000+ fans to Wrigleyville at least 81 times a year. Last year’s World Series run tested the capacity of the neighborhood more than any event in the park’s 103-season history. So it isn’t a surprise that it was standing room only in the community center of the 19th District Police Station on Addison within minutes of the doors opening at 6:00 p.m., even without the Cubs advertising that they were bringing the World Series Trophy with them.

The good news is that the Cubs’ commitment to being a good neighbor and listening to the community appears to be paying dividends in the community, and they came prepared with a wealth of data to make their case.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Cubs are on a data offensive. One of the hallmarks of the Cubs rebuild was an increased focus on data and analytics throughout the organization. That prioritization of data has been on full display in the last month on the business side as the Cubs have taken their case for redeveloping Wrigley Field, and specifically expanded use of the plaza in front of the Triangle building, to audiences all over Chicago. Tom Ricketts started the argument in his February 27 presentation to the City Club of Chicago and the Cubs’ Manager of Government and Neighborhood Relations, Heather Way Kitzes, didn’t let up in making her case to the 44th Ward.

Incidentally, if you’re bummed that you missed the 44th Ward meeting, a lot of the slide show information is the same as was given in the City Club video linked above — and Ricketts is a funny guy, it’s worth watching the whole thing:

Here are some highlights from the meeting:

The “1060 Project” (aka, restoring Wrigley Field) has spent over $600 million, employing 150 firms, while paying $210 million in wages. The Cubs have made an effort to buy local and the Cubs have paid $20 million in taxes to the city.

In addition to their economic development and job improvements. They also highlighted their charity work, which has increased every year in the Ricketts era, as the graph from their slideshow indicates:

Cubs Fundraising History
Chicago Cubs

The Cubs also report that according to Guidestar they are the most philanthropic team in Chicago and the second-most philanthropic team in MLB. They’ve given over 1500 hours of community service and their grants have reached over 120,000 children in the Chicagoland area.

Cubs Community Impact
Chicago Cubs

The Cubs finished up with Wrigleyville survey data showing overwhelming support of the Triangle Plaza and Hotel Zachary developments. Some highlights:

  • 82 percent of respondents agree that the redevelopment plan contributes positively to the neighborhood.
  • 81 percent agree that new dining options are good.
  • 83 percent plan to visit the ballpark in the next year.
  • 70 percent agree that the Hotel Zachary is an asset to the community
  • 76 percent agree that community members should be able to access the plaza without a ticket

This last point is the crux of this entire argument. (Ironically, it was also about the time of the meeting when Alderman Tom Tunney tried to “move along” the Cubs presentation so others could speak, which seemed to betray his personal stance).

It seems clear that plaza access, is driving the need for an argument that shows the positive economic and social impact of the Cubs in Wrigleyville. The front office is out in force with numbers to make their case for strategic reasons: The Cubs are attempting to make an overwhelming case that they are an indispensable economic driver of growth in Chicago and they are doing so at a time when there is a fight over the role of access to the Triangle Plaza.

In case you missed it, Al had a great writeup last year of the reasons Ald. Tunney got the city to limit Plaza usage in a few key ways. Last night Tunney specified those limitations:

  • There will only be 12 non-game day events at the plaza over the course of the year (events can be more than one day long). Only five of those events can be concerts or “events with sound.”
  • Game day access to the plaza is still restricted to ticket holders, despite the data the Cubs have gathered to the contrary.
  • These limitations are in place for three years, ostensibly to “assess the impact of the plaza on traffic.”

I think traffic is a red herring in this instance, the real concern is the neighborhood bar association and a few of the more vocal members of the 44th Ward.

It is worth noting that those members of the ward were almost entirely absent from this meeting, which was mostly positive towards the Cubs. There were normal concerns about trash, parking and drunken frat boys in Wrigleyville, but almost all of them were prefaced with appreciation for the work that the police, transit authorities, and the Cubs themselves, have done to improve the situation over the last few years. Of note: the number of towed cars and arrests both declined in 2016 vs. 2015, even with the additional postseason games. In a meeting of a few hundred Wrigley-area residents, there were only two citizens who came to air grievances, and one of those was about an unrelated airport ordinance.

The redevelopment of 1060 West Addison is well underway and the Cubs have a wealth of data that it’s good for the community and the community is on their side. The only question remaining is whether good data can permeate Chicago politics in the Triangle Plaza fight.