The 2018 version of the Wrigley Field Community Meeting was substantially smaller than the 2017 meeting (not to mention the distinct lack of a World Series trophy) but this year’s meeting still contained a lot of essential information for Cubs fans and people who live in Wrigleyville. Residents listened to presentations from the Cubs, Aldermen*, and various city officials. These are the people who are tasked with the monumental job of security and safety for Cubs home games, concerts and Park at Wrigley activities each year.
The Cubs kicked off the conversation with an informative slide show presented by Manager for Government & Neighborhood Relations Heather Way Kitzes. Cubs Executive Vice President of Community Affairs Michael Lufrano was also in attendance to answer questions. Just like last year, this was by far the most data-driven and informative part of the meeting. The Cubs Community Affairs Office seems to take analytics as seriously as their colleagues in Baseball Operations.
Before we dive into those numbers, it’s worth noting that Lufrano commented on the unique nature of this particular meeting and the Cubs’ relations with their neighborhood. This was the 15th Annual Wrigley Field Community Meeting, and Lufrano was blunt that as he speaks with colleagues across Major League Baseball he consistently finds that this just isn’t an event most other teams are doing in their neighborhoods. Chalk it up to another way that the Cubs are ahead of the curve.
In fact, since the Ricketts family came aboard they have been upfront about their three primary goals: Win a World Series, preserve Wrigley Field, and be a good neighbor. As we’ll see from the survey results below, they are doing well on all fronts.
Now the numbers. You all know I love the numbers. The Cubs recently completed their 2018 survey of Wrigleyville. Kitzes indicated that of their 3,500+ neighborhood email list, over 1,100 completed this year’s survey. For a survey this large, that’s a pretty reasonable response rate. It can’t hurt to be a bit skeptical about who is being surveyed, but it’s worth noting that at every Cubs community meeting I’ve attended you’ve had the ability to sign up for this email list. It will surprise no one that a lot of people who want their complaints to be heard attend these meetings.
With one notable exception (traffic and congestion, which we’ll talk more about in the rideshare section) Wrigleyville residents were more satisfied with the way the Cubs handled key issues in 2018 than 2017. You can see this in my series of (admittedly grainy) pictures. (What can I say? I’m not a great photographer.)
As you can see, crime is the most important issue followed by a cluster that includes property taxes, schools, traffic and parking, jobs, and crowd control.
As Kitzes went through each slide, it’s pretty obvious that neighborhood satisfaction has continued to improve from 2017 to 2018. For example, safety and security:
Or, litter and trash removal:
The only exception, as noted above, was traffic and congestion:
In addition to sharing survey data showing that the Cubs have done tremendous work improving their relationship with Wrigleyville the Cubs also updated the community on their charitable endeavors. In 2017 the Cubs were the most charitable of Chicago’s sports franchises. They raised over $5 million in the community. Additionally, the team (players, front office, and wives) contributed a staggering 3,400 hours of community service. Finally, an incredibly successful matching grant program led to more than $1.75 million of investment in Lakeview’s schools. That program will be replicated in 2018 and does not reflect an additional investment in Lake View High School.
(Yes, I understand, these pictures are not good. I’m still working on my “typing furiously to quick cellphone shot” transition. Hopefully it will improve with time.)
Al has done an excellent job of documenting the construction around Wrigley Field, including the Hotel Zachary. The Cubs gave us a bit more information during this meeting. The hotel’s opening is just a bit more than two weeks away, March 26. Perhaps my favorite part of this announcement relates to food.
It’s no secret that I was a pretty big fan of the creative cuisine of the Chef Series at Wrigley Field last year. If you also enjoyed that, the Hotel Zachary is going to introduce a slew of new foodie options to the neighborhood including West Town Bakery, Mordecai, Smoke Daddy and Big Star. If you’re still bitter that they tore down the McDonald’s to make way for all of this fancy hotel/foodie stuff, don’t worry — the McDonald’s will be reopening as well.
To accommodate the increased traffic due to the hotel and its restaurants there will be a new traffic signal installed at the intersection of Clark and Waveland. The city officials indicated it would be operational before the first home game at Wrigley Field.
Rideshares Are The New Parking
It’s traditional at these meetings to take a long series of questions on parking. It makes sense, one of the great tensions of living in the vicinity of an iconic ballpark in a cozy neighborhood is balancing access for visitors to that neighborhood while ensuring access for the people who live in the same neighborhood.
Parking concerns were clearly heard at the Wrigley Field Community Meeting this year, but a new addition to the complaint list was the continuous cycle of Uber and Lyft drivers hovering on the side streets near the field making it virtually impossible for residents to access their homes easily during game days. Chicago Police Deputy Al Nagode noted they’ve been working with Uber and Lyft to come up with solutions that don’t result in rideshare drivers descending on Wrigleyville’s side streets for every event, but it’s difficult given the way the algorithms for rides currently function.
Residents have suggested that buffer zones are a practical solution, but they’d do well to heed the experiences of some of the other residents at the meeting. One man who’s become disabled in recent years spoke to how he functionally can’t access the ballpark if he’s dropped off at Grace and has to walk the remainder of the way.
This is going to be an issue for a few years as the Cubs and city try to navigate solutions for residents and fans. Notably, one pretty brilliant workaround for disabled fans is already in place, courtesy of the Cubs. They suggest being dropped off at the Camry Lot on Grace where there are golf carts that transport fans with disabilities to the ballpark.
Park at Wrigley Access
What can I say, this is an issue and it’s not going anywhere. I’ve been to a bunch of community conversations involving the Cubs this year, including tonight’s meeting and the Cubs Convention.
Fans and residents want access to the Park at Wrigley on game days without a ticket. Period. I mean, check out the last comment highlighted by the Cubs here:
It’s worth noting that Lufrano and Kitzes also spent time debunking the fear that the Park at Wrigley would be the largest beer garden in the Midwest. Events like Craft and Cuisine, Farmer’s Markets and even an impromptu Lollapalooza preview during the summer have been coupled with a Christkindlmarket, Skating and Curing lessons in the winter. To quote Cubs representatives, “this is more of a town square than a beer garden.”
More importantly, it hurts their ability to offer regular events, like the Thursday Farmer’s Market, when offerings are sporadic because of certain game days. Interestingly, this was a concern I heard from vendors at the farmer’s market this summer as well.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) was steadfast that the city is in a “three-year period” of evaluating the impact of the Park at Wrigley and the new hotel. He didn’t give any indication that the rule would be relaxed anytime soon, although he did at one point hope that the satisfaction ratings for the Ward were at least as high as they were for the Cubs. It seems worth pointing out that there didn’t appear to be data on that point.
Relations between the Cubs and Wrigleyville are strong and improving. The neighborhood continues to add exciting elements that should thrill visitors and residents alike. While there will be complications and growing pains, the Cubs and city are working hard to ensure that Wrigley Field is the preeminent attraction in Lakeview far into the future.
*Yes, plural! I feel like it’s important to note this. While last year’s meeting only involved Alderman Tom Tunney (44th Ward), this year’s meeting was also attended by Alderman James Cappleman (46th Ward). Additionally, there were representatives present for both Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) and Alderman Ameya Pawar (47th Ward).