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The Cubs hosted their annual 44th Ward Community Meeting Thursday evening

Here are the key takeaways from the Cubs’ annual meeting with residents in Wrigleyville.

2019 44th Ward Wrigley Field Community Meeting Panel
Sara Sanchez

The Cubs, city officials and recently re-elected 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney held their 16th Annual Wrigley Field Community Meeting at Inter-American Magnet School near Wrigley Field on Thursday Night. I was among the dozens of residents who attended the 90-minute meeting that included updates on key areas of concern and a lengthy question and answer period from the audience.

Cubs Vice President of Community and Government Affairs Mike Lufrano kicked off the remarks for the evening noting the uniqueness of Wrigley Field’s position in a neighborhood and stressing the commitment of everyone in the room to strengthening the Lakeview Community. He was explicit that despite the recent tensions that came to a head as the Ricketts family backed challengers to Tunney in February’s elections. While newly re-elected Ald. Tunney never explicitly mentioned the election, it seemed to color his remarks and tone. For example, at one point he mentioned conducting “a survey of his own on February 26th” when addressing parking issues in the neighborhood.

1060 Project

Lufrano noted that the five-year renovation plan at Wrigley Field will be finished in 2019. There are a few improvements, notably the Brown Line lot, some fencing near the Hotel Zachary and the building at the corner of Sheffield and Addison that will be re-evaluated at the end of this year.

One construction element that is underway that was not planned is the modified player parking lot on Seminary, which I’ll be keeping an eye on the next time I take construction photos.

The city also noted that Waveland Avenue will not be repaved by April 8, the date of the Cubs’ home opener, but will be repaved during an extended road trip.

Cubs Commitments and Survey Results

One of my favorite parts of this meeting is always the Cubs survey results. The Cubs maintain a list of almost 4,000 Wrigleyville residents and surveyed approximately 1,100 of them this offseason. The Cubs’ Manager of Government and Neighborhood Relations, Heather Way Kitzes, always does a great job summarizing the results.

The big takeaway from these survey results is that the vast majority of residents are satisfied or very satisfied with the Cubs work in various areas. For example, 80 percent of residents are satisfied with the restoration of Wrigley Field. As you can see in the slide below 74 percent of residents approve of the Cubs’ efforts to improve safety and security:

Wrigleyville satisfaction with Cubs’ efforts to improve safety and security.
Cubs survey

The Cubs also have programs to provide litter, trash and snow removal within three blocks of Wrigley Field. As you might have guessed, that effort is also very popular:

Wrigleyville satisfaction with Cubs’ litter and trash removal efforts.
Cubs survey

One area where Wrigleyville residents are in agreement that will not see significant movement in the near future is opening up Gallagher Way for non-ticketed guests. Opening up Gallagher Way is incredibly popular on the Cubs survey and Lufrano indicated the Cubs would love to expand access:

Expanding Gallagher Way access
Cubs Survey

Despite that popularity it’s been shot down as an option year after year. In previous years it fell to Ald. Tunney to squash the idea of access. This year the Chicago Police Department’s representative said no, although he didn’t really offer an explanation for the denial.

City Stats and Updates

This part of the meeting is usually pretty uneventful. Representatives from the City of Chicago give brief updates on their areas of responsibility. It’s filled with the types of details you’d find in an episode of Parks and Recreation, but without the jokes. For example: When are streets cleaned? Are there any new signs? Where are the new lights? Who do I call if someone should be towed?

This year was a lot of that, but it was also oddly contentious. Not between the community members and the city, but between Ald. Tunney and the city. At multiple points in the conversation Tunney jumped in to ask for more specifics on various issues, for example, he wanted to know if there had been a “sting operation” on people who illegally sell neighborhood parking stickers in the vicinity of Wrigley Field. He also looked like he was auditioning for an episode of Law and Order as he questioned a city official who he didn’t think adequately explained the reasons there isn’t street sweeping in November. At one point he expressed disappointment with Kitzes for not reporting the exact number of people who parked in the Cubs’ remote lots in 2018 after she instead reported that “over 55,000 people used the remote lots.”

It was a little odd, particularly considering Tunney handily avoided a runoff in February.

Ride Shares, Parking and Concerts — Oh My

Residents’ concerns and questions didn’t substantially change from last year. The biggest issues were ride shares blocking side streets in order to set up closer to the park, parking in the area around Wrigley and the crowds that accompany Wrigley’s concert lineup.

Unfortunately it doesn’t sound like the ride share issue has been addressed in the last year. There are ostensibly zones they are supposed to use to wait for rides. They are not using those and are clogging up side streets instead. Hopefully the next city council will address this because I can’t imagine it’s only an issue near Wrigley Field.

Parking near the ballpark has always been a challenge, but the current challenges appear to have been magnified by two factors: fewer people selling their garage spots as parking spaces and more residents selling visitor parking stickers illicitly. The capacity issue may be helped by the new 400-car lot at the corner of Sheffield and Addison, however there didn’t seem to be a clear answer to the parking sticker problem, despite Alderman Tunney requesting a “sting operation” multiple times.

Residents were interested in the 2019 concert line up, both at Wrigley Field and at Gallagher Way. Last year there were nine concerts at Wrigley Field and dozens more at Gallagher Way, however this year the only announced concerts are two dates by Dead & Company June 14 and 15. It’s a bit curious that is the only announced show so far. Incidentally, the funniest moment of the night by far came from a question about the “drugs and drifters” brought in by Dead and Company shows when a resident asked if the police were aware of the issues, to which the CPD representative answered simply: “Yes.”

Incidentally, any quality of life issues residents and fans encounter during games can by addressed by calling: 1-866-4CPD TOW. The number was set up to notify the police of issues related to cars and parking, but can be used for any non-emergency issues during Cubs games.

Finally, mark your calendars because after a hiatus during Wrigley Field construction the Cubs’ very popular Neighbor Day will be returning July 7 at Wrigley Field.