Thursday night the Cubs and the city of Chicago held their 17th annual Wrigley Field community meeting. As in previous years the Cubs were represented by Assistant Director of Government and Community Affairs Heather Way Kitzes and Executive Vice President of Community and Government Affairs Mike Lufrano. The city of Chicago had numerous offices represented although most of the meeting was managed by Richard Guidice, the Executive Director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communication and 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney. The most notable change from previous meetings I covered were the substantially friendlier interactions between the Cubs and Alderman Tunney. What a difference a year and an election make.
The vast majority of the meeting covered hyper-local concerns that stem from having a 105-year-old ballpark in the middle of a vibrant city neighborhood. There were the standard questions about trash removal, noise, and traffic. However, a few intriguing issues came up over the course of the 90-min meeting.
As in previous years the Cubs shared preliminary findings from their community survey of 1,200 residents. The vast majority of residents are either satisfied or very satisfied with the efforts the Cubs have made to keep Wrigleyville safe and clean. The Cubs will continue to invest in increased lighting infrastructure throughout the neighborhood. They also provide trash and snow removal in the blocks closest to the ballpark. I’ll have a follow up piece with the complete survey results when they are released some time next month.
Early night game starts during the school year
Al noted this when the schedule came out last fall but the Cubs will experiment with an earlier start of 6:40 p.m. for night games during the school year for 2020. While Al speculated at the time that it may be related to the weather, it’s actually a move by the team to ensure young fans can enjoy more of the game, both at the ballpark and at home on TV. I’ve written about the importance of reaching out to young fans before and think this is a great start by the Cubs.
This game up in the 2019 meeting and still seems to be a sore spot for residents. As you can imagine Cubs games and concerts are a prime market for Uber and Lyft drivers to pick up rides in Wrigleyville. The problem is there aren’t a lot of side streets or parking lots for them to use while they wait for the events to end. While there is a regulated rideshare zone immediately around Wrigley Field that stretches from Irving Park to Newport and Racine to Halsted that is carefully monitored, traffic currently just bunches up immediately outside of that zone. Guidice indicated that the city is still building relationships with Uber and Lyft and rideshare norms around Wrigley Field are a work in progress.
One of the more interesting issues that was brought up during the meeting surrounded the recent legalization of recreational cannabis by Illinois. Residents were particularly concerned because there is a dispensary less than a third of a mile from the ballpark. The Cubs stressed that cannabis is still illegal inside Wrigley Field and that fans should not bring it into the ballpark. Cubs security teams will continue to confiscate cannabis fans attempt to bring to Wrigley Field for concerts or games. Fans caught violating this rule may be asked to leave. The city of Chicago indicated that the new regulations actually make enforcing public intoxication easier because they can write a ticket for it similar to excessive drunkenness.
The recent COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak is dominating the news this month and this meeting was no exception. Giudice walked through the steps OEMC and the city are taking with their plans to limit the spread of coronavirus in Chicago. They’ve been meeting with every sports team and have both short and long-term plans in place that they hope will limit the impact of the virus in the city. There are not currently any indications that coronavirus will disrupt Cubs games or opening day, but it’s a fast moving problem and fans should keep an eye on new advisories, particularly if they are traveling to Chicago. You can get more information at: www.chicago.gov/coronavirus
As in previous years Gallagher Way will continue to host neighborhood events during the spring and summer. They will kick off their season with a family friendly St. Patrick’s Day celebration on March 15 from 11 am to 3 pm. The event is free to attend and will feature Irish folk dancing, Irish dance lessons and more. Keep an eye on their calendar page for more events as the weather warms up in Chicago.