The Wrigley Field Community meeting was held for the 20th year at the 19th District Police Building. It is a unique gathering in baseball that is mandated by a city ordinance and brings together representatives of the wards closest to Wrigley Field, city personnel and the residents of Wrigleyville to discuss issues and problem solve around the complications that arise from living next door to the second oldest ballpark in MLB.
The meeting was back in person for the first time since 2020 and began on a somber note with a moment of silence for Officer Andres Vasquez-Lasso who was killed in the line of duty during a shootout in front of an elementary school on March 1. It was a prescient reminder in a meeting where the biggest announcement focused on a more robust police presence at Wrigley Field combined with new first aid resources that are a result of a collaboration between the Cubs and Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC).
It was standing room only in the small community room, and 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney kicked off the proceedings as he has for every community meeting I’ve covered. The retiring alderman received numerous tributes from city employees and Cubs front office personnel, including a moving tribute from the Cubs Assistant Director of Government and Community Affairs, Heather Way Kitzes that had both Kitzes and Tunney slightly teary-eyed.
Cubs Executive Vice President of Community and Government Affairs and Chief Legal Officer Michael Lufrano commented the Wrigley Field Community Meeting is “a unique activity in all of sports. When this ordinance was passed 20 years ago we didn’t envision this, but we do it because it makes the Cubs better.” He emphasized that the Cubs want to hear from the neighborhood to “learn how we can be better, to celebrate success, and improve.”
Lufrano turned the microphone over to Kitzes who ran through a series of highlights of the Cubs work in the neighborhood over the last 12 months. Some of these initiatives like their continued investment in local high school students through the Cubs Scholars program, snow removal and trash removal are highlighted every year. However, there were a handful of initiatives I don’t recall being highlighted before, like a program started by Theo Epstein called Careers As Sports Executives (“CASE”) that has provided more than 80 students with experience in the sports industry. She also noted that the Cubs have funded $3.75 million of improvements in and around the neighborhood and are working to make sure the Kelly Park Project is funded with some of that revenue.
Each year Kitzes presents the results from the Cubs neighborhood survey, which had almost 600 responses in 2022. Notably, over 80 percent of respondents agreed that the Cubs are meeting their priorities and contributing to the community, a similar percentage of respondents were favorable to the expanded Winterland at Gallagher Way experience, and more than 60 percent wanted additional night games and concerts at Gallagher Way. A majority of respondents would also like to see non-ticketed access to Gallagher Way on game days.
Finally, Kitzes highlighted the concerts currently slated for Wrigley Field this summer, including Dead and Company, Fall Out Boy, Morgan Wallen, Guns and Roses, Pink and Bruce Springsteen. She also noted that Opening Day at Wrigley Field will be March 30 at 1:20 p.m. against the Brewers.
This meeting always has three parts — the Cubs presentation, the city’s presentation and data. The city’s presentation included many of the same conversations that exist each year (concerns about traffic, ride shares in the neighborhood, trash collection, etc.). I’ve covered those issues in previous years and they have not really changed.
The issue that was new in 2023 was presented by the OEMC’s Matthew Landiak and Kaila Lariviere, and frankly, I’m still a bit haunted by it.
SAFE Chicago is OEMC’s newest partnership with the Cubs. It brings together resources from the fire dept, police, emergency planning, and other services to provide new “Stop the Bleed” kits in public locations around the city. It was launched by the White House in 2015 as a response to the rise in mass shooting events in the United States. These kits were compared to fire extinguishers, or AED devices that exist in public places in case of emergencies. OEMC has installed more than 635 kits in more than 300 locations around Chicago.
As of 2023, the Cubs will be the first MLB ballpark with Stop the Bleed kits throughout the park. There are currently 22 kits installed at Wrigley Field and another 23 will be added over the course of the season. More than 40 Cubs employees have been trained in CPR and the use of the kits, but even if you are not trained there are QR codes on each kit to link you to key information in the case of an emergency. That QR code can also be used outside of emergencies for anyone to take a 25 minute emergency training at their own convenience.
Obviously having well-equipped first aid kits with tourniquets, gauze and other tools for emergencies all over the city is a great development. As the OEMC representatives mentioned, these kits have been used in falls, boating accidents and other emergencies to save lives in the critical 3-5 minutes after an accident. But it’s also sobering to realize that the biggest addition to Wrigley Field this side of the DraftKings sports book this offseason was a direct response to the increase in mass shootings in America.
Interestingly, there were very few mentions of the sports book, which seems to have just been accepted as a new addition to the neighborhood. It did not warrant any questions from the audience and was barely a bullet point in Kitzes’ presentation, noting it would open later this spring.