A deal on the $500 million renovation plans for Wrigley Field (really $300 million for the stadium, $200 million for a new building adjacent to it) was reportedly “just about set” on Saturday, then reportedly not just about set yesterday. But either way, it seems like one of these days, there will be an announcement that the Chicago Cubs’ 99-year-old ballpark will be getting slowly redone over the next several offseasons, introducing Cubs fans to the wonders of expanded concessions concourses and beach umbrellas.
Since Cubs owner Tom Ricketts dropped his request for $150 million in ticket-tax kickbacks in January, the main item being granted from the city at this point looks to be allowing the team to close off Sheffield Avenue on game days to use as an open-air concessions area, though there’s been relatively little public talk about that of late. The Boston Red Sox have been earning $5 million a year on a similar use of Yawkey Way, so this isn’t a minor concession; once there’s an official announcement, look carefully to see whether the Cubs will have to pay any rent on use of public streets, and if so whether it’s more than the pittance that the Red Sox have been paying.
As for what this will mean for Wrigley itself, many of the changes will be mostly behind the scenes (new locker rooms, kitchen facilities moved across the street a la Fenway), but some will not, in particular the proposed 6,000-square-foot electronic scoreboard that would be erected in left field under the latest proposals, and which would be a pretty dramatic change to the face of a stadium that’s become famed (and insanely popular) for retaining its old-time feel.
The new scoreboard, which would supplement rather than replace the hand-operated scoreboard in center field (as depicted in this fairly non-Euclidean rendering from Bleacher Report), is one of the main sticking points in the renovation talks, albeit mostly over how much it would block views of the game from neighboring rooftop clubs. It’d be nice if, at the very least, somebody in the meetings would wonder not just about the impact of a Wrigley Jumbotron on revenue potential, but on what size board, if any, would make for a better fan experience. Not anything I’d expect at this point, mind you, but nice.