With the Chicago Landmarks Commission set to meet again tomorrow to discuss Cubs owner Tom Ricketts’ renovation plans for Wrigley Field, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has declared that the various sides negotiating a compromise deal are “literally a few feet away” from reaching an agreement. That’s presumably a reference to the 6,000-square-foot video board that Ricketts wants to erect atop the left field bleachers; local alderman Tom Tunney has been pushing to trim the size so that it doesn’t interfere as much with the views from surrounding rooftops (whose owners charge top dollar to watch Cubs games from there), so if Tunney and the Cubs are just haggling over a few feet, that could mean Ricketts will get away with his makeover plans at just the cost of a slightly less jumbo jumbotron.
And that’s a shame, argues Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamen, who is especially galled by Ricketts’ request, already approved by the landmarks commission last week, to emblazon Wrigley’s iconic center field clock — the baseball cathedral’s “crowning flourish,” writes Kamen, “a minimalist circle with white dots and hands on a forest-green backdrop” — with a corporate logo. Other additions like new light towers and still more LED ad signage would “add visual clutter,” he argues, though he reserves his greatest disdain for the as-yet-unfinalized jumbotron:
The proposed left field LED board threatens to usurp the primacy of the center field scoreboard, and not just because, at 6,000 square feet, it would be nearly triple the scoreboard’s size.
In the age of the mobile hand-held computer and kids who must be weaned from “screen time,” the LED board’s brightly-colored images are sure to arrest the eye. The same goes for the LED board’s scripted sign, which won’t say “Wrigley Field,” as portrayed in architects’ renderings, but would instead display the name of an advertiser.
There’s plenty of room for the landmarks commission to strike a compromise here, allowing the Cubs some ad signage but rejecting others — in fact, that’s kind of the whole point of having a board to oversee local landmarks. Instead, the commission appears dead set on okaying the whole package with just a slight trim to the video board that Ricketts almost certainly supersized knowing that it would leave him room to negotiate it back down to a marginally less huge size. So much for Kamen’s colleague Cheryl Kent‘s hopes that knowledgeable city staffers would override the mayor’s desire for a quick deal.