The Chicago City Council, by a voice vote, yesterday gave the Cubs permission to move forward with the project that includes a 5,700-square-foot video scoreboard in left field to supplement the manual one in center field as well as oversized advertising signage rising above the outfield walls.
In case you’re thinking what I thought — a voice vote? isn’t that for things where either there’s unanimous consent or everybody wants to hide how they voted so they can’t be blamed later? — the Wrigley plan became an official fait accompli earlier this week, when Cubs owner Tom Ricketts agreed not to build an elevated walkway between Wrigley and a new hotel he plans to build across the street. This allowed alderman Tom Tunney to declare himself placated, more or less:
“No one walks away entirely happy,” Tunney, 44th, said during a City Council Zoning Committee hearing. “Those of us in the political arena know that’s pretty well close to a successful deal. So with the negotiations and discussions … I can support this planned development with the protections for my neighborhood moving forward and a respectful relationship with the Cubs and the community and the city and our mayor.”
Translation: I can say I won something, even if it’s only protecting my constituents from imaginary future beer bottles dropped by drunken fans, so let’s just move on and forget this whole thing happened, okay?
Anyway, this is now the future of Wrigley Field, for better or for worse. We’ll see how good a job Ricketts does at keeping all the new video signage from seeming obtrusive in a ballpark whose main attraction has been its lack of modern visual clutter, not to mention whether having even more money in Ricketts’ pocket can really help bring a championship to the North Side. If nothing else, as Travis Waldron of ThinkProgress notes, it’s a sign that sometimes when cities say no on public funding, team owners will find a way to use private funds instead. So long as there are landmark laws that they can ask to be changed that will let them generate millions more in private funds, anyway.