Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts now says he’s going to break ground on planned renovations to Wrigley Field in July, no matter what the neighboring rooftop owners say with their “contracts” and “lawsuits.” The first stage will apparently be entirely underground — expanding the Cubs’ team clubhouse — but, assuming the city landmarks commission signs off on the plan next week, you can still probably expect the rooftop owners to seek some kind of court injunction, given that the latest plans would block even more of their views of the field.
The Cubs have also issued new renderings of what the latest renovation plan would look like if all the ad signs were replaced by the word “Cubs”:
Here’s another view from right field, with the bullpens relocated to under the bleachers:
It all doesn’t look too awful, but then, it’s hard to guess how well these images will correspond with the reality — it’s unlikely, for example, that all the ad signs and video boards will stick to the understated white-and-green color scheme shown in the drawings. Part of the charm of Wrigley — okay, most of the charm of Wrigley — is that you’re not bombarded by flashing video and advertisements during the game, so any change to that should be very carefully considered, if not by Ricketts (who should be worrying about whether he’ll drive off fans in exchange for selling their eyeballs to advertisers) then by the landmarks commission, since it is their job, after all.
The Wrigley Field situation has developed into a strange one, since instead of the usual team owner demanding cash, you have a team owner demanding only that he be approved to spend his own money to do things to his stadium that the law — and possibly those rooftop contracts — doesn’t presently allow. It’s a mix of fan improvements (roomier concessions areas), behind-the-scenes items (that expanded clubhouse), some changes to the seating itself (there’s been one report that the “Steve Bartman” seat down the left-field line would be eliminated, though I’m unclear why), and the right to festoon everything in sight with ad signage, including things that aren’t even part of Wrigley Field. By lumping them all together, Ricketts has been trying to make the case that “Hey, all I’m trying to do is improve my stadium with my own money,” but it’s actually more a quid pro quo: If the city okays the ad boards, he’ll take the revenues from that and use them to build himself a more lavish, modern baseball palace, one that may or may not be better for Cubs fans, but which will undoubtedly be better for his bottom line.
And the oddest part of all is that whether all this happens or not will depend not on public debates, but how a judge rules on the minutiae of a contract with the rooftop owners that was signed a decade ago. We live in a weird-ass kind of democracy.