Apologies for not posting any recent photos of the mess that is Wrigley Field as opening day approaches. Fortunately, Deadspin has us covered, with a full gallery of Wrigley bleachers destruct-o-porn courtesy of their readers. This is probably the wrecked-est looking one:
Of course, fans on opening day (just nine days away, people! on national TV!) won’t see all this mess, because Cubs management has a great idea to take care of that:
The Cubs are considering covering the incomplete bleachers with a tribute to late Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, Ricketts said, but nothing has been finalized.
The Ernie Banks Memorial Tarp — I can hardly wait.
Lots of things can go wrong with construction projects, I know, so delays really shouldn’t be a surprise. Still, the Chicago Cubs‘ renovations of Wrigley Field are turning into a p.r. nightmare: Now, not only won’t the rebuilt bleachers (which were mostly rebuilt to support some humongous video boards) open until mid-year, but the entire project could take a year more than previously expected:
Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for [Cubs owner Tom] Ricketts, confirmed Wednesday evening that the project could very well bleed into a fifth offseason, one more than the original plan.
“That could still be the way it works out,” Culloton said of the original four-phase plan. “But it could take longer. Just take this winter for example, and we have found not only the problem with the weather but the water pipes that we had no control over. It could be four years, it could be five. It’s hard to say.”
On the bright side, the other renovations involve more off-the-field stuff — new bullpens, clubhouses, and luxury suites, and a new hotel next to the ballpark — so there’s at least hope that the games themselves won’t take place in a construction site in future seasons. And it looks like Wrigley will be playable for opening day this year, if you have a generous definition of playable. Still, for a team that’s openly trying to emulate the Boston Red Sox, this isn’t going like the phased renovation of Fenway Park did at all.
How badly is rebuilding work on the Wrigley Field bleachers/video board supports going? Badly enough that SBNation Chicago Cubs blogger Al Yellon has put together an article on where the Cubs could play if Wrigley isn’t ready to go by opening day, which, he notes in another article, is looking like a possibility. Citing his correspondent Mike Bojanowski:
I’ve been surprised that no one has remarked that the playing field has been dangerously compromised. Both corner walls had extensive on-field scaffolding and braces in place to support the bricks. Also, extensive demolition took place, and replacement brickwork was laid, for about 100 feet in the right-field corner. New, mostly larger, doorways were carved out and re-bricked along the entire length of the wall. The on-field braces must come down, and new doors must be installed, before the field can be used at all…
Should the backing steel not be ready by April 5, there is an alternative, a temporary padded wall fronting the bracework could be built in short order, and be approved by MLB. Bottom line, the outfield and triangle work should not prevent an April 5 opening. The outfield fence may be incomplete, perhaps without baskets for awhile, but playable.
From the sound of it, then (and looks of it — there’s a slideshow on the Bleed Cubbie Blue site if you click through), Cubs opening day will go ahead as scheduled, but they’ll be playing in what will still be very much a construction site. I wouldn’t want to have to watch a game there then — I mean, I really wouldn’t want to have to watch a game in Chicago in April under any circumstances — but I’ll definitely be tuning in MLB.tv on April 5 to see if anyone pulls a Rodney McCray and sends bricks flying.
The Wrigley Field bleachers are not going to be ready by May, either:
On Monday, the Cubs said the cold weather meant bleacher construction remains behind schedule, as work could not be done when temperatures dropped below 10 degrees. The left field bleachers are expected to be open by May 11, with the right field bleachers to be open in June, [Crane] Kenney said.
“We were hopeful for a warm winter. We did not get that,” Kenney said. “I think over the last nine days, we lost five days on the bleachers. We’d love to pick that time up by extending our work hours.”
By “extending our work hours,” Chicago Cubs president Kenney meant working outside the legal times of 8 am through 8 pm, which would require special permission from Mayor Rahm Emanuel. That being Mayor Rahm Emanuel who’s suddenly in the middle of an unexpectedly tight runoff election, and doesn’t want to piss off any voters unnecessarily by keeping them awake with late-night construction, so he said hell nah.
The Wrigley Field bleachers are not going to be ready for a while yet. But then, neither are the Cubs.
Lawsuit news! Nothing but lawsuit news!
Yeah. I think you can see why I don’t always report on every piece of lawsuit news: There’s nothing stopping anyone from filing suit for any reason, so while it’s often interesting to know what’s being challenged in court (hey, you never know what might succeed), most of it ends up being just a lot of legal fees signifying nothing, and there are more important things going on. Today’s a slow news day, though, so a perfect day to play catchup, and give you all some information for filling out your restraining order brackets.
The Wrigley Field rooftop owners have filed yet another lawsuit against the Chicago Cubs, adding to their previous suits over landmarking violations and violating the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by placing signs to block views of rooftop owners they didn’t like. The new charge: price-fixing!
On May 8, 2012, at least nine owners met with Ricketts and Cubs executives. They said that demand for tickets inside Wrigley was declining because the rooftop businesses’ offered discounted tickets, sometimes through Groupon, and game-day tickets. The team asked them to “agree with the Cubs on setting coordinated, minimum ticket prices.”
Ricketts later threatened to block the views unless they agreed to a “price-fixing scheme, stating, ‘whatever you give us is in return for not being blocked.’ ”
The suit also includes charges of fraud and defamation, and probably puppy-kicking for good measure. All of which could conceivably be true, but it’s clear that the rooftop owners’ legal strategy has gone in record time from “threatening to sue but not ever actually doing so” to “throw everything at the wall at once and see what sticks.”
Remember those reports that the Chicago Cubs‘ renovations to the Wrigley Field bleachers might not be quite ready by Opening Day? Well, it is so, so much worse than that:
The left-field bleachers won’t open until May 11 at the earliest while late May is the target for the right-field bleachers, according to Crane Kenney, the Cubs president of business operations. Safety issues will prevent the center-field section from being open before May 11.
Kenney blamed delays in final approval of the renovations, which pushed back the date on which the team placed its steel order, which meant they couldn’t pour concrete as early as they wanted, which meant that they’d have to wait for temperatures to be warm enough to start putting railings and such in place … actually, you’d think that Cubs execs would have remembered that it’s bitterly cold all winter in Chicago, so it’s not clear how they thought they were going to have this ready for Opening Day even if the steel had been ready months ago. Maybe this was a way of making fans give them credit for trying, even if it was just forestalling the inevitable? Maybe this is just the Cubs being the Cubs?
Either way, anyone with bleacher season tickets will now have the choice of getting refunds for the first few weeks of the season, or getting relocated to the grandstand. At least those who get relocated will get to stare at those new video boards starting with game one: Those will be ready to go as scheduled, because they don’t need to wait for any concrete to dry.
So the vision of the Wrigley outfield walls in the spring will likely be bare brick (since the ivy won’t have had time to grow back) with a bunch of empty poured concrete behind it, and then towering scoreboard/ad boards behind them. And likely rooftop owners with flaming torches behind those. Time to re-up my MLB.tv subscription, because I don’t want to miss a minute of this.
The rooftop owners across from Wrigley Field have filed a new court challenge against this winter’s changes to the ballpark’s bleachers, claiming that — stay with me here — the real reason Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts agreed to move some ad boards was not because he needed to in order to get federal historic preservation tax credits, but because he wanted to in order to punish rooftop owners who wouldn’t sell out to him:
“Shortly after the commission announced its July 10, 2014 decision, the Cubs told the rooftops they could either sell their businesses to the Cubs at a fraction of both cost and fair market value or have their businesses destroyed when the Cubs block their views,” according to the complaint.
Facing this threat, several non-plaintiff owners allegedly sold their businesses to the Cubs during summer and fall of 2014…
“The National Park Service objected to the outfield signs approved by the Commission because the excessive size and number of outfield signs would adversely affect the historic and architectural features of Wrigley Field,” the complaint states.
“Instead of substantively modifying the outfield sign plan, the Cubs reconfigured the outfield signs so as to completely block the views of the rooftops the Cubs were unable to purchase and to restore the views of the rooftops the Cubs contracted to purchase,” it continues.
Of course, both explanations could be true: Ordered by the National Park Service to scale back his signage plans or lose the tax credits, Ricketts could well have thought, “Okay, if we can only keep a few signs, let’s keep the ones blocking the views of the rooftops we don’t own.” I’m not exactly sure what would be illegal about this — the rooftop owners are seeking an injunction under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, but Ricketts isn’t a government agency — but we’ll see what a judge says when the rooftop owners’ request for an injunction lands on their desk, I guess.
Renderings! Getcher revised renderings of the Wrigley Field outfield signage!
Ways in which this will diverge from reality: 1) The big neon words won’t say “Wrigley Field” and the like, they’ll be the names of sponsors (a mortgage banker has already put dibs on the “Financial” sign in left field), and 2) the video boards almost certainly won’t be showing white type on a green background all the time, though that would be a cool design decision if they went with it. Also, it looks like the ribbon ad board along the front of the upper deck is still in place here, and the National Park Service has ordered that it be omitted if all of the outfield signage is built, so … check back on opening day, I guess? Or later?
Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamen, in the midst of a column praising the National Park Service for getting Cubs owner Tom Ricketts to scale back on his requested video boards and ad signage if he wants to be eligible for historic preservation tax credits, notes that the NPS got an additional concession in addition to what was reported yesterday:
In another good stroke, the Park Service negotiated a reduction in the length of video ribbon boards on the front of the left and right field grandstands. The agency also played a smart, carrot-and-stick game with the Cubs.
If the team builds all the outfield signs and video boards allowed by the Park Service, the agency’s spokeswoman said, it must eliminate the grandstand-fronting video ribbon boards and replace them with static, billboardlike signs. That’s potentially good news: Wrigley, beloved for its serene, parklike atmosphere, still may avoid a resemblance to the inside of the United Center.
That’s actually a pretty huge deal, as video ribbon boards are arguably more intrusive and harder to ignore than static ad signage. It’ll be interesting to see whether Ricketts chooses ribbon boards over the outfield signs — I have no clue what the relative ad fees are for each — but as Kamen writes, at least “the Park Service has done architecture fans in Chicago and elsewhere a service by doing something the city’s landmarks commission failed to do: It looked carefully and critically at the cumulative impact of all the revenue-generating signs the Cubs want — and how those signs would affect the ballpark’s architecture and the fans’ experience.”