Wrigley Field still complete wreck nine days before opener, Cubs considering Banks “tribute” to hide it

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.

Wrigley renovation could take extra year, everyone finding new reason to laugh at Cubs

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.

Chargers, Raiders, Rams still working on stadiums everywhere, still anybody’s guess who ends up where

What’s going on the past few days in the NFL-to-Los-Angeles competition, you ask? (Strange thing to ask first thing on a Monday morning, but hey, who am I to judge?) Man, what isn’t going on?

  • The proposed Carson stadium for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders has gathered enough signatures to get on the ballot, which means it’s also gathered enough signatures for the Carson city council to just pass it without it ever getting to the ballot. No word yet from the council on what its plans are.
  • St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is set to bring “schematic plans for the world’s most interactive and integrated football stadium” in Inglewood to the NFL owners meetings this week, which include a clear plastic roof that covers not just the stadium but a performance space and plaza next door. (I can’t figure out how to link directly to the L.A. Times’ slideshow, but click through here and scroll down for your vaportecture fix.)
  • L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, standing in the back and waving his arms wildly for attention, says he still wants to build a stadium next to the L.A. Convention Center, even if nobody else does: “We have a good stadium deal downtown if anybody wants to take us up on it.”
  • The chair of the advisory group tasked with figuring out how to build a new Chargers stadium in San Diego says it will cost between $700 million and $1.5 billion and “rely on a mix of revenue streams,” as reported by San Diego TV station XETV. That sure narrows it down.
  • The Oakland city council voted to add Alameda County to its negotiations over the going-nowhere-fast Coliseum City project, then the council president promptly put it in terms of the creepiest metaphor ever: “Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney said the agreement with [Coliseum City’s Floyd] Kephart was in its early stages — like a new relationship. At this point there hasn’t even been a first kiss, McElhaney said. The city and county coming together is a crucial step, she said, like two parents supporting a child. ‘We’ve been separated for awhile, but we agree the baby is valuable,’ she said.” Cue the obvious sound clip.

In other words, still nobody knows nothing, but everyone is working really hard at everything that doesn’t involve actual money being raised or approvals being gotten. Tune in next week for more non-news!

Braves exec: If you won’t give us sales tax break, maybe we should just stop paying property taxes! Yeah!

In addition to all the other goodies that the Atlanta Braves are getting from Cobb County and the state of Georgia as part of their stadium deal, they’re also looking to get an exemption from state sales tax on construction materials for the project. That’s not that unusual — it’s one of the more typical subsidies that local governments like to throw at development projects as a sweetener, but instead of going with the “everybody does it” line, Braves VP Mike Plant decided yesterday to take a somewhat different tack:

“I think it’s just very narrow minded to say, ‘Oh, why should they be able to take that money out of the public?’” Plant said. “We’re putting a lot more into the public, and that’s I think the flaw in some of the rhetoric is that there’s no recognition for that.”

Plant said the state needs to have skin in the game if it wants to reap the rewards of the project, such as Tuesday’s announcement that Comcast would be the sole tenant of the nine-story office building the Braves are building adjacent to the stadium and bringing 1,000 jobs with them, the majority of which are expected to be new, high-paying jobs.

“Why shouldn’t we just keep all that then?” Plant said. “Why should we have to share the revenue upside that we’re creating if there’s no participation? We have close to a $1 billion investment in that ballpark and mixed-use (development). You’ve known from day one 100 percent of that mixed-use (development) is our responsibility. Creating a Comcast situation that brings 1,000 jobs, many of them new jobs, well, then we’re the only ones that took the risk to do that. Maybe we should have a discussion that we should get all the proceeds from that. That’s not the way the system works, and we’re OK with that.”

To anyone now wondering what on earth Plant is going on about, the “Comcast situation” is that the cable company is agreeing to move some workers into the office buildings the Braves are building next door to the stadium (as well as supply some technology to the stadium itself) as part of a sponsorship deal. By “share the revenue upside,” Plant means … okay, I have no idea what he means. The development next to the ballpark isn’t paying any rent or revenue sharing to Cobb County, just an estimated $6 million in property taxes per year, the same property taxes that any development would have to pay.

So Plant’s argument appears to be, “Hey, we’re paying one of the taxes that normal businesspeople have to, what, you want us to pay another one too?” Clearly it’s going to be a tough decision this year for the Nobel committee on chutzpah.

MLB commissioner says A’s stadium situation “does need to get handled,” terrifying no one

Two months into the job, and new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred still lacks his predecessor’s penchant for issuing broad ultimatums to scare cities into submission on stadium issues. Here’s Manfred yesterday on the Oakland A’s stadium situation:

“When I think about the five longer term issues that I feel need to be resolved, the stadium situation for the A’s is right at the top of that list,” Manfred said Monday. “It’s one that does need to get handled.”

You call that a threat? Now this is a threat.

Manfred also said he’s going to be investigating the A’s stadium situation himself, rather than appointing blue ribbon commissions that never actually issue reports. So maybe he’s approaching this that his job as commissioner is to try to come up with a stadium solution that works for all parties, and not just to wave threat sticks around in order to increase team owners’ leverage. Poor, deluded Rob Manfred.

Georgia top court dismisses Falcons bond challenge, Braves challenge next up

The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled on the challenge to the Atlanta Falcons stadium bonds, and it did not buy the argument that using the hotel-motel tax that funded the Georgia Dome to now fund its replacement violated the state constitution:

“[T]here is nothing arbitrary or unreasonable about allowing the same taxing entities that already have experience paying for a multipurpose domed stadium facility through the collection of a 7 percent hotel-motel tax…to collect such a tax in the future to fund a different stadium after the first tax has expired,” Justice Harold Melton wrote in the court’s opinion.

That was the last round of appeals for the Falcons suit, so we can stick a fork in it. The Braves bond lawsuit, meanwhile, which rests on whether a baseball stadium is a “public purpose” and which got one of the craziest legal responses ever from the Braves’ crack legal team, is still proceeding, having had a supreme court hearing last month and with a ruling expected in July. I’m not holding my breath or anything, given that courts are usually hesitant about injecting themselves into this kind of development policy even when the law might imply it’s their job to, but it’s still something to keep an eye on.

Two days before NYCFC opener, Yankee Stadium field is a dirt pile

And elsewhere in F’ed-Up Field Friday, the stadium that inherited the name Yankee Stadium from the real Yankee Stadium is set to host NYC F.C.‘s home opener in just two days, and yow:

That’s one bad-looking soccer pitch. Presumably they’re laying down sod as you read this (for once it’s not snowing in New York right now) — which they have to do in part anyway to cover the dirt infield — but playing sports on freshly laid sod doesn’t always work out so well. As with the Wrigley Field situation, conditions will no doubt be playable, but it’ll be interesting to see how well it works out.

And as for when the baseball season starts, at least one Yankees player is already preparing for the worst:

“It’s going to suck,” Teixeira told the Daily News, “but you have to deal with it. It’s going to tear up the infield, but there’s nothing we can do about it, so we’ll deal with it.”

But then, Teixeira already has years of experience with unavoidable situations that destroy his infield.

Wrigley Field is still going to be a hot mess on opening day

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.

Yankees exec says destroying parks for stadium actually built parks, wins Nobel Prize for Chutzpah

There was a long article by Eliot Brown in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal on stadium subsidies, which you probably can’t read because it’s paywalled, but it gives a good rundown on the basics. (Cities give up piles of dough, economists say it’s not worth it.) I just wanted to single out, though, one jaw-dropping quote from New York Yankees president Randy Levine in the middle of the piece about the team’s new stadium:

The team and city officials said it employs 1,600 more people than the old facility and brought new parks to a poor neighborhood. “Since Yankee Stadium was built, it has lived up to what it said,” Yankees President Randy Levine said.

This for a stadium that left a poor neighborhood without any parks at all for six years, that arguably didn’t even replace all the existing parkland it displaced as required by law, and that team execs promised would use “no public subsidies” and which ended up using more public subsidies than any stadium in U.S. history. Maybe Levine deserves his own plaque in the grandstanding Hall of Fame.

Emanuel rejects Cubs’ request to work nights on Wrigley bleachers, which will now be ready pretty much never

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.