Cubs release new images of how they want you to think their Wrigley Field ad signage will look

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?

National Park Service’s Wrigley ruling includes “ribbon ads or outfield ads but not both” deal

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.”

Cubs owner agrees to trim two ad boards to secure $75m in federal tax credits

So it turns out that somebody actually can say “no” to Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts: The National Park Service’s qualms about okaying $75 million in preservation tax credits for a renovation that would add a ton of ad signage to Wrigley Field have now reportedly forced Ricketts to adjust some of his plans, eliminating one ad board and shrinking and relocating another:

In addition to reducing the number of proposed signs from seven to six, the Cubs plan to switch the location of the right field video scoreboard with that of a script sign that was to be located behind the Budweiser patio in the right-field bleachers, the source said. That person added that the Cubs also have agreed to reduce the size of the right-field video board but did not provide the exact size of the scoreboard.

The Cubs removed a proposed sign that would have been placed between the new left field video scoreboard and the iconic center field scoreboard, the source said.

So in this rendering, that would mean eliminating the sign that says “Cubs,” and switching the “Cardinals vs. Cubs” sign with the “Wrigley Field” one. (Not that any of these signs will say anything so noncommercial — they’ll all be corporate logos, except the video screen on the odd moments when it’s actually showing game info.) That’s not a huge concession by any means, and whether it’s the difference between a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and not seems kind of silly, but at least it’s still more than the Chicago Landmarks Commission got in exchange for its approval.

Wrigley Field bleachers may not be rebuilt by opening day, because Cubs

And how was your Thanksgiving weekend? I’m guessing better than Chicago Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney, who had to start off his by announcing that renovations to the Wrigley Field bleachers may not be done in time for opening day. When the team tore down the bleachers after last season, it discovered an “antiquated” water main, which had to be replaced, and so one thing led to another and now bleacher ticketholders may have to be relocated to the grandstand for the start of the season, and the ivy may have a backdrop of construction machinery.

All of which should be no surprise to anyone who’s renovated anything, but it still has sportswriters making fun of the Cubs for being the Cubs. Which should also be no surprise to anyone who’s ever been around the Cubs, so really we’re all good here.

Hey, the Cubs finally found something worth watching at Wrigley Field!

Yes, obvious joke headline. But yeah, anyway, the Wrigley Field bleacher teardown really is becoming a minor spectator attraction:

And that visual is drawing crowds of Cubs fans, with cameras in hand, interested in seeing a piece of Chicago history.

“I was coming down the L, I saw the Addison stop and I thought to myself, Wrigley Field… Once in a lifetime chance to see this construction going on,” Chicagoan Doug Karsten said.

Chicagoan Rob Lafrentz added, “I think it’s amazing to watch come down.”

No word yet from the Chicago mayor’s office on how much economic activity the bleacher demolition gawkers are generating.

This is what “renovation” of Wrigley Field looks like

It’s what Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said he was going to do, but still, ouch:

The happier thought is that these are simple bleachers, they’ve been rebuilt a bunch of times before, and the hope is that Ricketts will be able to put up new ones that look pretty much the same (he did hire an architect to focus on maintaining historical details like the right kind of railings) except with enough supports underneath to hold up a big-ass video board. Still, in the meantime, those with a squeamish nature around wrecking balls and landmarked structures should probably avert your eyes.


Cubs fans split on Wrigley changes, agree on utter powerlessness of mere citizens

As the owners of the Chicago Cubs prepare to break ground on renovations to Wrigley Field that will include two new giant electronic scoreboards, Chicago media outlets, with nothing better to do because who cares about Cubs road games in September, are busy talking to fans about what they think of the changes:

“That’s cool,” said Pamela Carrisales of Lubbock, Tex., who attended her first game at Wrigley Field with boyfriend Junior Jimenez.
“I’m still nostalgic for the old Comiskey Park,” said Fred Ciba, of Wilmette. “I liked the old Comiskey Park better than the new Comiskey Park.”
He said he’s afraid that after spending millions of dollars on renovations, flash and sizzle, the “new” Wrigley Field won’t be as good as the “old” one.
“But what are you going to do?” he lamented.

Yeah, it’s too bad no one has invented any kind of public process by which citizens and their elected representatives can exert control over what changes private landowners can make to buildings that are important to the general public. That’d be cool.

Cubs set to break ground on Wrigley changes, despite lawsuit and National Park Service qualms

Al Yellon of SBNation has posted some photos from this weekend of the Wrigley Field outfield wall and bleachers, because with the Chicago Cubs on the road the rest of the year, this was the last chance to see Wrigley without the big ol’ video board that is set to be installed over the winter.

Despite the landmarks lawsuit filed last month, and the possibility of $75 million in tax credits being at stake if the National Park Service decides the honking big ad boards are too honking big, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is apparently determined to break ground this weekend on the first stage of renovations. It looks like that will only be for the expanded underground clubhouse, though — video boards don’t need all winter to be installed — so there’s still the chance, however slim, of a court injunction or NPS ruling that could change Ricketts’ plans. It’s a long way to April.

National Park Service could nix $75m in tax credits for Cubs if ad boards are too intrusive

Looks like it’s not just rooftop owners angry about the Chicago landmarks commission’s rubber-stamping of Wrigley Field ad boards who are causing problems for the project. As noted here more than a year ago, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts’ plan to apply for $75 million in historic preservation tax credits for the Wrigley remodel requires the National Park Service to sign off on the plan actually being one that preserves the building’s historic character — and the NPS hasn’t yet done so:

In a memo to the Cubs obtained by the Tribune, the agency expressed concern about advertising overkill at Wrigley, which is known for its ivy-covered outfield walls, hand-turned scoreboard and intimate dimensions as opposed to typical corporate billboards at every other baseball stadium.

“It is important that the cumulative impact of new signage in the outfield does not, in itself, create such a defining feature that the historic character of the stadium is altered,” stated the memo, which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The NPS says it’s waiting on more information from the Cubs; given that Ricketts wants to start construction as early as next month, he might want to get a move on. (He can always start work before getting NPS approval, but then he’d risk losing the tax credits entirely.) Taken together with the rooftop lawsuit, it would seem to be a recipe for a compromise plan that limits the ad boards (in size, character, color, whatever) to meet both landmarking requirements and NPS preservation regulations, but then, supervillains aren’t known for compromise.

Rooftop owners finally sue over Wrigley ad signs, but as landmarks violation, not contract breach

Jeez, finally:

Owners of the rooftop clubs near Wrigley Field sued the city Thursday, seeking to block a city-backed plan that will allow the Cubs to expand the aging ballpark.

The rooftop owners derided the improvement plan as “irrational, arbitrary and capricious.”

None of those things are illegal, though, so the rooftop owners actually sued the city for violating its own landmarks rules (specifically, the 2004 landmark designation that protected “the unenclosed, open-air character, the exposed structure system and generally uninterrupted ‘sweep’ and contour of the grandstand and bleachers”) and depriving them of property rights (since the Cubs, who aren’t a defendant in the suit, would be able to strong-arm them into giving up their rooftop businesses).

You can read the full complaint here. I’m not going to begin to guess what kind of shot this has in court, but it is interesting that the rooftop owners are suing over violations of the landmarks designation, not their contract with the Cubs, as they implied they would back in January. There’s certainly a good philosophical argument to be made that the landmarks commission shouldn’t be able to just change its mind about what a landmark is — I’ve made it myself — but that’s a long way from a legal argument.

At least it looks like this suit — and the ultimate verdict on the Wrigley redo — is going to be fought over something resembling issues of public policy, and not just contract law. That not only makes more sense, but potentially allows for rulings along the lines of “You can put up some ad signs, but only if they don’t change the character of Wrigley too drastically,” which I think most people who are conflicted over the renovation plan would consider a more meaningful compromise than “Do whatever you want, but pay the rooftop owners a pile of money for breaking their contract.”