Friday roundup: Crew claps back at Modell Law suit, Cincy mayor thinks his citizens are dumb, Wrigley Field is a construction zone again

This week brought thundersnow that led to a fireball in a subway tunnel, but the stadium and arena news was reasonably exciting too:

  • Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt says the lawsuit to force him to offer the team for sale to local owners before moving it to Austin is groundless, since he made “significant investments” in the team “both on and off the field” and yet the team isn’t making money hand over fist like he’d like it to. I would have gone with “fine, you can buy the team if you want, my asking price is one quattuordecillion dollars,” but that’s why Precourt pays himself the big bucks.
  • Oakland Raiders management says it has identified room for 27,000 parking spaces within 1.5 miles of its Las Vegas stadium, and 100,000 spaces within three miles. “Now, obviously, people don’t want to walk three miles, so you have to have a pretty strong infrastructure program and transportation plan in place,” said Raiders president Marc Badain. “We’re working on all of that.” Cool, get back to us!
  • Residents of the West End opposed to building an F.C. Cincinnati soccer stadium on the site of a revered high school football stadium there are all about “maintaining disinvestment, maintaining the status quo and not closing racial and economic gaps but keeping them divided,” Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said this week. “I think that’s wrong.” But enough with the pandering to your constituents, Mayor Cranley what do you really think about them?
  • Because no arena project can truly be cost-free for the public, the new Muni Metro stop being built at the Golden State Warriors‘ new San Francisco arena has now risen in cost to $51 million, and the city of San Francisco hasn’t figured out how to pay for $17 million of that yet. Not that a new mass transit stop isn’t a public benefit for people other than Warriors fans, but just saying.
  • This is what Wrigley Field looked like as of a couple of weeks ago. There’s still time before opening day, so hopefully this renovation will go better than the Chicago Cubslast big one.
  • Does an “asteroid the size of a sports stadium” zooming past Earth count as stadium news? It does to my custom RSS feed for “stadium” news, so enjoy!

Cubs giving high-priced Wrigley fans own private bar, bathrooms

Speaking of stuff sports teams owners build because they think it’ll help them make more money, the Chicago Cubs ownership has revealed the next renovations to Wrigley Field coming down the pike:

As part of the 1060 Project, an overhaul to the stadium and the area surrounding the venerable ballpark, the Cubs revealed plans for the first of four “premier experiences” Tuesday and launched a priority list for those interested in plopping down a $500 deposit to secure their spot for the right to some exclusive amenities.

The American Airlines 1914 Club is scheduled to open for the 2018 season underneath the club box seating bowl between the home and visiting dugouts.

After the last out of the ’16 season, crews will begin tearing apart the lower bowl behind home plate to build the shell for the club, which will not provide a view of the field but will give fans with tickets in the area a place to go before and during games for upgraded food and beverage options, shelter from the elements and private restrooms. The re-done seating area will be ready for the ’17 season and construction will continue underneath.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is paying for this out of his own pocket, so at least there are no worries about public subsidies going to create what will effectively be an upscale private bar in a baseball stadium. And as far as the Wrigley Field experience goes, the effect should be minimal: The dugouts will be moved a little bit farther down the lines, but probably hardly anyone will notice otherwise.

Mostly, it’s a reminder of what “state-of-the-art” is all about in stadium construction: ways to sell well-off people stuff that can justify sky-high ticket prices. Cubs VP for sales and marketing Colin Faulkner told the Chicago Tribune, “They’re paying up to $350 a ticket in that area and the value that we’re providing them right now is not in line with what they expect.” Apparently what makes people who can afford $350 a ticket feel like the expense is worth it is some marble tabletops to sip their top-shelf liquor at, and not having to go the bathroom next to the hoi polloi. Strange world we live in.

Cubs’ new images of Wrigley’s “Brand Plaza” are just as depressing as that sounds

The Chicago Cubs owners have released new renderings of what the outside of Wrigley Field will look like after the next round of construction projects, including one of the new “triangle building” and public plaza that will sit next to the ballpark’s third-base side:

81364_1448899663_2015_11_30_cubsbrandplaza-largeThe saddest part of this for me of this isn’t the blandly generic architecture that does nothing to complement baseball’s second-oldest ballpark, or even the fact that Cubs fans appear to be milling about aimlessly on a grassy lawn while the Cubs players celebrate some kind of victory on a garish video board looming overhead. Rather, it’s that the building’s name is still given as “Brand Plaza,” in a your-ad-here moment that looked just as awful when it was included on a sketch of a planned pedestrian bridge:

20131121BrandI guess it’s more honest than pretending signs will say “Wrigley Field” when they actually say “Budweiser.” Still, it’s all a reminder of how whereas the Boston Red Sox took pains to integrate more ad signage and commercial activity into Fenway Park in the least obtrusive way possible, the ongoing Wrigley renovations are first and foremost a way to rebrand the Cubs’ stadium as a retro centerpiece to a prefab “entertainment district.” It’s the attention to detail or lack thereof that can make all the difference in the actual fan experience; I still wonder what Janet Marie Smith could have done with the job, but I guess that’s water under the Brand Plaza arch now.

Cubs players not all in favor of pending Wrigley bullpen move

With the NLCS moving to Wrigley Field tonight, it’s time for everyone to write up feature stories on the 101-year-old ballpark’s renovations, including one of the lesser-reported upcoming changes: the move of the bullpens from foul territory to under the bleachers, scheduled to take place for the 2017 season. And as it turns out, even though this is supposedly for the players’ benefit (relievers less exposed to the weather, no more tripping over bullpen mounds while chasing foul balls), some players aren’t too happy about the move:

“I kind of like it,” reliever Jason Motte said [of the current setup]. “It kind of adds to the old school feel at Wrigley. I’ve always liked that about it. Being down the line, it’s one of those things I’ve never really minded…

“Places like Houston, you’re in a dungeon,” Motte said. “This is one of the only places you can interact with the fans, whether it’s at home or on the visiting side. You get to know the people.”

The real reason for the shift — which will place relief pitchers behind the ivy-covered outfield wall, with only a 12-foot-wide chain mesh fence to see out and for fans to see in — is buried in a single sentence in the Tribune article:

[Cubs spokesman Julian] Green said the switch also will add four new rows of seats on each side of the field where the bullpens are currently located.

Meanwhile, the Trib has another article on how the changes to Wrigley, in particular a new hotel and office building the Cubs owners are building across the street, has the surrounding Wrigleyville neighborhood on “the brink of a new era,” though it’s mostly about how the area has changed itself since the 1980s, when it was “pretty rough and tumble,” according to one local business owner. (My first visit to Wrigley was in 1989, and I remember it being pretty similar to today, only with fewer sports-bar-type businesses, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.) Cubs management says the new public plaza adjacent to the hotel could make Wrigleyville more like New York’s Rockefeller Plaza, which seems both unlikely and a curious goal since Rockefeller Plaza is largely an overpriced tourist trap surrounded by office buildings, but I guess when you’re trying to justify how an office building will enhance the busiest ballpark neighborhood in the U.S., you’ve got to go with what you can.

Ask another architecture critic: Why do Wrigley Field bleachers suck, and how can we fix them?

The assembled architecture critics of Chicago are really not happy with Cubs owner Tom Ricketts’ renovations of Wrigley Field, and they’re going to let him know about it. First we had Edward Keegan harshing on the blocked views and ugly steel beams in Crain’s Chicago, and now the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin has gone after the new video boards and what they’ve meant for the old hand-operated scoreboard in center field:

At night, Wrigley Field’s new video boards overshadow the old scoreboard, disrupting the carefully calibrated sense of place that makes the ballpark a national treasure.

In the darkness, the new boards project while the old one seems to recede. Much brighter than the old scoreboard and bursting with statistics as well as brightly colored ads that appear between innings, the new boards invariably draw the eye. The replays on the left-field board, a welcome concession to modernity, give fans another reason to turn away from the old focal point in center.

Together, the new features render the center-field scoreboard more ceremonial than useful, like an old clock on a fireplace mantle.

Ouch. But good point: Video boards are way more garish and in-your-face at night, and after all are designed to distract your attention away from other things (the center-field scoreboard, the game itself, your phone) to get you to look at their ads.

Cubs president Crane Kenney told Kamin that he’s looking at ways of lighting the old scoreboard better at night so that it’s not overwhelmed; Kamin suggests just using a darker green on the video boards at night and turning down their brightness. It’s all very reasonable, and hopefully the Cubs will make some adjustments. But it’s all a reminder that the whole reason for the new video boards isn’t to let fans see batters’ OPS against lefties during home night games, but rather to get fans to look at advertising during games at Wrigley. And if that’s not what you think Wrigley is supposed to be about, you should have gotten elected mayor of Chicago and appointed different people to the landmarks commission.

Ask an architecture critic: Why do new Wrigley Field bleachers suck?

The redesigned Wrigley Field bleachers are finally complete, and architecture critic Edward Keegan is here in Crain’s Chicago to tell you what he thinks of the new design. Perhaps surprisingly, he doesn’t mind the video boards — the new right-field board is “slightly smaller than the old one and comfortably set as far from centerfield as possible,” while the larger left field board he “won’t quibble with as a 21st century necessity.” But he does complain about the new expanded bleachers blocking the views of surrounding rooftops (not from rooftops, mind you, but of them), and the way the new bleachers structure was designed in the first place:

Seldom noted is the essential early 20th century industrial nature that has always defined the construction of Wrigley Field’s grandstands. Columns are small—and created from elaborate confections of even smaller steel elements. Trusses that support the larger structures—the upper deck, the roof, and the old center field scoreboard—are likewise minimal and elegant in their industrial forthrightness. The Landmarks designation ordinance cites the “exposed structural system” as a protected feature and it should have provided the architects with a guide for the new work.

Instead, the new bleachers and video boards are designed with the bluntness of a highway with columns and beams that are immense in comparison to their predecessors. It’s the design equivalent of the Dan Ryan or Kennedy expressways slicing through old Chicago neighborhoods with complete disregard for their surroundings and their visual impact.

I’m having a hard time finding a photo of the new bleachers in their entirety for some reason, but here’s a photo from Bleed Cubbie Blue showing the big-ass video board support girders. It probably wouldn’t be the first thing I’d complain about, but Keegan does have a point:

IMG_1410.0Anyone who’s been to Cubs games this week care to comment, or share photos?

Cubs owner buys three more rooftops, has brief respite from “Wrigley Field is health hazard” news

Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is continuing to solve his ongoing disputes with neighboring rooftop owners over his video board spite fence by just buying them out: Ricketts picked up another three buildings with rooftop views of Cubs games this month, bringing the total he’s bought to six. (Three holdouts are still suing him over their obstructed views.) As expected, this whole rooftop lawsuit kerfuffle is mostly coming down to how much Ricketts will have to pay to buy everyone out, and as sale terms haven’t been disclosed, we can’t even keep score at home.

Meanwhile, in more Cubsy news, the Cubs’ concession stands have been hit with health code violations, including “MEN’S RESTROOM ON THE LEFT FIELD SIDE IN THE UPPER DECK HAS NO HOT WATER” and “FOUND COLESLAW AT 45F INSIDE THE 1-DOOR REFRIGERATOR.” Which is probably par for the course with these inspections, but Ricketts still must cringe these days whenever he sees a news story with “Wrigley” and “restrooms” in the same sentence.

Cubs took commemorative Wrigley bricks and dumped them in a landfill

Say whatever else you will about the Chicago Cubs‘ Wrigley Field renovations, but they sure are providing some just terrible Internet fodder. Playing Opening Night with the bleachers covered by a giant tarp and not enough working restrooms was bad enough, but now there’s this:

Personalized pavers that once lined Clark and Addison streets near Wrigley Field, home of Chicago Cubs, have been found around Pontiac, purportedly coming from the nearby landfill. The bricks had been billed as “permanent fixtures” by the Cubs organization when they began selling them in 2006.

Yes, the Cubs took several commemorative bricks that fans had bought and paid for, bearing such messages as “NICK BODELL  LOVE FOREVER  GRANDMA 2007,” and threw them in a landfill. And here you thought throwing Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday cake in a dumpster was bad form.

Cubs execs said that they warned purchasers back in March that they’d have to remove some bricks and replace damaged ones as part of the renovation process, which is all reasonable enough. But still, as the kids today say, bad optics, guys.

Wrigley bleachers reopen tonight, new video board operator prepares by smoking crack, apparently

The redone Wrigley Field bleachers are reopening tonight for the Chicago Cubs‘ game against the New York Mets, and how do they look, Bleed Cubbie Blue blog?

wrigley1Okay, I cheated: That’s actually a photo by BCB’s David Sameshima of the right-field bleachers, which don’t open for a few more weeks yet, thankfully. Here’s the left-field bleachers:

wrigley2That looks kinda sorts done-ish, though the construction crews might want to leave those porta-potties there during the game, just in case.

Finally, here’s a view of the new right-field scoreboard, which will be in operation even if the right-field bleachers won’t:

wrigley3That doesn’t look so garish, so long as the background remains green with white and yellow lettering. Which it won’t throughout games, I’m sure, since the whole point of a video board is to show videos, duh, so expect the old-timey lineups to disappear plenty during games for ads and “MAKE SOME NOISE” and the like.

Also, while I’m slightly alarmed to see that the Mets will have the injured third baseman David Wright leading off and playing catcher while the injured catcher Travis d’Arnaud bats second and plays first base — not to mention injured reliever Jerry Blevins starting in right field despite his broken arm — I’m at least happy that the scoreboard operator has anticipated neither team getting any runners on base, as is their respective traditions.

Cubs really need less ironic slogan for Wrigley renovations than “Making the Confines Friendlier”

Putting up some kind of barrier so that fans can’t hassle players for autographs while they’re walking to their cars isn’t all that unusual. Doing so while in the middle of renovations that have left fans without enough restrooms for two months, then slapping a logo on top reading “Making the Confines Friendlier” — that’s so Cubs.

(Incidentally, can anyone tell me who’s actually being protected from whom by this autograph barrier? It looks like it’s on the corner of Seminary and Waveland, adjacent to the “triangle building” site that’s under construction in the background. But I see what look like fans on both sides — do the players walk a gauntlet between the two fences to the lot on the north side of Waveland? And do they have their own restrooms there?)