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.”

Chicago landmarks board okays Cubs putting ad signs wherever the hell they want at Wrigley

As expected, the Chicago landmarks commission approved Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts’ revised plans for Wrigley Field renovations, unanimously even. That’s revised upwards from two outfield ad signs to seven, and with new expanded decks in the bleachers over public streets, and with new seating along the foul lines and the bullpens moved under the bleachers, but hey, he waited a month and made the bullpen doors smaller, so what’s not to approve?

The only thing standing in the way of renovations beginning immediately, it appears, is a lasuit from the neighboring rooftop owners charging that the ad signage would block their view in violation of their contact with the Cubs — but given that they still haven’t filed a lawsuit after talking about it for six months, Ricketts really could start work tomorrow and nobody would be able to stop him. It’s still possible that legal action could be filed and delay things a bit longer, but if you want to see Wrigley before this (only with corporate logos wherever it says “Cubs”), you should probably get your tickets now.

Rooftop owners say they won’t file vaporlawsuit if Cubs scrap all but two video boards

Whoa, check it out!

Rooftop owners have an offer for the Chicago Cubs, to avoid a lawsuit over Wrigley Field renovations.

And what would that be?

The rooftop owners say they will not sue the Cubs if the team installs only two new signs.

That’s two (a new scoreboard and one new ad sign) instead of the seven that Cubs owner Tom Ricketts wants, so no surprise that Cubs management ignored the offer and said they’ll push ahead with trying to get all seven signs approved by the Chicago landmarks commission this week. Not to tell the rooftop owners how to do their job or anything, but if they’re going to keep holding out a promise to drop their lawsuit in exchange for concessions, they might want to actually file a lawsuit someday. Just an idea.

Cubs: We went to our room and thought about it, now can we have our giant ad signs?

It looks like Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is going to have to pay the price for suddenly upping his demands for Wrigley Field renovations to include seven ad boards, further expansion of the bleachers, and relocated bullpens without even warning the mayor in advance, and that price is … he’ll get everything he wanted, but have to make his bullpen doors smaller.

The Cubs said Monday they’re on the July 10 agenda for the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and expect to win approval for their revised plan to renovate Wrigley Field — including seven outfield signs, two of them video scoreboards — after a tweak to accommodate Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Of course, it’s always possible that Cubs execs didn’t ask Emanuel before making this statement, either, but I’m guessing they actually know what they’re talking about. Especially given that throwing a hissy fit and then eventually letting Ricketts have everything he asked for is exactly how Emanuel handled things last year.

Assuming the landmarks commission okays the plan next week, the only remaining obstacle would be a legal challenge from neighboring rooftop owners that the ad boards would violate their contract with the Cubs by blocking their views — a suit they still haven’t actually filed despite threatening to do so for months now. The rooftop owners did sue sports consultant Marc Ganis for libel for calling them “carpetbaggers stealing the product paid for by others for their own profit” — a suit that was dismissed yesterday. Which should come as no surprise, as believing that you’re right is a strong libel defense, and if there’s one thing that Ganis has made clear in his long career, it’s that he believes that the people signing his checks are always right.

Tribune’s Cubs writer blames Wrigley reno holdup on bleeding-heart ivy lovers

Attention, budding journalists! Today we present a lesson in the many different ways to report a story. For example, say that the rich guy who owns the local sports team has abruptly changed his plans for renovating his landmarked home field and demanded a landmarks commission hearing on the double — without warning the mayor, who responded by telling said rich guy to cool his jets, the commission will get to it when he gets to it. You could write that up, well, the way I just did there. Or you could go the route of Chicago Tribune Cubs beat reporter Paul Sullivan:

It may seem ridiculous to some, but for love of ivy a massive $375 million project once again has been put on hold.

Yeah! Stupid ivy!