Cubs Push for More Night Games, Concerts at Wrigley Field This Year

By Serena Dai on January 29, 2013 9:26am 

LAKEVIEW — The Cubs want more night games and concerts at Wrigley Field as soon as this season, officials said Monday, and local Ald. Tom Tunney may be going to bat for the team.

The Cubs have asked Tunney (44th) to introduce an ordinance at February's City Council meeting that slightly eases limits on night games, allowing the Cubs to schedule 30 night games, the alderman said at Monday's Southport Neighbors Association meeting at Mercury Theatre.

The new ordinance would last until 2015 and allow for 30 night games — with the flexibility to add three more if Major League Baseball wants to add national TV night games as the season plays out.

The Cubs currently schedule 27 night games and hold back three for the possibility of added national TV games.

Tunney said he has not agreed to anything yet, but he skirted direct questions from attendees about whether the ordinance would be presented at the City Council's February 13 meeting prior to presentations to neighborhood groups.

"I'm between a rock and a hard place," he admitted at the meeting.

He said any amendment would include recommendations from a Lake View Citizen's Council letter last year that suggested increasing the amount of night games to 30 — with the possibility of three more — as well as four concerts.

The Cubs want as many as 54 nighttime events, but Cubs executive vice president of community affairs, Mike Lufrano, acknowledged that number was unrealistic. Tunney said he would consider the LVCC letter's recommendations as the maximum number of night events that should be allowed.

Southport Neighbors Association members who live adjacent to Wrigley Field confronted Lufrano and Tunney at the heated, two-hour-long meeting Monday amid reports that their quality of life was at stake in the Wrigley Field renovation politics. They also questioned whether there was a rush to pass the ordinance.

"I see a backdoor deal in front of my face," said SNA president Jill Peters.

With public financing off the table and Mayor Rahm Emanuel eager to see the Wrigley renovations completed, the Cubs want more flexibility for money-making ventures that will help fund the $300 million renovation project.

In response to the frustrated locals, both Lufrano and Tunney offered familiar refrains about the team's commitment to the community, with Lufrano speaking of the Cubs' charitable donations and Tunney remaining committed to ensuring a good quality of life for the community.

But members of SNA said they felt blocked from the decision-making process and bullied into amending long-term agreements.

"I feel like the ant being stepped on by giants," Peters said.

The alderman said if the ordinance is introduced in February, the public will have a chance to voice opinions at other meetings prior to a March vote.

The Cubs also want changes that include a closed-off Sheffield Avenue for street fairs and Friday games at 3:05 p.m. as part of the ordinance, but the alderman said a more comprehensive plan would probably take the greater part of the year to shape.

Lufrano referenced the Toyota sign in Wrigley Field that faced opposition before its erection.

"[It] certainly hasn't been the apocalypse people thought it was," he said.

Other details that emerged from the meeting included the alderman's idea to use $1.1 million in the CubFund, a city account the Cubs must donate to every year per a city ordinance, to replace stop signs with street lights on Clark Street, a project expensive enough to wipe out existing funds, Tunney said.

The Sheffield street fairs, which the Cubs said would be a family activity held at every game, would potentially sell beer and liquor, Lufrano said.

The absence of detail in the team owners' planned Sheraton boutique hotel on the current McDonald's met with protests, as well. Lufrano said if the community truly hates the plan, the hotel simply won't be built.

Lufrano also responded to repeated criticisms that the Cubs were attempting to strongarm the neighborhood into agreeing to the changes.

"If someone thinks we're being a bully," he said, "then I apologize."

The Cubs and Wrigley Field are 95 percent owned by a trust established for the benefit of the family of Joe Ricketts, owner and CEO of DNAinfo.com. Joe Ricketts has no direct involvement in the team's day-to-day operations.

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