New Wrigley Neighborhood Group Dedicated to Supporting Cubs' Renovation

By Serena Dai on March 15, 2013 9:49am 

WRIGLEYVILLE — Not all Lakeview residents resent the lack of detail in the Cubs renovation development plans.

One Wrigleyville trio liked the plans so much, they decided to start a a new neighborhood group dedicated to bolstering the Ricketts family's ideas for a $500 million investment in the field and neighborhood.

"You hear a lot of the negative of what the Cubs and the Ricketts want to do around here," said Bridget O'Rourke, president of the newly formed Wrigleyville Neighbors. "We're a group of neighbors who support what the Cubs are doing."

O'Rourke, who's lived near the Southport Corridor for 15 years, got together with Dave Nimick and Mark VerHalen, who were a part of a similar coalition during bleacher expansion talks. The three met after all of them had contacted the Cubs and learned they had similar viewpoints.

"The reality is that we live near a ballpark," said Nimick, who's lived in Wrigleyville for more than 10 years. "I live a block away. When I bought, I knew Wrigley was there."

The first meeting, held at Town Hall Police District headquarters about three weeks ago, attracted about 15 people, O'Rourke said. News spread through word of mouth and through the trio emailing individuals they knew supported renovation plans.

Cubs' executive vice president of community affairs Mike Lufrano presented at the gathering the same Wrigley Field renovation plans that were revealed at the Cubs Convention.

Usually, meetings for neighborhood groups near Wrigley Field are littered with contentious discussions between residents and Lufrano and fellow Cubs' community rep Jennifer Dedes Nowak

Just this week, Lake View Citizens' Council, an umbrella for the neighborhood's ten groups, wrote a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel asking that the Cubs reveal more details before a deal is finalized. 

But Wrigleyville Neighbors meetings would have no such conflict. The group supports Friday 3:05 games, signage in the outfield, Sheffield street fairs and more concerts — all key issues that other neighborhood groups have opposed. 

"I’m a baseball fan; I’m a Cubs fan," Nimick said. "Everything they seem to want to do is positive in my book."

And parking, a significant point for the neighborhood groups and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), is no problem for Wrigleyville Neighbors.

"I live here; I know the games," O'Rourke said. "We kind of know about parking. I don't think it's been a real issue."

Erin Duffy, Tunney's director of community outreach, said she had never heard of the new neighborhood organization. Will DeMille, president of Lake View Citizens' Council, only heard it when the Cubs sent an email to neighborhood organizations on behalf of Wrigleyville Neighbors. The new group has not been involved in the dozens of talks groups have had with the Cubs and the alderman over the past three years, DeMille said. 

Statements made for neighbors are based on neighbor comments made at those meetings, and Wrigleyville Neighbors has been absent, he said.

"They have not been active in the community for any issues outside of Wrigley," he said. "My understanding is that their focus is specific to promotion of Cubs and promotion of Wrigley Field."

Wrigleyville Neighbors is a partner with the team, but both the Cubs and O'Rourke say it's independently run by residents — and receives no special treatment.

"Obviously, we will continue working with all our neighborhood partners to maintain our strong commitment to be good neighbors," said Julian Green, the team's spokesman.

O'Rourke doesn't know what supporting the Cubs' renovation and development plans means practically besides sending out emails. Wrigleyville residents can join if they want to stay updated on what's going on, she said. The organization will hopefully still meet even after renovation negotiations are done, but probably not as frequently.

"I think whatever ends up being done in the end, they'll do it in good taste," she said. "At the end of the day, it's a business for the Ricketts. They take pride in that. I can't see them doing something that would take away from all of the neighborhood."

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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