Wrigley Deal by Monday Unlikely as Tunney Pledges Neighbor Involvement

By Serena Dai on March 27, 2013 8:31am 

LAKEVIEW — An annual neighborhood review of Wrigley Field Tuesday shed little light on potential changes to the ballpark, and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) says he won't let a deal go through without the community seeing details — meaning a final deal is unlikely to happen by Monday as the Cubs had wished.

"I’m not sure we can all absorb this, certainly not without a very developed community process on the development plans," Tunney said.

New ideas about hotel development, parking plans and signs won't roll out until Wednesday's Community Directed Development Council, a closed-door meeting Tunney holds with the local chambers of commerce, neighborhood representatives and development partners.

And while the Cubs wanted a deal by Monday — when the team opens its season in Pittsburgh — the final agreement will not be made at the development council meeting, Tunney said.

The alderman said any plans the team debuts behind closed doors must be presented to Lakeview's neighborhood groups before Tunney introduces any ordinance changes the Cubs seek.

"We want to make sure that our community groups have a voice — not just the Ricketts family and the Cubs and their field," he said.

The Ricketts family, which owns the team, said it plans to invest $500 million in the stadium and surrounding neighborhood by way of a boutique hotel. But it wants fewer restrictions on moneymaking ventures. 

Neighbors have been concerned that a deal would be made without resolving critical details about traffic, parking or security. About 150 people packed a room at the Town Hall Police District for Tuesday's Wrigley Field Community meeting.

Traffic around the park "has been a grade F for quite a few years," said Will DeMille, president of Lake View Citizens' Council, an umbrella organization of neighborhood groups. "We have not seen the coordination of the city to alleviate that."

Several traffic studies are in the works to address those issues, said Chicago Department of Transportation representative Mike Volini and Cubs community representative Mike Lufrano. The studies are meant to find a way "to enhance parking and traffic, to keep it off of residential streets, to find more places for parking," Lufrano said.

It was unclear whether the studies will be done before a deal is made on the ballpark renovations.

Cubs spokesman Julian Green refused to comment on the significance of the April 1 deadline, only saying that the team is "trying to get a deal done."

"What I can tell you right now is that we’re working around the clock," he said.

Earlier Tuesday, the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association released a sharply worded media statement that said the Cubs were using the renovations debate "as an excuse to drive away the rooftops." 

But Beth Murphy of Murphy's Bleachers said that while rooftop owners are not part of the "around-the-clock" conversations Green referred to, she was encouraged by the dialogue at Tuesday's meeting. She still thinks a stalemate can end if Cubs agree to post ads on the rooftops, she said.

"I’m confident we can work out a solution," Murphy said.

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 Chicago. Joe Ricketts has no direct involvement in the team's day-to-day operations.

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