Ricketts: Cubs Have Enough Support to Start Construction This Year
LAKEVIEW — Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said he's confident the team would be able to start restoring Wrigley Field this year — even though the proposal still required approval from a community that has voiced opposition to many critical details in the plan.
Ricketts thinks most roadblocks have been addressed, he said on Tuesday at the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce's annual Lead Off Luncheon at D'Agostino's Pizza.
"I think we have the support that we need to get through the proper steps to get started at some point at the end of this year," he said in response to a question about what was blocking the renovation. "But that said, we greatly appreciate the support of everyone in this room if they have an opportunity to step up, come to a meeting, ... support any way they can."
The team has been trying to move forward with a $500 million plan to restore Wrigley Field and develop the surrounding neighborhood, but concerns from neighborhood groups and rooftop owners about changes in night games, traffic, parking and signage in the ballpark have delayed final approval from the city and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th).
Meetings at City Hall last month produced a framework deal that now must cycle through community groups for final feedback, including at two neighborhood meetings this week.
Neighborhood groups have continuously voiced opposition to details such as the proposed night game rules, an absent traffic plan and payment for security. The current plan asks for too many night games with a request for 40, the traffic studies are not yet done and the team should be paying for extra police — not the city and local property owners, neighbors have said.
"We feel that the security forces are out there to protect fans and residents after a Cubs event," said Will DeMille, president of Lake View Citizens' Council. "And that should be paid for by the Cubs."
At the luncheon, Ricketts repeated a speech given at the City Club of Chicago last week, where he said during the Q&A that he'd consider leaving Lakeview if plans for signage were blocked — a pointed reference to rooftop owners who have previously threatened to sue if their contract with the team was violated.
Ricketts said only the city process remained and emphasized the need for community support for the plan.
"I think we're moving forward, so just going through the process," he said. "Everyone keep your fingers crossed and just keep showing up at meetings."
A private meeting with rooftop owners last week started a productive dialogue, though there was still some concern about blockage, said team spokesman Julian Green.
Cubs representatives showed rooftop owners the same renderings that were shown at the City Club of Chicago last week. The group, trying to figure out the impact of the planned scoreboard before it is built, sought more renderings, Green said.
"Overall, I would suggest it wasn't as dramatic as they may have once thought," Green said. "The next step is to continue talking."
Beth Murphy, owner of Murphy's Rooftops, said the meeting was one of the most positive interactions she's ever had with Crane Kenney, the Cubs' president of business operations, and Mike Lufrano, executive vice president of community affairs. It felt like the process was moving forward, she said.
But news that the Cubs had hired grassroot organizers 270 Strategies to contact neighbors who support the plan, asking them to attend neighborhood meetings and offering them game tickets felt like "a step back," Murphy said.
"I don’t know why I’m spending all this time going to neighborhood meetings if we don’t mean anything and if we’re not representative of the neighborhood," she said. "I thought it was dismissive of people who put in a lot of time."
Green said neighborhood groups should be interested in getting the opinions of all residents, not just the ones who have time to attend meetings. Calling up residents is in no way stifling the voice of the community, he said.
"There is nothing further from the truth," he 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.