Wrigley Field Renovations Will Create 'Vegas Atmosphere,' Protesters Say

By Serena Dai on July 17, 2013 7:18am 

 The Cubs proposed expanding Wrigley Field's right and left field onto Waveland and Sheffield. The corner of the two streets is pictured here on Opening Day 2013.
The Cubs proposed expanding Wrigley Field's right and left field onto Waveland and Sheffield. The corner of the two streets is pictured here on Opening Day 2013.
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

LAKEVIEW — Neighborhood groups are taking their opposition to the Wrigley Field development process to the streets.

Members of Lake View Citizens Council and its subsidiaries plan to rally at Clark Street and Patterson Avenue at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday night — right where the Cubs would place an entrance to a hotel and less than 24 hours before the city's Plan Commission votes on zoning changes for the team to develop outside the park.

Neighborhood groups have been demanding to have more input on the negotiation process between Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Cubs and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) for months. They say the development has been rushed and that critical factors such as traffic studies, noise studies and light studies have not yet been completed.

And while they've supported Tunney, the Commission on Chicago Landmark's approval last week of a 5,700 square foot video screen in left field — against Tunney's wishes — suggested that even the alderman has been pushed out, said Kevin McIntyre, president of Hawthorne Neighbors.

Multiple letters to the mayor, including one before the Landmark's meeting last week, have gone ignored, McIntyre said.

"This has been put on the fast track," he said. "We are not getting heard."

The Cubs have been asking for city approval by summer's end on a $500 million plan to upgrade the field and develop the surrounding neighborhood. The team has been presenting preliminary plans at dozens of community group meetings for months, but neighbors say details like an extension onto Sheffield and Waveland and the amount of signage outside the park had been masked in earlier presentations.

The team has continuously said they see the framework as a fair compromise, citing their reduced night game requests and the downsize of signage as ways they've been flexible.

In Tunney's view, the negotation process has included successful compromises and some losses, said Bennett Lawson, Tunney's chief of staff.

Wins include the Cubs' $1 million planned donation to a local park and $4 million planned contribution to local infrastructure over the next ten years. Losses include the size of the video screen, which Tunney emotionally opposed last week in City Hall.

The alderman whittled down a long list of neighborhood desires to a few, including moving the entrance of the hotel and eliminating a pedestrian bridge over Clark — all measures that would go through the Plan Commission Thursday before getting a vote in City Council. 

At Wednesday's rally, a couple hundred neighbors are expected to come out, said McIntyre. They will be focused on several points, including downsizing the hotel's density and reducing light and noise pollution to prevent a "Las Vegas atmosphere," a note to neighbors says.

"We are being left out," the note says. "We all need to join together and be heard and protect our neighborhood and current lifestyles."

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 management of the iconic team.

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