Wrigley Field Review: Bike Crackdowns Coming, Uptick in Parking Tickets
WRIGLEYVILLE — How did the city handle Cubs games last year?
With more parking tickets, better traffic flow and more police enforcement on "bucket boys," according to an annual meeting where city officials reviewed the year at Wrigley Field.
In addition to looking at how the last year went, local police, the city's Department of Transportation and — of course — the Cubs themselves looked at how this baseball season might be different.
Crime and Quality of Life Issues
A new detail dedicated to entertainment near the ballpark, led by Sgt. Angelo Hitiris, helped things run smoothly, said Cmdr. Elias Voulgaris and 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney.
The noisy, bucket-drumming crew known as the bucket boys were booted from Wrigleyville last year, and Hitiris cracked down on panhandlers, illegal peddlers and ticket scalpers, Voulgaris said.
Hitiris also started meeting with all the Clark Street bars regularly so that everybody would be on the same page, he said. Now, if a bar has any issues, police bring the owners into the station, Voulgaris said, a new tactic to crack down on crime inside bars.
The district's primary issues: robberies, burglaries and quality of life problems like drinking on the public way, will be the focus of this baseball season,Voulgaris said.
Police have been seeing people drink outside the field during concerts, and they will target them, he said.
"It's illegal," he said. "I don't care if there is a concert going on."
Voulgaris is working to get a camera installed on Clark Street in hopes of monitoring the behavior of the bars and police, he said.
Police also will start cracking down on cyclists near Wrigley, Voulgaris said. Two officers on bikes will be ticketing cyclists who don't obey the law, Voulgaris said.
More officers will be patrolling after games as well. With a year under his belt, Voulgaris' "steady team" that understands Wrigley Field nuances should make for a safer neighborhood, Tunney said.
"I’m confident public safety will be enhanced this year," the alderman said. "I think you’ll see a difference."
Traffic and Parking
More Cubs fans parking illegally got slapped with fines in 2013, a spokesman for the city' Revenue Department said. With 352 parking tickets, the number of tickets went up by 11 percent.
But the city, Tunney and the Cubs hope drivers will avoid Wrigleyville altogether after the start of free remote parking this year at a lot at Irving Park and Rockwell.
"We really want this remote lot to work," said Kam Buckner, a community representative from the Cubs. "We paid a lot of money for it."
The Cubs also are working with Parking Panda, a spot-finding site, hoping to reduce traffic. The Brown Lot behind Taco Bell, and the Green Lot at Grace Street and Racine Avenue also will be getting more spots and upgrades this year, Buckner said.
Traffic-wise, left turn signals installed at three intersections last year — Belmont Avenue and Halsted Street, Irving Park Road and Clark Street and Addison Street and Ashland Avenue — seemed to reduce congestion, representatives from CDOT said.
New $700,000 traffic lights along Clark Street, paid for by the Cub Fund, have been designed. The department hopes to finish installing them in the summer.
"I'm comfortable that with the expertise of the department and your input that we will make this work," Tunney said.
As for nondrivers, Buckner said the team would be making more adjustments to the website to promote cycling and public transportation. More in-game announcements will be made to take the CTA, and Cubs employees and vendors will receive discounts for public transit, Buckner said.
"If you have specific ideas, I’m happy to listen," he said.
Construction and Outdoor Plaza
Several residents had concerns about the Cubs' planned outdoor plaza on the triangle property. People worried about alcohol in the open air in an area "already saturated" with booze, and others didn't want surprise live musical events late at night.
Though the Cubs have permission to build the plaza, the plan of operations for the space has not yet been approved. Tunney said the community was still in the process of putting the plan together.
Residents have been encouraged to voice their concerns to the alderman.
The Cubs will not build the plaza until renovations on the field are completed. As the team has repeatedly stated, that won't start until legal issues with rooftop venue owners have been sorted out.
Tunney, though, said he's confident that construction will happen soon, especially after the hours spent "yelling and fighting," he said.
"I believe that the infrastructure improvements and cranes in the ground will be happening this year," Tunney 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. Joe Ricketts has no direct involvement in the management of the iconic team.