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Cubs Debut Wrigley Field Renovation Plans

By Serena Dai | January 19, 2013 2:11pm | Updated on January 19, 2013 3:02pm

DOWNTOWN — After months of pitching Wrigley Field renovation plans to community members, Cub executives revealed a renovation rendering video to the public-at-large at the Cubs Convention similar to one presented to neighbors last week.

Crane Kenney, president of business operations, presented a video Saturday at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Chicago at a session called "Renew Wrigley Field," saying it would cost $300 million and create 2,100 jobs. Changes will happen during off-season over the next five years, starting with player's facilities after this season, management said.

The plan pitched to neighbors presented bigger dugouts, more restrooms, more concessions, and a community area outside the field intended for outdoor movies or farmer's markets. That includes 42 percent more bathrooms and 107 percent more concessions.

Kenney presented a similar video to an auditorium packed with fans, who cheered at the news of more bathrooms.

The field will get new batting tunnels. The wooden roof will be replaced, and a practice batting cage will be built under the bottom tier of seats. Management also hopes to bring on gluten-free food options and another patio for fans. Office space in the field will be revamped into a restaurant.

The spirit of Wrigley Field, from the ivy to the scoreboard, will stay after input form fan surveys, management said.

"We really haven't left any part of it untouched," Kenney said. "We will essentially be rebuilding Wrigley to how it was in the mid-30s with modern amenities."

Alison Miller, senior director of marketing for the team, talked of a video board for the field just as Fenway Park has, which elicited some grumbling in the audience. Cubs have historically had to balance the desire for a more traditional-looking Wrigley Field with modern renovations.

"It's all about giving you information," Miller said in response. "We're not doing kiss cams. It's going to be real stats. It's going to be highlights."

Some fans were just happy to see more specifics on what might happen to field. Chad Tallon, 27, of Essex, Ill., is a Cubs fan who wants more state-of-the-art additions and thought the proposals balanced tradition and modernity well.

"They're doing a nice job of putting that together," he said of the plans.

And other fans cared less about the amenities that will be added for the audience, instead appreciating a focus on improving the area for the players.

"I'm really impressed," said Nancy Shell, 59, who was visiting from Muscatine, Iowa. "They need to make team facilities good, then worry about the rest of it."

The Ricketts family also owns the property currently occupied by a McDonald's and plan to build a Sheraton boutique hotel on it. They previously presented a glass, L-shaped hotel with a courtyard facing the field to neighbors. The plan dictates that a McDonald's must remain on the lot in some form.

Another developer had planned to build a hotel at at the southeast corner of Addison and Clark but stalled due to financing. M&R Development LLC told Chicago Real Estate Daily that it may kill the hotel plan altogether.

Wrigley Field is under landmark protection, and many proposed upgrades need city approval. Renovation plans have evolved over the years, and so has the debate on whether it should be publicly funded via an amusement tax the city collects on Cubs tickets.

The Cubs have said they still seek public funding, and Jennifer Dedes Nowak, the team's manager of community outreach, grants and donations, told neighbors at a West Lake View Neighbors meeting that the more money is given to field renovations, the more money the Cubs will invest in the area outside the park.

"We're sinking money into the ballpark," she said last week.

But on Saturday team chairman Tom Ricketts indicated plans to solicit city dollars would be put on hold, while the ballclub seeks to ease restrictions on sponsorships at Wrigley Field.

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.