WRIGLEYVILLE — Neighbors came to the defense of embattled Ald. Tom Tunney after he was criticized for reportedly pushing an idea to replace the historic Wrigley Field scoreboard with a video scoreboard.
The suggestion to install a Jumbotron in place of the scoreboard at Wrigley first came up in a brainstorming session held by the Community Directed Development Council last summer, neighbors said Wednesday.
Minutes of that meeting and several people in attendance said the idea to replace it from its perch atop the Wrigley Field bleachers came from East Lake View Neighbors member Susan Hagan — not Tunney (44th).
Her idea was to move the iconic, original scoreboard to a separate location for fans to look at, because "fans need to make some sacrifices to the renovation of Wrigley Field, too," she said. Tunney, as he normally does at community brainstorming sessions, did not react strongly to the idea either way, others at the meeting said.
"I mentioned it for the first time at that CDDC meeting," Hagan said Wednesday. "It was pretty much pooh-poohed."
Jim Ludwig, president of Triangle Neighbors, agreed "people were queasy about it. It’s pretty radical approach to the thing. A lot of the stuff in the neighborhood is in keeping historic preservation paramount. Wrigley Field is the golden goose of the area."
Others who attended the meeting included heads of neighborhood groups and chambers of commerce as well as Beth Murphy of Murphy's Rooftops and Cubs representatives Julian Green and Mike Lufrano. Lufrano has been quick to dismiss the idea at other meetings where Hagan brought up the idea, she said.
On Wednesday, Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for the Ricketts family that owns the Cubs, said "the Ricketts family has never envisioned any changes to the landmark scoreboard."
Sources told the Sun-Times Tuesday night that Tunney has pushed replacing the iconic scoreboard with a video board and moving it from above the centerfield bleachers.
But in a statement, Tunney said the idea of moving the historic scoreboard to left field — where it was in the 1930s — and installing a video board was one of several "creative solutions" proposed for Wrigley. It "was discussed in earnest by all parties and dismissed," he said.
Tunney's chief of staff, Bennett Lawson, said Wednesday the idea also came up "in other settings," but "it wasn't really an idea Tom was pushing."
"As alderman, I know the importance of preserving and renovating historic Wrigley Field in our community," Tunney said in the statement.
Team officials have said they will not ask for public money to help fund a planned $300 million renovation of Wrigley Field but they want current restrictions — such as limits on signage at the park — lifted. Tunney has said he won't support easing the restrictions unless the Cubs can work out a deal with the rooftop owners, who fear any new signage at the park could block their views of the field.
The owners have been pushing the idea of placing ads on top of the rooftops instead — a suggestion the Cubs have rejected as not nearly as lucrative as in-stadium signs.
On Tuesday, the community will be gathering with the Cubs and the alderman as part of a required annual meeting to discuss Wrigley Field and the neighborhood protection plan, the ordinance that limits night games. The alderman has said renovation negotiations will probably be discussed there.
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.