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Wrigley Field Overhaul: 'It's Time for This to Move Forward,' Cubs Say

By Serena Dai | May 22, 2014 7:44am
 The Cubs released renderings on April 30 of the proposed video screen in left field, the hotel across the street and other changes in the neighborhood around Wrigley Field. 
Cubs Release Renderings of Video Screen, Hotel
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WRIGLEYVILLE — The Cubs announced early Thursday that they would ask the city to approve more signs in the outfield at Wrigley Field, a move that comes after "endless hours" of negotiating with rooftop owners have gone nowhere, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said in a video.

The team is proposing five more signs in the outfield, including a second video board and four LED signs — bringing the total number in the field to seven. It's also asking for more outfield lights and bleacher seating.

In the six-minute video to fans, Ricketts blamed rooftop owners for delaying the renovation of the field, saying, "Despite the city's approval and our clear contractual rights, they plan to file lawsuits to stop our renovation and expansion plans."

In the video, Ricketts said the team had decided to go "with our original plan," which had been "tapered" to appease rooftop owners during the political process.

"It has to end," Ricketts said. "It’s time to move forward. I have to put the team and the fans first."

The new proposal also calls for adding 300 seats and 300 standing-room positions, team spokesman Julian Green said. The loss of 100 seats and 500 standing-room positions from last year's plan for the renovations means the field's overall net capacity would not increase, Green said.

A 30,000-square-foot player clubhouse would be built underneath the outdoor plaza, and a right field video screen that's already been approved would be reduced to nearly 4,000 square feet in the new plan.

The Cubs gained the city's approval last summer for a $500 million project to renovate the field and develop the area outside the ballpark after months of tumult with neighbors, the city and 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney, but they've repeatedly said they won't pull out the cranes until rooftop owners promise not to sue.

The rooftop owners have a revenue-sharing contract with the Cubs with 10 years left on it.

After Ricketts' announcement, Wrigleyville Rooftops Association spokesman Ryan McLaughlin said it's time to go to court.

"It appears their zeal to block rooftop owners who pay them millions of dollars a year in royalties knows no bounds," he stated. "Unfortunately, this decision by the Ricketts family will now result in this matter being resolved in a court of law."

McLaughlin also noted that Cubs President Crane Kenney and attorney Mike Lufrano negotiated the contract that rooftop owners plan to sue over.

Ricketts, meanwhile, appealed to fans and neighbors in an email just after midnight Thursday. He emphasized the need for revenue to upgrade player facilities and urged support for the team's plan in the name of a successful team.

"Now I'm not saying Wrigley is the reason the Chicago Cubs haven't won a world championship in 100 years," he said. "But I am saying it's time to invest in Wrigley Field and to do the things our competitors do."

He might have a tough battle with neighbors, many of whom are wary of the Cubs after what they felt like was a loss for the neighborhood when the renovation plans were approved by the city. Tunney has repeatedly said the Cubs already have everything they need from the city and that they should start construction.

The alderman said in an interview with the Sun-Times that he's opposed to any more requests from the team.

"They have a right to ask for as much as they can get," he said. "It doesn't mean it's gonna get approved or that it will solve the potential litigation with the rooftop partners."

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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