WRIGLEYVILLE — While renovations in and around Wrigley Field won't be done anytime soon, Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said Wednesday the end result will be worth the wait, not only for the team but neighborhood residents.
In addition to a revived ballpark, the work outside the park will transform the so-called triangle property to the west of the park into a town square-esque center for Wrigleyville, Ricketts promised City Club Chicago members during the group's meeting in River North.
The plans call for hosting year-round, neighbor friendly events including bringing back the ice rink and starting a farmer's market when the plaza opens in late 2016.
"If we build it in a way that is flexible and program it the right way, it'll be a very nice feature for everyone in the neighborhood," he said.
The Cubs would also like to see some smaller events like pop-up concerts or charity events like a race or fundraiser at the plaza.
As for Opening Day plans, Ricketts said he feels the Cubs are prepared to handle traffic, pedestrian and parking issues.
The left field video board should be ready for the April 5 opener, and while the bleachers won't be up and running until June, Ricketts said he felt the Cubs had done all they could to accommodate fans.
"I'm disappointed that we can't service them a little better. That said, it's once every 100 years someone fixes the park, and we want to make sure we do it right," he said.
One major improvement: more washrooms, particularly for women. Right now, he knows what sections of the park to avoid because of the lack of facilities.
“The only place where I walk a little faster is that right field corner where all the women are lined up, because I pretty much know what comment they have,” he said.
When renovations are complete, the park will have 40 percent more restrooms. It will also have more points of sale, including drink, food and souvenir stands.
Ricketts also repeated bold promises of success on the field, which he said will come from the team's long-term strategies, including recruiting top players from Latin America and planning for "sustained success."
In other words, it's time to win.
"When are you going to be a good team, and when are you going to compete for the division? I'm just going to go ahead and say now. I think we've spent our time paying our dues, and now we're ready to compete," Ricketts said. "Sporting News picked us to win the World Series. Our new manager Joe Maddon speaks frequently of the World Series, and our players are starting to talk about it."
As he discussed the many changes over the past five years, Ricketts highlighted the Cubs' lineup, particularly relative newcomers like pitcher Jon Lester, third baseman Kris Bryant, catcher Kyle Schwarber, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, shortstop Javier Baez and right fielder Jorge Soler.
"What we've been doing for all these years is taking players who have a lot of current value but a very short time left with the Cubs and trading them for players that have a lot of future value and a very long period where the Cubs can control those players," Ricketts said.
In particular, Ricketts said he was excited about the six-year, $155 million signing of Lester, who was "by far the best free agent that was available."
"When you're going to make that kind of commitment to a player, it's about more than just what were his stats last year," Ricketts said. "This is the kind of guy we're going to go after. He's the kind of guy that leads by example, and the kind of guy we need on a young team."
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 team.
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