WRIGLEY FIELD — With Wrigley Field plaza use still up for discussion, another proposed change to Chicago Cubs operations has sparked debate.
The Cubs' first public mention of a plan to shut down Clark and Addison streets on game days as a "security matter" came during last week's Cubs Convention.
Brought up briefly during a panel discussion, the idea stems from mandates from Major League Baseball requiring all ballparks to improve safety and security, said Cubs spokesman Julian Green.
The Cubs say they need to block off a 100-foot perimeter around the ballpark — roughly the distance from McDonald's to Wrigley Field, or 10 feet wider than the distance between bases. There are houses less than 150 feet away from the ballpark, Green said.
Since that closure area includes sections of Clark and Addison, the Cubs want to block off portions of those streets during game days to traffic except emergency or government vehicles.
The option of getting vehicles prescreened and permitted could also be a possibility, Green said. The club also wants to extend the sidewalk on the north side of Addison.
"Given there are cars and buses staged on Addison where in some cases, these vehicles are less than 10 feet from the outer wall, [it] is a huge concern," Green said.
While news about the proposal to close Clark and Addison came last week, the Cubs have been working on a plan with the city since November, Green said. The mayor's office, the city's Transportation Department and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications are involved.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said there are alternatives to closing two major Lakeview thoroughfares, but Tunney declined to say whether he supports or opposes the Cubs' plan.
"It's a very long process. Compared to most places, Wrigley Field is unique, so there will have to be a unique response," Tunney told DNAinfo Chicago. "We need to balance the needs of residents, businesses and public safety."
A mayoral spokeswoman told the Sun-Times that effective security could be arranged "without having to shut down two major roads in a neighborhood."
Ballparks upgrading security nationwide
Major League Baseball has been working on security improvements for the last three years, Green said.
Three months after the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013, the Department of Homeland Security issued a resource guide offering the "best practices in anti-terrorism security for sporting and entertainment venues."
The top operational recommendations included:
• Employing at least one method of screening: patdown, wanding or using a magnetometer.
• Screening bags brought into the stadium
• Scheduling all deliveries before games and screening delivery vehicles
• Thorough inspection of media trucks and vehicles
• Random sweeps in and around the ballpark
Major League Baseball adopted the recommendations in 2013, then made some mandatory for the 2015 season.
The November attacks in Paris — particularly at France's national sports stadium during a soccer match — "certainly raised concern for stadium and ballpark operations in the U.S.," Green said.
"The good news for MLB is that we were already taking a look at our outer perimeters as early as 2013," he added.
The league granted the Cubs a one-season extension due to the ongoing renovations at Wrigley Field. The metal detectors will be in place for Opening Day, and the club wants the security plan ready at that point, too, Green said. The $500,000 metal detector program also involves hiring more part-time workers for screenings.
A model to the south
Wrigley Field certainly isn't the only ballpark squeezed into a city, and MLB recognizes that.
"We work closely with the Cubs and all of our clubs on the individual circumstances within their markets and how to foster a safe and enjoyable ballpark experience," said Michael Teevan, the MLB vice president of communications.
The Homeland Security report suggests that "the closer vehicles park to the venue stadium, the more important it is to implement detailed vehicle screening processes." It also recommends "vehicles be kept at least 100 feet from the facility whenever possible."
To avoid the street closures, MLB and a third-party security consultant must sign off on the alternative plan, Green said.
But with the Cubs hoping to get the plan approved by Opening Day, April 11, there are only a few months left to finalize the details.
Luckily, the Cubs' neighbors to the south might have some suggestions.
The Chicago White Sox launched new security measures in 2014, installing metal detectors and requiring bag searches for entry into the ballpark, said Sheena Quinn, director of team public relations.
U.S. Cellular Field, 333 W. 35th St., actually encircles a portion of West 35th Street, with Gate 5 on the north side connecting via a bridge over the street into the stadium south of 35th.
The White Sox screen vehicles parking within 100 feet of ballpark entrances on game days, which is "in compliance" with MLB's best security practices and recommendations, Quinn said. The ballpark works with the city's traffic management officers to control traffic flow and ensure access to emergency vehicles from the nearby fire and police stations.
As for other changes moving forward and the impact they could have on the Wrigleyville community, the Cubs, Green said, are willing to listen.
Contributing: Ted Cox
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