WRIGLEYVILLE — Wednesday's return of the famous Wrigley Field marquee includes one big change that most fans probably won't notice right away.
The marquee, which got a facelift in the off-season, now has a new LED video board beneath it, a strip of technology that can feature color, video and graphics that are better then the ones served up by the old black-and-white video board beneath the marquee, Cubs spokesman Julian Green said Wednesday.
Those new options, however, won't be visible on Opening Day, Green said. While it was "prudent" to add the options for down the road, there are currently "no plans" to enable the new features at this time, Green said.
By 2 p.m., the marquee's Toyota ad and the LED signboard were back atop the ballpark's main entrance. It took another five hours before the famous part of the marquee — the red and white sign that declares: "Wrigley Field Home of Chicago Cubs" — had returned.
"Taking the marquee down is a huge undertaking, and not something you do every year due to the costs," Green said. "It was prudent to have the ability to leverage new technology if an opportunity presents itself to do so."
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South Water Signs, based in Elmhurst, handled the restoration. Workers on the scene Wednesday said the process required stripping the marquee of paint added in dozens of layers from decades of touch-ups and repainting.
The marquee was first installed in the 1930s and was initially green, then blue, before it was painted the now-familiar red 30 years later.
The back of the sign is a throwback to the original green and can be seen from inside the ballpark.
In February, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks raised issues over the marquee's LED signboard during a routine hearing on the Cubs' iconic sign.
Commissioners James Houlihan and Juan Gabriel Moreno said it could significantly alter the experience for fans if it became a glaring video screen, even at the same dimensions.
While the Cubs acknowledged "upgrading" the marquee, the team pointed out that the old LED sign — added in 1983 — was "in no way historic."
The commission, while eager to preserve the experience of the historic marquee, approved sign repairs but said any additional changes that would alter the sign's "general appearance" would need additional approval.
Crews began work Wednesday afternoon after the marquee underwent restoration during the Cubs offseason.
The Wrigley Field marquee is back with an enhanced LED signboard. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
The sign was taken down in November while the club overhauled virtually the entire Wrigley Field facade. After stripping down the ballpark facade to its bare bones, workers replaced most of the steel and infrastructure, the ballpark began to replace the siding this week.
The marquee got a facelift as well, restoring the patchwork of red that was gradually touched up over the years to a uniform shade.
The ornamental fencing, concrete slabs and terra cotta that "reflect the golden age of Wrigley Field" have also been returned to the ballpark, the team said.
It's been about 10 years since the marquee was last removed from its perch, Green said.
In August, the team added the Toyota logo to the panel beneath the marquee — prime real estate previously claimed by Budweiser in the early 1980s.
The ballpark and the marquee itself (which will not be altered) are historic landmarks, but the LED panel below the marquee has "a history of supporting team and corporate partner initiatives," the Cubs said.
In 2010, the marquee was painted purple for the Allstate Wrigleyville Classic college football game, hosted by Northwestern University. Allstate also got its logo in the coveted spot.
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