WRIGLEY FIELD — Wrigley Field’s congressman came out Friday in favor of closing streets around the ballpark on game days.
“We have a lot of soft targets” for terrorists, said U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago). In his own district alone, he added, “We have O’Hare and we have Wrigley Field.”
Taping an appearance on WLS 890-AM’s public-affairs program “Connected to Chicago,” Quigley mentioned new rules from Major League Baseball calling for fans to go through metal detectors, adding, “I think Opening Day you'll see more metal detectors [at Wrigley] than at any park in baseball, but this will present other issues,” perhaps with lines of fans “spilling into the street.”
Quigley also said that, with Wrigley being within 6 feet of the street at one point, that made it “about as big a target as any we could imagine.”
Quigley suggested Clark and Addison streets be closed to traffic or at least bus-only before, during and after games, a concept floated by team management at the Cubs Convention in January, but rejected thus far by the Emanuel administration.
“They’re simply not going to do that,” Quigley said, acknowledging there’s little public appetite for it.
The Emanuel administration maintains that shutting down streets alongside arenas is not a viable option.
"Public safety is everyone’s top concern and, as is the case every year, we have been in continuous communication with Cubs in the lead up to opening day," said mayoral spokesman Adam Collins. "Our discussions have been very productive and we feel confident about our plans for the season."
“People don’t want to be inconvenienced,” Quigley said, but “I think we need to plan for this eventuality.”
Quigley said that “42,000 people is an attractive target for people who want to hurt us.” He called it “a legitimate concern post-Brussels and Paris.”
He added, “I think we need to get used to the idea that being at large social events is going to be a greater inconvenience.”
Quigley warned that present-day terrorists rarely give notice before an attack, saying, "Our enemies are often lone wolves, and perhaps what's worse is that they're going dark.
“We should be prepared for this before something happens at Wrigley Field, at White Sox Park, at the United Center [or] Soldier Field,” he added.
Quigley spoke with some expertise as a member of the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The full “Connected to Chicago” interview airs at 7 p.m. Sunday on WLS.
Security talks with city officials have been in progress since November, when attacks in Paris — particularly at France's national sports stadium — "certainly raised concern for stadium and ballpark operations in the U.S.," said Cubs spokesman Julian Green.
Yet the city doesn't seem keen on the idea of shutting down two major Lakeview thoroughfares for 80-odd game days; Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) has insisted there are alternatives.
"We need to balance the needs of residents, businesses and public safety," Tunney said in January.
The Cubs publicly floated the idea at the January Cubs Convention, hoping to block off a 100-foot perimeter around the ballpark — roughly the distance from where the McDonald's used to stand across from Wrigley Field. They cited the demands of Major League Baseball.
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, Green said. The option of getting vehicles prescreened and permitted could also be a possibility.
The Cubs say the enhanced security stems from mandates from Major League Baseball requiring all ballparks to improve safety and security.
Police set up barricades on all four sides of the Clark and Addison intersection near Wrigley Field during the Cubs 2015 postseason. Now, the Cubs want to block off portions of the streets during all games. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
MLB recommends enhanced security measures like random sweeps of the ballpark, screening bags brought into the stadium and using metal detectors or handheld wands to check for banned items like weapons.
For the first time, Wrigley Field will have metal detectors on Monday screening all fans on Opening Day. The Cubs hoped to have the security plan ready at that point, but talks are still ongoing.
At U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox screen vehicles parking within 100 feet of ballpark entrances on game days. The ballpark, 333 W. 35th St., bridges a portion of West 35th Street, and the current plan is "in compliance" with league recommendations, a spokeswoman said.
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