CHICAGO — The long-anticipated plaza at Wrigley Field will open this summer, with the Chicago Cubs hosting events "every day" in the future, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said Monday.
"We want to give someone a reason to be outside Wrigley Field every day," Ricketts told City Club Chicago. "Really, it's about doing something every day."
The plaza, which is operated through the Ricketts family development firm, Hickory Street Capital, will open mid-season. Events this year should include a farmers market, family movie nights and "some little music shows," Ricketts said.
During a 30-minute speech at the of City Club Chicago, Ricketts touched on the progress made on the three goals the team owners set after purchasing the Cubs and Wrigley Field in 2009. While they can now check off winning a World Series, Ricketts said there's been lots of movement on the remaining goals to preserve and improve Wrigley Field and to be a good neighbor for the city.
Since the Cubs won their first World Series championship in a century, the Commissioner's Trophy has traveled to the White House and the Dominican Republic, logging 16,000 miles as more than 250,000 fans flocked to catch a glimpse of it.
Wrigley Field will also host nine concerts this year, the most ever at the ballpark since it began hosting concerts in 2005. Last year's shows brought $2 million in amusement taxes to the city, and Ricketts said he expects that to nearly double for 2017.
"We continue to attract the best artists in the world," Ricketts said. "Wrigley is just a great place to watch a concert, with a really magical, warm vibe you can't get at any other outdoor show in the U.S." In neighborhood surveys, 80 percent of respondents said they enjoyed the summer concert series.
The city's night game ordinance limits how many concerts the Cubs can host in Wrigley Field, although it allows the team to substitute additional concerts for some of its 43 allotted night games.
The plaza will have its own set of restrictions when it opens this summer, as decided with a contentious city ordinance passed in June.
The ordinance requires tickets to access the plaza during games and ballpark concerts, which Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said was a vital component in keeping ballpark capacity at about 41,000.
It also enforces the limit of 12 special events on the plaza per year, with an added restriction on small concerts. Out of the 12 events, only five can be concerts.
Other special events are those with attendance of at least 1,000 people, amplified sound or alcohol sales. That would also include allowing fans on the plaza to watch away playoff games if alcohol is sold, Tunney said at the time.
Ricketts also debuted a new advertising campaign centering on the new slogan, "That's Cub." The phrase began as Cubs coaches worked with minor league players on fostering a sense of camaraderie and team unity.
"When they saw a player do something selfless, they'd say, 'That's totally Cub,'" Ricketts said.
Meanwhile, the Cubs are preparing for the April 10 home opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers. During the third year of renovations at Wrigley Field, the club gutted the field and area beneath home plate to put in a new high-end stadium club and concession stands under the grandstand.
A new sound system will not be in place until April 2018, because the club has to wait until the ballpark's structural work is done before replacing the sound system, Ricketts said.
The current system "is clunky," Ricketts acknowledged. The issue is "close to my heart, and it's something we're working on," he added.
According to Ricketts, the Cubs will raise their 2016 championship banner before the home opener, but the ring ceremony for the players will take place the next game, April 12.
During the Cubs Convention in January, Ricketts acknowledged, somewhat playfully, that the team's extended playoff run through the World Series had "definitely cut into our construction time. But it's all good."
For years, Ricketts has voiced hopes that renovations at the ballpark and the addition of Hotel Zachary would spark new development in Wrigleyville that would give it year round appeal.
"On a sunny day in July, Wrigley Field is fabulous, and everyone who's there is happy," Ricketts said during a 2016 interview with 670 The Score. "But even on those beautiful days in July, the neighborhood directly around the park isn't all that nice."
While the Clark Street strip of bars south of Addison attracts plenty of business on weekends, Wrigleyville has its limits, particularly with non-game days and non-drinking activities, Ricketts said.
"With respect to non-game days, that area is just not that great," he added."It's just kind of inert."
Ricketts regularly speaks to City Club, the century-old nonprofit organization filled with elected officials, business and civic leaders from around the city. The forum serves to address public issues and provide networking opportunities.
In 2015, Ricketts even took time to respond to a question about his political doppelgänger, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
While he said he'd never met Cruz, Ricketts found comparisons of the two "kind of funny."
The Cubs and Wrigley Field are 95 percent owned by an entity controlled 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.