Imagine working a ten-hour day, returning home in the early evening to flop down on the couch, and maybe catch up on some baseball. “That’s right,” you recall on the drive home, “the Cubs are playing tonight. Shoot!” The reality of having to spend an additional twenty minutes once you’ve arrived to your neighborhood just to find a parking spot sets in, your blood boils. You finally get home, welcomed on your walk from your car by drunk twenty-somethings stumbling about with no particular direction. The Cubs lost and the night goes on, loudly. This has been the name of the game for Lakeview residents since the Chicago Cubs began having night games in the late 80’s (Wrigley Field didn’t even have lights installed until 1988).
An official proposal for a $500 Wrigley Field/Ville renovation plan was introduced in April by the Cubs and CEO Tom Ricketts. The plan has created an extremely complex dynamic, pitting Cubs fans and constituents, the City of Chicago, Wrigley Rooftop Bar owners, and Lakeview neighborhood residents against each other.
Wrigley Field, which will turn 100 years old next year, is undoubtedly one of the most revered and respected venues in sports history…and it goes without saying that the park needs some updating. The ballpark’s landmark status has caused slight issues for the Ricketts’ proposal to install a 6,000 square foot jumbotron, which has been a massive point of unrest for rooftop bar owners. Additional improvements to the Wrigley Field landscape include a Sheraton Hotel housing retail shops and a health club; a six-story office building for the Cubs that houses retail, a McDonald’s, and a conference room; as well as in-field changes to concessions, seating, and signage.
Media coverage of the entire renovation bonanza has been abundant, relaying the latest talks, disputes, and diagrams that stem from community meetings, press conferences, and interviews. One of the key points raised by the local outlets is how these changes will likely improve the local economy, while failing to acknowledge what economy will be lost when rooftop bar owners become obsolete.
Ed Grahoviak, assistant manager at Murphy’s Bleachers said, “These rooftops are just as much a part of the Wrigleyville experience as anything. We’re halfway through a contract with the Cubs that allows for us to use our buildings as a way of bringing people to the area. So much money has been put into every one of these places to make them safer, more attractive, and have better all-around service. It’s a shame to think that all that will go to waste if this new deal continues on the way it has. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs get sued by some of us bleacher people for breach of contract.”
Jim Caple of ESPN.com echoed the sentiments of many long-time Cubs fans and Lakeview residents when he wrote on May 31 that, “the Cubs…need to stop framing the renovations as part of a source of revenue necessary to reach the World Series. Revenue helps, but spending it wisely is vastly more important. The Cubs are already one of baseball’s wealthiest teams. They don’t “need” any more money to win.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-05) was reported by Lakeview Patch to be a fan of the renovation proposal, while Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has tried to play the middle ground (despite removing funding from the CIty for the renovations in early May). Chicago’s 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney has been labeled a proponent of the rooftop owners, yet has publicly stated that his main concerns going forward with renovation talks revolve around residents’ concern over traffic, parking and public safety.
Joel Kessler, an attorney who resides a mile west of Wrigley in former West Lakeview (now Northcenter), is one example of a resident affected by the Cubs in various ways; a resident that does not support the proposed changes to the field or the team’s schedule.
“We have a level 2 permit zone here, and we get tons of spillover during day games and night games alike from fans who drive in to see the Cubs play. [Fans] come this far west because they don’t want to pay the home owners who live closer to the field the $20 they charge to rent out their garages…. They stumble around drunk looking for their cars, loud and obnoxious, sometimes vandalizing people’s property. The team needs to buy a lot, build a massive parking garage, and keep these fans closer to the field instead of letting them spill out into the residential areas,” remarked Kessler in an interview.
The dichotomy is as such: home owners (and even renters) in the Wrigleyville/Lakeview area are torn between supporting the renovation and not, based on a variety of things: the importance of their Cubs fandom, their public safety, parking, and local economic growth.
One thing is for sure: money will be spent and Wrigleyville will be turned into majestic urban landscape bustling throughout the spring and summer… but will the changes made by that money be enough to silence critics of this deal?
Cheryl Simon, former Wrigleyville and Lakeview resident commented that, “most residents in the area never fully grasp the concept that the neighborhood revolves around a multi-million dollar sports franchise, and not them. They can’t argue that they’ve been there longer, or are more important to the neighborhood, but they can argue they’re an important force to be reckoned with. Until there is unity amongst the Lakeview residents, though, the renovation talks will go on with little consideration for their wants and needs. Maybe their moods will change if the Cubs win a World Series.”