Wrigley Field Restoration Update: Landmarks Commission Approves Outfield Signs

The Cubs moved another step closer to funding the restoration of Wrigley Field on Thursday when the Commission on Chicago Landmarks unanimously approved the addition of the two large outfield signs at Wrigley Field. The Landmarks Commission approved a 5,700 square-foot sign in left field that would feature a 4,560 square-foot video screen, a 650 square-foot see-through advertising sign in right field and a sign matrix that will reportedly guide future stadium advertising.

The approval clears another major hurdle as reported by Crain’s Chicago Business. The team’s plans must still be approved by the Chicago Planning Commission and the City Council.

According to Crain’s Chicago Business, the team’s full planned development application will go before the Chicago Plan Commission on July 18 then to the city’s Zoning Committee before going to the City Council. Danny Ecker reported that Mayor Emanuel has promised final city approval of the entire plan by early August.

Ald. Tom Tunney was not happy with the commission’s approval and neither were the rooftop club owners.

Both the jumbotron and the sign in right field will end up smaller than the Cubs had asked for as part of a compromise worked out between the team and the city. The Cubs asked for a 6,000 square-foot jumbotron and a 1,000 square-foot see-through sign in right field.

The jumbotron will be 95 feet wide and 48 feet tall, down 100 feet from the proposed size which would block five less feet of rooftop views according to the Sun-Times.

The Wrigleyville Rooftop Association released a statement following the vote but did not indicate whether they would pursue legal action.

Statement from the Wrigleyville Rooftop Association

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks issued a decision wholly inconsistent with its mission of preserving and protecting historic properties in the City of Chicago by approving dramatic changes that adversely affect specifically protected elements of Wrigley Field. Contrary to most landmark debates, this action was taken without community participation or any scheduled public hearings. The language passed today appears to allow for additional bleacher signage without the consent of the Commission. Rooftop owners – a significantly affected partner – have been intentionally excluded by the Cubs and City of Chicago as decisions to aid the Ricketts family have been rushed through.

The Wrigleyville Rooftops Association has released the following statement from Beth Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Bleachers in reaction to today’s events:

“Today’s decision is a blow to anyone who cares deeply for the historic and special nature of Wrigley Field. We, like many residents of the Lakeview community, feel blindsided by the total disregard of the commissioners who ignored years of careful work that went into crafting the 2004 Landmark Ordinance and the corresponding contractual agreement between the Chicago Cubs and the rooftops. We want to see a modernized Wrigley Field, but throughout this process, the affected small business owners have been shut out to create a more favorable deal for a billionaire family.”

“In January, rooftop owners proposed a solution that would preserve the feel of Wrigley Field, provide the Ricketts family revenue needed to modernize the ball park while keeping rooftops in business. Unfortunately, the Ricketts family muscled through a plan today that adversely impacts Wrigley Field and the surrounding business and homes. As small business owners who have spent more than 30 years and tens of millions of dollars investing in our neighborhood, our input should have been sought and valued, but instead, we have been intentionally excluded with arrogant disregard.”

Fast Facts about the 2004 Landmark Ordinance:

  •  The 2004 Landmark Ordinance cited the “unenclosed, open-air character” and “uninterrupted sweep of bleachers” as one of the features that must be preserved.
  • An earlier 2003 Landmark Designation Report specifically cited the view of the surrounding buildings as a contributing element.
  • Mayor Daley said at the time that “protecting the surrounding neighborhood is just as important as protecting the ballpark itself.”
  • The passage of the 2004 Landmark Ordinance coincided with a 20-year contract between the Cubs and Rooftops, which included the Rooftops dedicating 17% of their gross revenue to the Cubs. The Rooftops have already paid more than $20 million to the Cubs.

Regulations by the City of Chicago in 2004 resulted in a $50 million investment by the neighboring Rooftops to upgrade their facilities due to the 20-year contractual agreement which now stands in peril due to today’s events.

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