The alderman whose ward includes Wrigley Field said Wednesday that the idea of moving the ballpark's iconic scoreboard and putting in a giant video screen was discussed and dismissed during negotiations over how to pay for renovations at the park.
Ald. Thomas Tunney, 44th, released a statement in which he acknowledged that moving the landmark manual scoreboard was one of many "creative solutions" that has been talked about during negotiations with the Ricketts family, which owns the team.
"Moving the scoreboard to left field, where a similar one existed until the 1930’s, and replacing it with a video board is just one of the many ideas that have been on the table. It was discussed in earnest by all parties and dismissed," Tunney said in the statement.
The centerfield scoreboard at Wrigley Field is protected as a landmark, so to replace it would require the approval of various city bodies, including the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.
The latest flap in the Wrigley Field rehab saga comes less than two weeks before the April 1 opening day for the 2013, which Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts has set as a deadline for a deal to be in place for the rehabilitation of the 99-year-old stadium.
The Ricketts family, which owns the team and Wrigley Field, has offered to pay for $300 million in renovations to the North Side ballpark, but in exchange wants landmark and zoning restrictions loosened. The family also wants to invested $200 million in the neighborhood by building a hotel and plaza.
Tunney has said he would not sign off on any deal unless it contains provisions for adequate parking and greater police protection. Tunney, who has received tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions from the owners of the rooftop clubs overlooking Wrigley Field, has been working for a deal that protects the views from those clubs.
Sources familiar with the negotiations over the Wrigley rehab proposal let it be known Tuesday that Tunney proposed that the iconic centerfield scoreboard be replaced with a Jumbotron-type screen that would not block the rooftop views.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has repeatedly said he wants to see an agreement reached among the team, Tunney and the rooftop owners.
Traditionally, the local alderman has a great deal of authority when it comes to local zoning and construction matters, but the mayor does have the power to override him.
“Negotiations are ongoing with the Chicago Cubs," Tunney's statement says. "As Alderman, I know the importance of preserving and renovating historic Wrigley Field in our community."
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Ricketts spokesman Dennis Culloton said that although the Cubs are focused on rehabbing Wrigley, there have been lower level talks about a move to Rosemont or DuPage County.
Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens has offered the Cubs 25 acres free in his town, which is near the nexus of several highways and O’Hare International Airport. DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin has said he’s ready to talk to the Cubs about a move if the team decides that’s in its best interests.
Adding to the pressure, political consultant David Axelrod, a longtime friend and ally of Emanuel, also weighed in Tuesday when he suggested on Twitter that Tunney was the holdup to a deal getting done.
“I love Wrigley, and hope @Cubs stay,” Axelrod tweeted. “But no team should be held hostage the way the Cubs have to rooftop owners and the ward pols they own.”
In a telephone interview today, Axelrod said he was expressing his personal opinion as a Cubs fan and was not in any way speaking on behalf of the mayor.“I’m just a frustrated Cubs fan,” Axelrod said. “I’d like to see the Cubs stay in a refurbished stadium, and it looks like the only obstacle is the rooftops.”