As the owners of the Chicago Cubs push to quickly wrap up a Wrigley Field rehab deal, the stadium's neighbors are calling for a slow down of the negotiations.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Lake View Citizens’ Council raised a host of red flags to parts of the rehab plan proposed by Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, who has said he would like to get the deal done by opening day April 1.
“We are very encouraged that the city, Ald. (Thomas) Tunney and the Cubs have slowed the rush to have a city ordinance passed authorizing the unprecedented expansion of Wrigley Field into the neighborhood,” stated the letter signed by William DeMille, president of the council.
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In an interview Thursday, DeMille said he was pleased a deal was not struck by early February, as city officials had hoped. But he remains worried that neighbors won’t have their concerns about parking, traffic and public safety addressed if an agreement is reached soon, DeMille said.
Ricketts on Wednesday told baseball reporters only a “handful of issues” remained to be solved for the Cubs to launch the rehab at the end of the upcoming season. “If we’re going to be in the ground in October, we have to get to some resolution in the next few weeks,” Ricketts said.
Emanuel, Ricketts and Tunney, whose 44th Ward includes Wrigley, met last week in an effort to resolve the remaining issues, but did not come to a comprehensive solution. On the day of the meeting, a City Hall source told the Tribune that “the mayor thinks this deal should have been finished a long time ago.”
In the letter, DeMille wrote that local residents “enjoy many of the benefits” of Wrigley but “also bear the brunt of the negative effects such as traffic, noise, disorderly behavior and increasing density.”
DeMille called for a limit of 33 night games, compared to 30 this season; and four concerts, compared to two now; contends more late Friday afternoon game starts would snarl rush-hour traffic and hurt businesses that don’t cater to game-goers; requests more detailed Cubs plans, including how parking would be provided for a proposed hotel; and calls for a greater police and security presence.
Cubs officials said Thursday they were “encouraged” that the neighbors were receptive to more games and concerts. “Our plan addresses several of the neighborhood’s concerns regarding crowd control, traffic, public safety and streetscapes,” Cubs spokesman Julian Green said in a statement.
One key issue is the lack of an agreement between owners of nearby buildings who sell rooftop tickets on game days and the Cubs. Ricketts wants to significantly expand signage at the park to help finance $300 million in upgrades, but the 16 rooftop owners, who invested about $50 million to upgrade their buildings, fear that would block their views.
Rooftop owners have offered to suspend signs from their buildings and give the Cubs all of the resulting revenue, but want their agreement extended in return.
Wrigleyville resident Beth Murphy, the owner of a rooftop building and the popular Murphy’s Bleachers sports bar, said she was still hopeful.
“I know this sometimes presented as rooftops versus Cubs, but really it’s just everybody working together to make solutions that works the best for everybody, including the Cubs, including the rooftops, including the neighborhood,” she said. “And we have a long tradition of hashing things out.”