Mayor Rahm Emanuel today offered the latest tea leaves to read in the ongoing saga over possible renovations to Wrigley Field, saying he encouraged the Chicago Cubs and owners of rooftop buildings to continue to negotiate on a deal that would avoid a court battle.
Emanuel, however, stopped short of saying the Cubs should go back to their original renovation plan that only would add one video board and one script advertising sign. Last week, some of the rooftop owners said they would agree not to sue the Cubs for blocking views of the ballpark if the team went back to that original $300 million renovation plan that passed through the City Council in December.
“They should always have an open door policy, both sides, to negotiate,” Emanuel said, “and I would encourage them to continue to do that.”
Asked if he would recommend to the Cubs that they go back to the original plan, Emanuel did not say yes or no.
“Here’s what I recommend: We worked through an issue, in which I believe the community and Wrigleyville will begin to finally see the investments on both traffic, safety and other community investments that the ownership should make and hasn’t,” Emanuel said. “In addition, they have an opportunity to modernize Wrigley Field. I think we have a situation that both Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville can both gain.”
The Cubs did not move forward with the original renovation plan that was approved last year because the Ricketts family could not reach an agreement that would avoid a lawsuit by the rooftop owners. The team did not want to start construction, only to see the work stop as the issue remained tied up in the courts for years.
The Cubs and the rooftop owners have a contract that pays the Cubs 17 percent of revenue from the venues for 20 years, and the rooftop owners have contended that contract prohibits the Cubs from erecting any sings that block their views of the ballpark.
In May, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts declared negotiations with rooftop owners at an impasse and moved forward with a proposal to add five more signs in the outfield on top of the sign and video board already approved by the city. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks is scheduled to consider the most recent plan Thursday.
Emanuel’s remarks today came after a neighborhood meeting Monday night organized by community groups, where more than 100 people who live near Wrigley Field packed a meeting hall at a Lakeview police station to voice their concerns and thoughts about the renovation plan.
The meeting was hosted by Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, who said some of the Cubs’ plans “fly in the face of what I believe is being a good neighbor.” Tunney opposes the Cubs’ plan to add signs beyond the two already approved, and has said seven signs ringing the outfield would obscure or block the views from inside the ballpark out to the rooftops – a unique characteristic considered when the city declared Wrigley Field an official city landmark in 2004.
Emanuel today echoed Tunney’s concerns about the Cubs being better neighbors to the community, but again stopped short of saying what specific solution should be reached when it comes to the number of new signs inside the ballpark.
“I think the ownership needs to be a good neighbor. Not talk about a traffic plan, invest in one. Not talk about a safety plan, invest in one. Not talk about the opportunities for kids and families in neighborhoods with investments in the parks areas, but do that,” Emanuel said. “At the same time, they need to upgrade their field.”