Wrigleyville’s alderman sent a letter to the Cubs on Wednesday saying that if the organization wants his support for the plan, it will need to cut by one-third the size of a left field video scoreboard and greatly reduce the size of a requested right field advertising sign.
The 44th Ward alderman said he spoke to Mayor Rahm Emanuel about those and three other specific changes he wants to the Cubs plan before sending the letter to team officials. Asked whether Emanuel indicated if he would back him on those and other changes, Tunney said the mayor “said he thinks he can help, and I think so too.”
The Emanuel administration issued a generic statement about progress being made on the Wrigley project.
In response to Tunney’s letter, Cubs spokesman Julian Green reiterated the team’s position that if the Ricketts family is to invest $300 million in the restoration and modernization of Wrigley Field, plus another $200 million for a hotel across the street, “all elements” of the sprawling plan must be in place.
“Anything less significantly hampers our ability to make a $500 million investment,” Green said.
Tunney said he sent the letter the evening before the Chicago Commission on Landmarks meets to consider the plan because he needed to let his constituents know where he stands.
“There are no ultimatums, but I have to clearly articulate to my community what are the most important aspects of this plan that we need to look at changing,” the alderman said.
It’s the latest move in sometimes rancorous negotiations among Tunney, the Cubs and Emanuel that has played out privately and in public for months.
In addition to reducing the left field Jumbotron from 6,000 square feet to 4,000 square feet and the right field ad board from 1,000 square feet to 650 square feet, Tunney told the Cubs they will need to get rid of a request for a pedestrian bridge over Clark Street that team CEO Tom Ricketts want to connect the ballpark to the hotel.
“I don’t think there’s a functional reason to put a bridge over Clark Street,” Tunney said. “To transport 175 hotel guests?”
In addition, Tunney said he wants the entrance to the hotel moved from Patterson Avenue, a residential street west of Wrigley Field, to either Clark Street or Addison Street. And the alderman said he can’t support a plan for an outdoor patio in the hotel above Patterson where hotel guests could hang out. “Come on, people live 50 feet away from there,” he said.
On Thursday, the Landmarks Commission will consider only the elements of the plan directly connected to the stadium. That includes the two proposed outfield signs and the Cubs’ proposal to use the public right of way to bump out the stadium's exterior outfield walls on Waveland and Sheffield avenues. The Cubs want to use the public land without paying the city for the privilege.
The panel also will look at a plan to replace the Captain Morgan Club on the southeast side of the ballpark with a two-story structure topped by signs and a deck.
Other elements, including the hotel with the pedestrian bridge, will be considered by aldermen later.
Generally, large-scale development projects need a local alderman’s support in order to get traction at City Hall, but Emanuel has been eager to take credit for reaching an agreement with the Ricketts family that does not include public tax money or other subsidies of the kind often found in stadium construction deals around the nation.
Tunney said his voice has been heard in the negotiations, but his letter expresses frustration with the amount of communication he has been getting from the team as he tries to assuage the concerns of residents in the already congested neighborhood full of bars and restaurants.
“I will expect a greater level of responsiveness and consideration from you and the Cubs organization as we finalize the Planned Development documents,” Tunney’s letter reads. “By your own admission, the proposed plans pose serious disruptions to my residents and will dramatically affect their quality of life. We must work together to minimize those disruptions and compose operations plans to manage the additional activity and proposed new uses.”