Ricketts: Outfield signs vital for Cubs to stay at Wrigley
Chairman said club would 'have to consider moving' without additional signage
CHICAGO -- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said the team will have to consider other options, including moving out of Wrigley Field, if it cannot get approval for more ad signage in the ballpark, including a 6,000-square-foot video scoreboard proposed for left field.
Ricketts discussed the Wrigley renovations at a City Club of Chicago breakfast Wednesday. Ricketts has proposed a $300 million renovation plan for the 99-year-old ballpark and an additional $200 million investment in the community, including the building of a hotel across Clark Street.
The Cubs hope to get $20 million annually from the new outfield advertising. The signage has been opposed by rooftop owners who feel it will block their views, but Julian Green, vice president, communications and community affairs for the team, said Wednesday the latest scoreboard and signage were compromises after meetings with the city and community.
"I'm not sure how anyone is going to stop the signs in the outfield, but if it comes to the point that we don't have the ability to do what we need to do in our outfield, then we're going to have to consider moving," Ricketts said Wednesday. "It's as simple as that."
The Cubs filed their proposal for the entire project -- which includes Wrigley Field, the hotel, a plaza along Clark Street and a revamped restaurant and store at Addison and Sheffield -- with the City of Chicago Plan Commission on Wednesday. The next stage will be zoning meetings and meetings with the city Landmark Commission to make certain designs are up to code. There also will be public hearings, Green said.
Since the Ricketts family purchased the Cubs and Wrigley Field in October 2009, they have said they want to preserve the ballpark, which turns 100 in 2014.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Tom Tunney of the 44th Ward agreed to a framework of the renovation plan, which not only included more advertising, but also more night games.
The proposed video scoreboard will be three times larger than Wrigley Field's center-field scoreboard, and also will have built-in light banks to address a shortage of outfield lighting. The Cubs also want to add a 1,000-square-foot see-through sign in right field, similar to the Toyota sign now in left. Green said the Cubs wanted more but trimmed the amount of advertising in the outfield at the request of the city and alderman.
People on the rooftops behind the left-field bleachers will most likely not be able to see plays in right or center because of the video board. Green said they hope that placement of the board will have a minimal impact on the views.
Drawings of the video scoreboard were not revealed at the Cubs Convention in January because Tunney's office and the city were still discussing their options, Green said.
The additional lights with the scoreboard and advertising will not overwhelm the neighborhood, Green said, adding "it's a leap to suggest that it's Times Square," which has been one of the criticisms from the neighborhood.
"We are listening to the community, we want to be good neighbors," Green said. "At the same time, we want to generate revenue that's required to put back into the team. The proposal we set forth today, we believe it's a compromise, we believe it strikes a balance with the community. At the same time, we hope the community feels this is something that will enhance the quality of life and generate more business for [the] Lakeview [neighborhood]."
The renovation plan and neighborhood redevelopment plans are projected to be completed over a five-year period.
"We have to generate revenue," Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney said at the event. "We have to catch up to our large-market competitors on ballpark revenues, so this project has to work from a financial perspective as well."
The Cubs' renovations would begin this offseason, and the intent was to start with the home clubhouse area. However, Green said that may change depending on how long it takes to get approval of the plan. The home clubhouse would go from 13,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet and run from the left-field foul pole to the home dugout. The plan includes adding two batting tunnels and widening the dugouts.
The players won't be the only ones to benefit. The proposed renovations would increase concession space and the number of restrooms by 45 percent. Among the additions would be a restaurant behind the marquee on Clark and Addison that would be open 365 days per year. The current suites would also be expanded and upgraded.
The architects are making sure the proposed hotel and plaza integrate smoothly with the ballpark, Green said.
"This is a historic restoration," Kenney said. "This is not a renovation. This is not trying to make Wrigley new. It's actually trying to make Wrigley old."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.