After Four Years of Negotiations, Another Wrigley Renovation May Be At Hand

Wrigley Field - Chicago, Illinois - March, 2006 - 016a

We don’t cover Wrigley Field (1080 West Addison Street) renovations often enough on this blog. The main reason is that anything involving the ballpark is so tangled in politics, infighting, and special interests. 90% of it is taking heads, and 10% is actual development news. Plus, Wrigley renovations are one of the few urban development issues that the local television stations actually cover well.

Still, today’s news from City Hall is certainly worth reporting, especially for those who managed not to see it on every TV newscast, the front page of both big newspapers, or hear it on the radio.

The ball club and the city have put together the outline of a deal for a major renovation and expansion at Wrigley Field.

The team’s new owners will get the giant video screen they’d been pushing for in left field, and an 800-square-foot sign in right field. That is something that nearby rooftop bar owners have been worried about, fearing a sign would block their views of the playing field. The bar owners are in the middle of a 20-year contract with the Cubs that is supposed to guarantee their sight lines in exchange for 17% of their revenues.

A press release from the mayor’s office seems to indicate that those views will be preserved, but doesn’t spell out how. The sign proposed for right field would be 800-square-feet, and instead of being a flat square surface, would be more of a 3D logo, like the current Toyota sign over left field. However, the new sign would be twice as large. The city believes that expanding Wrigley Field eastward would help mitigate its visual impact.

Proposed for left field is a 5,000-square-foot video screen. The city believes its visual impact will also be muted by allowing the Cubs to expand Wrigley Field ten feet to the north, removing a lane from West Waveland Avenue.

Also part of the potential half-billion dollar deal with the city:

  • A new 85-foot-tall, 175-room hotel and office building complex across the street where the McDonald’s is right now
  • Billboards on the south and west sides of the hotel and office building
  • Four large video screens in the plaza between the hotel and the stadium
  • A pedestrian bridge across North Clark Street linking the hotel with the baseball park
  • An LED ribbon around the inside of the stadium
  • A second-story addition to the Captain Morgan Club building on Addison.
  • Doubling the size of the off-site parking
  • Replacing the $6 CTA ballpark shuttle with a free shuttle bus for remote parking
  • New traffic lights on Clark Street
  • An additional 10 night games, bringing the total to 40 during the regular season
  • Six games starting at 3:05pm on Fridays
  • Street fairs during weekend games on Sheffield Avenue during the summer
  • Four concerts per season
  • Beer sales until the end of the 7th inning, or 10:30pm
  • Additional security outside the stadium
  • Money for school playgrounds
  • Miscellaneous money for neighborhood projects

Missing from the plan is a previously-proposed parking garage, which the neighborhood objected to.

Although the entire plan still has to go through the usual bureaucratic obstacle course, the mayor’s office and the ball club hope to begin construction in the fall. That assumes the process isn’t derailed by lawsuits.

The last time Wrigley Field was expanded was in 2006 when its northern and eastern walls were moved out eight feet. This removed part of the public sidewalks on West Waveland and North Sheffield Avenues, which the city sold to the Cubs for $900,000.

The Cubs’ owners are not asking for any city money outright for the half-billion dollar project. But they are asking for a property tax break under the city’s landmarks ordinance.

The city has also agreed to lobby the FAA for a no-fly zone around Wrigley Field to keep advertising planes away. It remains to be seen if there will be an exception for advertising blimps, which are often sponsored by big-name sponsors with ties to Major League Baseball. If so, Mayor Emmanuel could be wading into a free speech fight. It also remains to be seen if Rahm has the power to get a no-fly zone at all, considering that immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mayor Daley tried to get a no-fly bubble placed around downtown Chicago, and was turned down by the federal government.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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