Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010
Updated 10:22 PM
By Patrick Mooney
Wrigley Field is supposed to feel timeless, though the building cant last forever. There is steel and concrete at Clark and Addison, and sketches and spreadsheets surrounding future projects.
What will Wrigley Field look like by 2014? Approaching its 100th anniversary, no one can really give a definitive answer, but everyone will have opinions.
Chairman Tom Ricketts isnt certain how long the Cubs can continue just patching up Wrigley Field each offseason without a comprehensive plan for renovation. But he also doesnt see that point in the future where it becomes too costly to remain at the stadium.
Ricketts wants to make sure that the ballpark is there for another 50 years. The Cubs dont want you to call it a mall, but here are some of the Triangle Building elements under consideration: hotel; restaurants; concessions; baseball museum; merchandise shop; parking garage; and television studio.
A renovated Wrigley Field would include a new retail and entertainment complex adjacent to the stadium. (Illustrations courtesy of the Cubs.)As outlined Tuesday by team president Crane Kenney, it would include a retractable roof over the space between Wrigley Field and the new facility, which has already spent years on the drawing board.
The development just west of the stadium, shaped by the streets at Clark and Waveland is central to the argument being made by the Ricketts family. The Cubs gathered local labor and business leaders at a news conference Tuesday hoping to frame it.
The Cubs estimate their stadium renovation plan which calls for the state to float 200 million in bonds and the Ricketts family to match 200 million more in private investment around the neighborhood will create 1,000 construction jobs and hundreds more permanent jobs.
Their research firm projects millions more in annual sales tax and property-tax revenues for local government, as well as a 66 million boost each year in regional tourism. Their message is that the economic activity generated by a reinvestment back into Wrigley Field will more than offset the money paid by fans buying Cubs tickets taken from the amusement-tax pool.
The plans unveiling came at a time when the mayor is about to retire (Richard M. Daley) and the governor was just narrowly elected (Pat Quinn) and the state could soon be facing a 15 billion budget deficit.
Ricketts will continue briefing political aides and is open-minded about alternative measures. But he said that the Cubs are not considering personal seat licenses as a way to raise funds.
Ultimately, we have to work with the state to come to some sort of conclusion that works (and guarantees the bonds), Ricketts said. The increasing amusement-tax revenues should support the bonds pretty well. To go to the markets, we might need a state agency to issue them for us, so we have to keep working with the state to come to that final answer.
The citys other professional teams have benefited from government involvement but the concept of committing future revenues at this moment to the Cubs and not schools, hospitals, and police and fire departments has been criticized extensively online and in editorials.
Ricketts who limited his comments to reporters last season but has been on a media tour the past several days will keep trying to change public perception.
The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority operates U.S. Cellular Field, while the Chicago Park District owns Soldier Field. But the Cubs are using historic Fenway Park with its space limitations and Yawkey Way pedestrian area as a model.
The Cubs estimate that they devote less than half the total square footage to baseball operations (14,515) that other teams use at new stadiums (30,000). Kenney explained that engineers are studying ways to build new clubhouses underneath the field, as well as add battings tunnels and training rooms during a gradual process over several offseasons.
The first year you would dig this out, (put) in a slurry wall (and) cover it back up and play, Kenney said, pointing to an area in left field. The next year you would re-excavate it and youd put a concrete floor and ceiling on it and then cover it up. (As) theyre playing on top of it, youre building out all of this stuff underneath.
The Cubs need to move their administrative offices and storage space and make room for food preparation. There are concepts for rooftop patios throughout the second deck, like the one that currently sits at the front of the building.
Ricketts is a co-founder of Incapital LLC, a securities and investment banking firm that has grown into one of the countrys largest bond underwriterstraders. He said that this wasnt the plan all along as his family explored buying the team and the stadium and a stake in Comcast SportsNet from Tribune Co.
Its a strategy crafted after a first year of ownership spent studying the teams operations. The essential idea is that the bricks-and-ivy views wont change. But once you leave your seat, youll get the modern conveniences found everywhere else. With three million fans a year, the threat of moving isnt credible.
Thats not an option for the Ricketts family at this point, the chairman said. Were staying at Wrigley Field. Were doing everything we can to preserve it.
The proposal to upgrade Wrigley Field and its surroundings calls for wider concourses and rooftop patios throughout the second deck. (Illustrations courtesy of the Cubs.)
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.