Ricketts: It's time to move forward
Cubs chairman to submit revised expansion plan for Wrigley Field
CHICAGO -- The Ricketts family, which has delayed its efforts to renovate 100-year-old Wrigley Field while negotiating with the rooftop owners, now plans to go ahead with the ballpark's restoration and add additional signage in the outfield.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts sent a letter and video to Cubs fans late Wednesday, saying they are going to "put the team and the fans first."
Ricketts said they will submit a revised expansion plan to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, asking for approval of additions to the original proposal to add several signs and a revised seating configuration in the outfield. If approved, Ricketts said they are prepared to begin construction.
The new outfield signs will provide an additional revenue source to help fund other parts of the restoration, Ricketts said. The revised expansion plan will include additional seating and open spaces in the Budweiser Bleachers, including new group terraces in right and left field and enclosed hospitality areas. They are also asking for new outfield lights that will reduce shadows, allowing fly balls to be lit from both front and back. All lighting will be directed inside the ballpark and not outside to the community.
Also, four additional LED signs of up to 650 square feet, and one additional 2,400-square foot videoboard in right field will be added to the ballpark.
The Cubs also have adjusted the design modifications for the clubhouse. Currently, the Cubs players utilize approximately 11,000 square feet, and the original expansion plan increased the clubhouse size to 19,000 square feet. The new plan further expands the clubhouse to 30,000 square feet and it will be located beneath the new outdoor plaza.
The visitor's clubhouse also will be expanded, and the home and visiting bullpens will be relocated from the field to an area under the expanded Budweiser Bleachers.
As part of the bleacher expansion, the proposed video scoreboard in left field will be reduced to 3,990-square feet, which is smaller than the one approved by the Chicago City Council and the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in 2013.
"We can't delay any longer," Ricketts said in the video. "The time to build a winner is now."
The video shows Ricketts in the Cubs' home clubhouse, demonstrating how players use a batting tee to warm up between innings.
"I'm not saying Wrigley Field is the reason the Chicago Cubs haven't won a World Championship in more than 100 years," Ricketts said. "But I am saying it's time to invest in Wrigley Field and to do the things our competitors do."
In July 2013, the city council approved the Cubs' $500 million plan, and did so again last December when the proposal was modified to include an expanded Wrigley Field footprint farther into Sheffield and Waveland Avenues, changes to the planned hotel, and placement of an arch over Clark Street rather than a pedestrian bridge.
The Ricketts, who are privately financing the project, had previously said they would not begin large portions of the renovation plan until the Wrigleyville Rooftop Association agreed it would not sue the team over blocked views. But the rooftop owners have made it clear that despite the city's approval and the Cubs' contractual rights, they plan to file lawsuits to stop the renovation and expansion plans.
"We've spent endless hours negotiating with the rooftop businesses," Ricketts said. "We've gotten nowhere in our talks with them to settle this dispute. It has to end. It's time to move forward."
Ricketts said they hope to avoid "going to the courthouse" to deal with the rooftop owners.
"Being unable to improve our park puts us in the hole by tens of millions of dollars every year," Ricketts said. "Our competitors in the Central Division don't suffer that restriction. They can put up signs in the outfield and create other revenue to invest in their baseball teams."
The elements approved last year include an open-air plaza outside Wrigley with ability to host an ice rink in the winter and add farmers markets in the summer, plus family activities and other community events.
They've also proposed a 175-room hotel in partnership with Starwood, plus a 40,000-square-foot Chicago Athletic Club, retail and food and beverage options for fans and for the community.
Also approved last year was restoration of Wrigley's facade, replacement of aging concrete and steel, the addition of new club space and group amenities and additional restrooms and concessions throughout the ballpark.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field, the second-oldest ballpark in the Major Leagues.
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.