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03/03/2005 10:00 AM ET
Cubs announce Wrigley expansion plans
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs released new illustrations of proposed Wrigley Field bleacher improvements and a new building planned for the parking lot west of the ballpark.

The team and the city of Chicago reached agreement this week on these designs, which reflect four years of input from community residents and City officials.

"We have worked hard to come up with a solution to meet the needs of the Cubs and the concerns of our neighbors and the city," said Andy MacPhail, Cubs president and CEO. "We hope our continuing investment in our ballpark will help sustain the future of Wrigley Field."

The improved Wrigley campus will enhance the fan experience inside and outside the ballpark. The new design replicates Wrigley's famed ivy-covered outfield walls on the bleacher exterior and adds an area where pedestrians can peer into the park through open fencing on Sheffield Avenue, which will replace an existing metal gate.

Landscaping, sidewalk and exterior upgrades around the entire park complement the new bleacher entrance at Sheffield and Waveland avenues. New amenities such as bathrooms, concessions and additional exits will help update the ballpark's aging bleachers.

The new addition includes wheelchair-accessible seats in the bleachers for the first time.

"From the outset, community leaders have been consistent in their hope this expansion could be accomplished without having exposed columns in the sidewalk," said Mike Lufrano, Cubs vice president of community affairs. "We are able to accommodate this goal while achieving a classic look for Wrigley's exterior and help the area around the park look better year-round."

Since the Cubs first proposed expanding the bleachers in 2001, several changes have been made in response to input from neighbors and City planning officials. The proposed exposed columns on sidewalks on Waveland and Sheffield avenues have been eliminated. The cross aisle at the rear of the bleachers has been lowered to help enhance views of the neighborhood.

The original 2,600-seat expansion has been scaled back to 1,790 new seats, and there will be an additional 100-person restaurant in the centerfield "Batter's Eye."

A multi-purpose building complementing the classic look of Wrigley Field replaces the car wash and former donut shop on underutilized land west of the ballpark. Players will benefit from state-of-the-art batting cages, indoor pitchers mounds and other facilities located underground.

Fans will have access to a themed restaurant, additional restroom facilities and an open-air pedestrian parkway available to the public on non-game days between the new building and Wrigley.

Fans and neighbors also will benefit from wider sidewalks on Clark Street, a multi-level parking facility with parking available for residents and businesses on non-game days, and modern lighting outside the bleachers to enhance aesthetics and safety year-round.

"The addition of open space and green space around the ballpark will significantly improve the look of Wrigley Field from the outside," Lufrano said. "The new parking spaces respond to an issue we've heard consistently in our community."

The Cubs are committed to financing the construction themselves, a rarity among modern professional sports teams. The agreement reached Monday includes a proposal for the Cubs to pay the city $3.1 million to resolve a dispute regarding ownership of a piece of land west of Wrigley, and for the right to build over the sidewalk on Waveland and Sheffield avenues.

The city also would receive $250,000 toward a new campus park at Blaine School and $400,000 for a stoplight at the intersection of Clark Street and Waveland Avenue.

The new design will be presented at a community meeting March 8 and requires approval from the Chicago Plan Commission, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and the Chicago City Council. If approved, construction would begin after the 2005 season.

Mark McGuire, Cubs executive vice president of business operations, has led the redesign effort. The bleacher improvement project was designed by HOK-Sport and incorporates recommendations of nationally renowned local renovation architect John Vinci, and prominent landscaping design firm, Peter Lindsay Schaudt Landscape Architecture, Inc. It also incorporates recommendations of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois.

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