Chicago’s Wrigley Field turns 100 years old this year. To many neighbors and architectural historians, however, the ballpark’s centennial celebrations are an afterthought to the real action: the years-long debate over how to update the landmark park without corrupting its beloved 1914 character.
At a community meeting Monday, Lakeview residents expressed concern over proposals including five new outfield signs and two video scoreboards. The plan goes to the Landmarks Commission on Thursday, but local Alderman Tom Tunney said he will not support it.
In 2013 Chicago’s Landmarks Commission laid out guidelines for Wrigley upgrades, which its owners and operators maintain are necessary to help pay off structural renovations and modernize the country’s second-oldest ballpark. But opposition has been strong from wary neighbors and the owners of adjacent rooftops, who say new signage will kill their business renting out their ersatz outfield seats. The plan debuted this week differs from the blueprint approved by Landmarks last year.
Repeated delays and neighborhood opposition have scuttled plans from owner Tom Ricketts to add a Starwood hotel, 40,000-square-foot gym and open-air plaza in the areas surrounding Wrigley Field.
Residents of Wrigleyville now face a dilemma: call Ricketts’ bluff over moving the team to suburban Rosemont, risking the loss of an economic engine, or cave on design guidelines they say are necessary to preserve the character and livelihood of their prosperous North Side community.
Unsuccessful bids for development around Wrigley Field go back years. In 2010 developers proposed a mixed-use complex wrapping around the southeast corner of Clark and Addison Streets that never happened.
Last year AN contributor Edward Lifson hosted a discussion at Moe’s Cantina in Chicago with Elva Rubio, Bill Savage, Dan Meis, and Jonathan Eig “to discover why design matters (even if it might not help the Cubs win the World Series).”