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Chicago council approves $500M Wrigley renovations

Published: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 1:02 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 1:04 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP)
FILE -This file photo shows an artist rendering provided May 1, 2013 by the Chicago Cubs showing planned renovations at Wrigley Field. On Wednesday, July 24, 2013, Chicago City Council aldermen are set to vote on proposed renovations at the historic ballpark. Under the deal, the Chicago Cubs agreed not to erect outfield signs in addition to a Jumbotron in left field and another sign in right. (AP Photo/Courtesy the Chicago Cubs, File)
Caption
(Charles Rex Arbogast)
FILE - In this July 11, 2013 file photo, the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field are visible during the fifth inning of a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals in Chicago. The Cubs are seeking to build a left-field Jumbotron at the field while adding another sign in right field. On Wednesday, July 24, 2013, Chicago City Council aldermen are set to vote on a proposed renovations of historic the ballpark. Under the deal, the Cubs agreed not to erect outfield signs in addition to a Jumbotron in left field and another sign in right. They also agreed to indefinitely postpone a planned bridge over Clark Street. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
Caption
(Paul Beaty)
FILE - In this May 1, 2013 file photo, Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts speaks in Chicago about proposed renovations at Wrigley Field. On Wednesday, July 24, 2013, Chicago City Council aldermen are set to vote on proposed renovations at the historic ballpark. Under the deal, the Cubs agreed not to erect outfield signs in addition to a Jumbotron in left field and another sign in right. They also agreed to indefinitely postpone a planned bridge over Clark Street. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)

CHICAGO – Chicago's City Council gave final approval Wednesday to a $500 million renovation of historic Wrigley Field that includes its first massive Jumbotron, improved facilities for the players in the bowels of the 99-year-old ballpark and a hotel across the street.

Under the plan, the Chicago Cubs would erect a 5,700-square-foot electronic Jumbotron in left field above the ivy-covered outfield walls that is roughly three times as large as the iconic manual scoreboard in center field, as well as another large advertising sign in right field.

The Cubs, which waited decades to install lights at Wrigley, have been pushing for renovations since the Ricketts family bought the team in 2009. After an effort to get public help for the project failed, the Cubs said the team would fund the entire renovation — but it needed the signs and the advertising revenue they would generate to help pay for it.

The City Council's voice vote in favor of the plan came a day after the council's zoning committee signed off on the deal with the blessing of the alderman whose ward includes the ballpark. Alderman Tom Tunney's support was considered crucial to the project that Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants approved. Tunney initially said the signs would harm the quality of life in the neighborhood around Wrigley, but he signed off on the deal after winning concessions from the Cubs. Among them was an agreement not to erect any outfield signs in addition to the Jumbotron and right field sign and to indefinitely postpone a proposed bridge over the adjoining Clark Street.

Still looming is whether the Jumbotron and right field sign will disrupt the views of the rooftops that surround two sides of the ballpark. The owners of the rooftops, who have a contract with the Cubs to share a chunk of their revenue with the team, have said repeatedly that they might file suit if the Cubs put up anything that cuts into their views.

The signs have easily been the most contentious part of the project because erecting them could trigger lawsuits from the rooftop owners and change the look of the ballpark that has become beloved as a link to baseball's history.

During public hearings, many fans told city officials that it was time for the ballpark to change. They said if the team was to continue to attract fans, particularly younger ones, it had to include the Jumbotron and other amenities that are common in every other Major League stadium. The back-and-forth became so heated that at one point, the team's chairman, Tom Ricketts, floated the idea of moving the team to another location where it could get the amenities it needs to compete with other teams.

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