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Selling of Wrigley Field renovation plan begins

Published: Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 8:43 a.m. CST

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(MCT) — The Cubs put on a full-court press Saturday, revealing their renovation plans at the team’s convention with a slideshow and presentations from representatives of the marketing, baseball and business departments.

Now the ball is in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s court. The Cubs have spoken to Emanuel’s representatives, and business President Crane Kenney said he believes he’ll be amenable to the new proposal.

“The mayor has been terrific in our conversations about understanding what’s at stake here,” Kenney said. “He appreciates as much as anyone, given we were in his (congressional) district, how important Wrigley Field is. He wants to protect the taxpayers. We understand that.”

Here’s a rundown of some renovation-related issues:

Cubs clubhouse: Kenney said the home clubhouse would be the top priority in the first season of the rebuild. General manager Jed Hoyer compared it to a Double-A clubhouse the first time he visited. “It was eye-opening, to say the least,” he said. Why do the Cubs players need a cushier clubhouse? “We’re paying them a lot of money to preserve their bodies,” Hoyer said. “We’re expecting them to go out and entertain us every single night over the course of the summer. This is the way we should treat them — as first-class athletes.”

Batting tunnels: The Cubs will have batting cages underneath the park for the first time. Unfortunately for the Cubs, an artist’s rendering of the cages had home plate facing the wrong way.

Signage: The Cubs did not say where they would like to place signs, but the outfield is the most lucrative spot in terms of revenue. Purists might complain that more ad signage mars the vista, though the real complaints could come from rooftop owners whose views might be blocked by a large sign, like the Toyota sign in left field.

Patio areas: After creating a premium-priced patio section in the right-field bleachers last year, the Cubs plan to create a similar patio in left field, left of the foul pole.

Triangle area: The plans for a so-called “Triangle building” on the parking lot west of the ballpark was scrapped for an open-air area that can be used for a farmer’s market, ice rink, movie-watching and other activities. Mike Lufrano, executive vice president/community affairs, said “on game days, fans like me with small children, wanted more interactive spaces.” The previous option, which included parking there for 400 vehicles, also was scrubbed.

LED boards: The Cubs will remove the LED board that has been under the center-field scoreboard since 1983. They hope to add one above the wall in left field. Alex Sugarman, vice president of strategy and development, said surveys of season tickets holders showed 80 percent of fans liked the LED board installed last year in right field because of the game-day information and stats.

Jumbotron: The Cubs are considering a mini-Jumbotron. “We found 60 percent would actually be in favor of a video board as long as it didn’t interfere with the historic scoreboard,” Sugarman said. The location would be important, since it probably would block the view of one of the rooftops, unless the Cubs can get an agreement to put one on a rooftop.

Seats: With 50 million pounds of concrete and steel removed and replaced, and new seats installed, will they be properly angled down the lines to watch the game without craning one’s neck? Kenney said the re-pouring of concrete will give them an opportunity to “adjust some of the seat levels and angles toward the field.” The Cubs also will install new handrails.

Posts: One thing that won’t change is the posts that obstruct some fans’ views in the grandstand. Vice president of ballpark operations Carl Rice said “to keep the historic charm and the overhang of the upper deck being so close to the lower deck, we really need to keep all of those columns in place.”

Visitors clubhouse: The visitors clubhouse at Wrigley is the smallest in baseball and regarded by players as the worst. Some feel that’s a competitive advantage for the Cubs. Will the renovations change anything? Kenney said visitors will get new batting tunnels, but “they won’t get the other things.”

Exits: Congestion caused by the lack of entrances/exits should be relieved with a new gate on the west side of Wrigley Field. Currently the only entrance points are in the left- and right-field corners and at the corner of Clark Street and Addison Street.

Restaurants: Vice president of ticket sales Colin Faulkner said the team will introduce a club-level lounge under the press box, where the current patio overlooking Clark and Addison exists. They also plan to open a restaurant in the old administrative offices behind home plate, an area that has been empty for a year, and another behind first base.

Hotel: The hotel planned on the property housing a McDonald’s on Clark Street will be about 175 rooms, Tom Ricketts said. “Nothing overwhelming,” he said. Obviously it’ll be an in-season destination for tourists, but the Cubs also believe it will be good for the neighborhood in the offseason.

Special events: Lufrano said the neighbors “overwhelmingly” want more special events, like the concerts, the Northwestern-Illinois football game and the Winter Classic hockey game. “We want to continue to bring world-class entertainment events to Lakeview, and want to do it in a way that’s sensitive to our community,” Lufrano said.

Elevators: Rice said the Cubs will add six new elevators, in left and right field and behind home plate “to allow fans to be able to move up and down to the upper deck with ease.” Currently there is only one little-used elevator, in left field.

Bathrooms: The Cubs will increase bathroom capacity by 42 percent, they said, including more in the upper deck. “I never thought we’d have focus groups about troughs in the men’s restrooms,” Kenney cracked. He did not say whether the troughs would be replaced, saying fans were “evenly divided” on the issue.

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