Altering History: Cubs Give Wrigley an Overhaul

By Maia Moore and Eric Domingo

Posted: Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014

When DePaul professor Justin Staley was asked, what would you say to a 60-year old fan that loves the sentimentality of Wrigley and doesn’t want it to change?

“As someone that is 60-years old, you realize that things do change," he said. "Even masterpieces of art need to be upgraded and up kept and in a lot of ways it [Wrigley Field] is a piece of art."

Although Wrigley Field has been in Chicago since 1907, Wrigley Field’s bleachers are being torn down as part of a four-year, $575 million renovation project.

Stanley said he believes that the renovations are a good thing because it will benefit fans and players.

“If they want to start signing people, they need to start upgrading locker rooms, training, batting cages and things like that,” Stanley said. “I think it is a wise investment for the community and ultimately it will be for the Cubs.”

The first stage of the renovations includes the demolition of the bleachers in the left- and right-field, where 300 seats will be added in the bleachers. Also, more concession stands, seven electronic signs and more room for spectators on the concourse will be added to add for more business opportunities and to enhance fan experience.

The first stage renovations is expected to be complete by April 6, 2015, the Chicago Cubs regular-season home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Although the Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved the renovations to Wrigley on July 11, the renovations have rooftop owners angered because the electronic signs are expected to block the rooftop owners businesses along Waveland and Sheffield avenues, violating a contract agreement between the Cubs and rooftop owners.

The signs are expected to block the view from the rooftop owners’ perches that violates a 2004 contract, which the rooftop owners pay 17 percent of their revenue to the Cubs. The businesses pay the Cubs about $4 million annually.

Rooftop businesses like: The Cubby Bear, Vines and Sports Corner pay the Cubs and are part of the Wrigleyville Rooftops association that is fighting to decrease the number of signs the Cubs plan to add.

“If these signs were to be erected, the blockage would absolutely violate our 20-year contract, just as they violate the spirit of Wrigley’s long-standing landmark status,” Wrigleyville Rooftops association spokesman Ryan McLaughlin said.

According to what McLaughlin told the Tribune, every rooftop owner supports a plan that’s currently on the table resulting in two signs that mitigate blockage, generates revenue to modernize Wrigley Field and takes litigation off the table.

A July 10 decision by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, which was a 6-0 vote in favor of the Cub’s plan, gives the team a clear advantage in the dispute with rooftop owners.

Cubs community relations spokesperson Julian Green told the Chicago Tribune that they would continue to negotiate in hopes of avoiding a lawsuit, but, “if not, we are prepared to defend our right to expand Wrigley Field.”

“The signage we got approved … is the signage that we’re going to move forward with. Period,” Green said.

Centerfield will be renovated after next season. Other stages of the renovations are expected to include: clubhouse upgrades, batting cages, new restrooms, restaurants, retail areas for fans and a hotel and open-air plaza adjacent to the ballpark. Different phases of construction will be completed throughout multiple offseasons.

While change can be seen as a force for good, Wrigleyville native Mick Swanson is on the fence about Wrigley Field’s upcoming facelift.

Swanson said he thinks “change is good sometimes, but I don’t think change is necessary here.”

He was then told about the $575 million budget for the project. He was indeed surprised and believed that the Cubs could’ve used those funds to build a winning team, rather than taking away the bleachers and the memories that are attached to them.

Wrigley Field just celebrated its 100th anniversary this past season. This historic icon has created memories for millions of fans. Now it’s modernized renovations are taking away the classic ballpark feel many have come to know and love.

“There is a desire to keep Wrigley what it is because it is an icon,” Anthony Krautman, a DePaul University sports economic professor and lifelong Cubs fan, said.

He’s been an admirer of Wrigley Field and follower of the cubs since he was 17.

He describes Wrigley as a “religious experience” and that the structure is a classic representation of history and embodies baseball.

Krautman was nostalgic as he talked about Wrigley in his early years. He attended his first Cub’s game when he was in college, which was in the 1970s, and remembers when the struggling Cubs faced an experienced Pittsburgh Pirates.

“The Pirates were very good and the Cubs were very terrible,” Krautmann said.

He explained how his seats were disappointing because there were pillars blocking his view, but he was still ecstatic to watch the Cubbies.

“You’re so excited because you watch them on television,” Krautmann said. “It was quite a memory.”

Krautman expressed how Wrigley Field holds some stock in his family.

“I have people that come from out of town that have been Cubs fans their whole lives,” Krautmann said. “The feeling they get can’t really be put into words.”

Although Krautmann understands that baseball is about bringing in money and fans, which is why he believes the Cubs are renovating Wrigley in the first place, he explains why he believes some fans aren’t thrilled about the changes.

“When you start to mess with that, you’re taking a chance that you might hurt some of your fan base,” Krautmann said.

This classic stadium houses more than just seats for fans to watch their favorite team. Wrigley Field holds memories within it’s walls for many people. Like Krautmann, many Chicagoans have had their first professional baseball experience at Wrigley. The new renovations are problematic not only to local business owners but the people who can relay their own personal history to it.

“I love the bleachers at Wrigley,” Wrigleyville resident Saint Lovett said. “I’m a die hard Cubs fan. The bleachers are one of most unique things in all of baseball because it’s general admission and there is always something going on in the bleachers. It’s a great time.”

“I have this one bleacher memory that I’ll never forget. It was a game I saw a few years ago and Sammy Sosa was playing. He hit a home run right into the bleachers and the ball was so close to me. Amazing moment,” Lovett recalled.

The stadium may have not been in its prime before the renovations started but according to fans, like Krautmann, the uncomfortable bleacher seats and ballpark aroma of beer and stale peanuts add to Wrigley’s historic value.

Here in a world ever so changing, a person could come and sit in a place that’d seen so much history and feel apart of something bigger than themselves.

Staley made an interesting point in the grand scheme of these Wrigley renovations and the impact of them on the stadium’s overall history.

“I mean it’s not like they’re raising it and they’re making a new Yankees stadium. They’re keeping the soul of Wrigley intact and I think that is the most important thing. And when you think of the other alternatives, which is building another stadium in Rosemont or whatever, this is a far better option than those.

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