Will the Wrigley renovations ever move forward?


April 5, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view of a new digital scoreboard in right field before the opening day game between the Chicago Cubs and the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

With the disappointing 2013 season in the rearview mirror, most Cubs fans are focused solely on the ongoing managerial search following the dismissal of Dale Sveum. But there is other news in the Cubs world and it ranks much higher in importances that the man managing the club – it’s the ongoing discussions over the proposed Wrigley Field renovations.

Last winter, the Ricketts family announced details of its plan to renovate the near-century old ballpark, bringing the Friendly Confines into the 21st century. Increased signage, a wider, more modern concourse, a nearby hotel and outdoor patio seating was all announced as part of the plan. Perhaps the most crucial aspect – as well as the most controversial – was the massive signage that would be installed behind the right field bleachers and the video board that was to be installed behind the left field bleachers in order to not only make the stadium more modern but to raise much-needed advertising revenue.

Therein lies the problem. The rooftop owners, who are in the middle of a contract with the organization, are not happy about the proposed signage. Why should their views (and businesses) suffer because the Cubs decide to install the signage and video board? Especially when they are in the middle of a contract through which they share revenue with the Cubs.

Previously, Ricketts set a loose deadline of Opening Day 2013 to have negotiations wrapped up in order to begin the renovation process: ordering materials, hiring contractors and the likes. However, the ongoing debacle between the Cubs and the rooftop owners dragged on into July and are still a major point of concern for the Ricketts family moving forward. However, the Chicago City Council and Alderman Tom Tunney approved the deal mid-season. This included a massive increase in signage both inside and outside Wrigley Field – some 45,000 square feet which is roughly double what currently exists.

The rooftop owners still have not said they won’t sue the organization if the video board and signage are installed – which could throw yet another wrench into renovation plans. These issues have already made the completion, or even the construction, of a desperately-needed new home clubhouse increasingly unlikely by 2014 Opening Day – something the team was trying to do. Instead, this offseason, it will largely be unnoticeable infrastructure work that must be completed before major work can be completed.

It doesn’t matter who the Cubs hire as manager. Their revenue streams will pale in comparison to other organizations playing in updated facilities, the training areas for the team will continue to be outdated and another losing season awaits us – and will continue to be so – until this renovation really takes off. The Chicago Cubs cannot win in an outdated stadium. Until the organization and rooftops settle their respective differences, the Cubs will never be a World Series contender.