You walk through the turnstile and concourse until you see the ballpark itself. The grass is the lush green that reminds one of spring and, more importantly, baseball.
You take your seat down the third base line and watch as the players go through their pre-game rituals: stretching, running, playing catch.
You take a moment to check the flags to see which way the wind is blowing, then turn to look at the outfield wall – yep, the ivy is there. The public address announcer’s voice blares through the speakers:
“Ladies and Gentelmen, welcome to beautiful Wrigley Field at Rosemont Park, the new home of the Chicago Cubs.
You look out past centerfield and see the new state-of-the-art video scoreboard. But what you really notice is what’s missing: the rooftops across the street. That’s because there are no rooftops. Instead, you hear the constant roar of airplanes flying overhead. That’s because you’re not at Clark and Addison anymore. You’re in Rosemont, next to O’Hare International Airport.
Maybe now, yes, but with all the jabber coming from both sides of the Wrigley Field development debate on the north side of Chicago these days, the idea of travelling 14 miles west to see the Cubs may not be as much of a fantasy as it once was.
In one corner is Cubs owner Tom Ricketts. He and his family are eager to begin rehabilitation and development on Wrigley and the surrounding area. They gave themselves a self-imposed April 1 deadline to reach an agreement with the City of Chicago on a $500 million self-funded project. The checklist includes a new clubhouse, a video screen behind the bleachers, new restrooms (they should start here – have you ever been inside a Wrigley restroom sharing a trough with a bunch of beer-soaked fans?), and a new boutique hotel across the street where now stands a McDonald’s (no great loss here).
The Cubs claim that the project will create over 2,000 new jobs.
In the other corner are the rooftop owners, the residents of the neighborhood and the local alderman, Tom Tunney. They contend that any renovations, along with the addition of more night games and concerts, would add to an already existent congestion problem around the area. In addition, the rooftop owners say that any signage that goes up ought to be erected on the rooftops rather than in the ballpark, as it would detract from the view of the game.
Through all of this, the mayor of Rosemont, Brad Stephens, floated a proposal that would give the Cubs 25 acres of land near the airport to build a new ballpark with parking and all the modern amenities like badly-needed skyboxes, as well as carte blanche on signage and advertising.
The likelihood of the Cubs actually leaving Wrigleyville and moving is almost nil at this point. One source said this week that from an engineering standpoint, the project isn’t even feasible. In addition, there’s the question of what would Ricketts do with the empty ballpark at Clark and Addison if he does choose the move the team.
With the Cubs not expected to contend this season on the field (a second consecutive 100-loss season isn’t out of the question), so if nothing else, the political ramblings are at least keeping them in the news until Opening Day.
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