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WRIGLEY

Matt Michaels/MEDILL

The Cubs recently announced plans to renovate a portion of Wrigley Field.


Preservationists remain mum on Wrigley proposal – for now

by Matt Michaels
Jan 19, 2012


BLEACHERS

Matt Michaels/MEDILL

The right field bleachers may soon be transformed into a Budweiser Patio.

Iconic Wrigley Field has served as a lightning rod for controversy since long before it obtained Chicago Landmark status in 2004.

Whether it was the addition of lights for night games in 1988, the batter’s-eye restaurant in 2005, or the Toyota sign of 2010, architecture purists and baseball fans alike have debated changes made to the nation’s second oldest ballpark.

Storm clouds could soon gather around the “Friendly Confines” again. The team has announced plans to add a patio and 75-foot LED sign to the right field bleacher section in time for the 2012 season.

The new Budweiser Patio will hold up to 150 people and will offer fans a “rooftop experience,” according to the Cubs. While the LED board won’t have replay capabilities, it will provide key features, such as the pitch count, player pictures and statistics.

But until the organization seeks approval from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, those with a vested interested in the historic stadium are reserving judgment on the changes.

“No one has seen anything but the picture in the paper, so there is no way to comment beyond what was in the press,” said Lisa DiChiera, director of advocacy for Landmarks Illinois. “Until we really see the plan in detail, it’s hard to understand what they are talking about.”

Peter Strazzabosco, a spokesman for Chicago’s Department of Housing and Economic Development, which oversees the city’s Historic Preservation Division, said the Cubs have yet to contact him about the project.

“We won’t be able to determine how the proposal will impact Wrigley’s landmark status until the Cubs submit something,” Strazzabosco said.

The renovations are not expected to affect any of the ballpark’s landmark features, which include the ivy covered brick walls and center field scoreboard, so the team is not required to submit its plans to the landmarks commission.

Yet, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, the organization is prepared to ask the Commission on Chicago Landmarks to green light the project in case the mayor’s office insists on an approval.

“It makes sense for the Cubs to make nice and ask – especially if they think they can get fairly easy approval,” said Neil deMause, a senior editor for Baseball Prospectus and co-author of “Field of Schemes.” “You win more Rahms with honey than with vinegar.”

However, it will take more than a city approval to win over those who bleed Cubby blue.

“I’m a traditionalist like a lot of Cub fans, so I don’t want drastic changes,” said Scott Semenek, a 12-year season ticket holder and longtime Wrigleyville resident. “As long as they preserve the old-time feel of Wrigley, I’ll be happy with the changes.”

Chicago architecture organizations, such as Preservation Chicago, also plan on taking a wait-and-see approach.

“If the changes made are respectful, enhance the character of the park and make it a more fun place to go, we will support the renovations,” said Jonathan Fine, the organization’s executive director. “But until the changes are brought before the commission, we will wait to comment.”