Wrigley field renovation: Will big billboards make bad neighbors?
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I’m in Chicago checking out some stadium seats for a Cubs baseball game — the thing is, these seats aren’t actually part of Wrigley Field. They are across the street on top of a private rooftop. At the height of baseball season, it can cost about $100 to watch a game from here. But watching trains go by might be all fans can do from here if the Cubs put up two big billboards in the outfield.
The team’s owners, the Ricketts family, have a $300 million proposal to make structural updates while preserving Wrigley’s trademark ivy walls and old, manual scoreboard.
Beth Murphy owns a building across from Wrigley. She says theres’s no need to block a neighborhood institution.
“There is a reason that the Cubs pull when they have losing season — and we’ve had quite a few in a row now. There’s a reason. And I believe it’s a synergy between the neighborhood and the ball park,” says Murphy.
The Cubs say they’re just trying to fund the ballpark’s renovation without using any taxpayer dollars.
“All the rooftops are saying is they want to continue to make money selling tickets to a product for which they have to make not one penny of investment,” says Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for the Ricketts family.
The rooftop owners do give some money to the Cubs, about 17 percent a year. But these billboards would drive them out of business. So the neighbors are suggesting a series of digital rooftop signs with all revenue going to the Cubs and the city.
“Their plan would sound good if it were at all based in reality to have seven electronic billboards put up in the Lakeview community, sort of giving it a Time Square feel,” says Culloton.
He says the Cubs’ advertising partners are more interested in being in the park than out. But, the Cubs haven’t entirely rejected the rooftop idea. Culloton says the team is still open to ideas, it’s just that things need to get moving, fast. The Cubs expect to have a done deal by the middle of February.