It was bound to happen sooner or later. As much as everyone loves Wrigley, you knew that it was a matter of time before it would be gutted and rebuilt. Now it seems like we are getting closer and closer to that point. Recent news articles have discussed the possible sale of Wrigley Field to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. According to its website, the ISFA is a government unit created by the Illinois General Assembly in 1987 for the purpose of constructing and renovating sports stadiums for professional sports teams in Illinois. The ISFA’s Board of Directors is jointly appointed by the Mayor of Chicago and the Governor of Illinois, with the Governor also responsible for appointing the Chairman of the Board. It was our current governor, and huge Cubs fan, Rod Blagojevich who first floated the idea of the state buying Wrigley Field. The state would buy Wrigley, renovate it, and lease it to the new owners (yet to be determined).
According to the Sun Times;
"The Wrigley renovation would be financed by bonds retired by increased stadium revenues — everything from naming rights, sponsorships and concessions to clubs seats and additional skyboxes. The Tribune Co. would get a higher price for the stadium because ISFA can issue tax-exempt, longer-term bonds at a reduced interest rate.
Former Governor JimThompson, head of the ISFA, described the arrangement as a sales tax version of tax-increment-financing (TIF). But, instead of freezing property taxes at existing levels and using the growth for business subsidies and infrastructure improvements within the district, the sales tax increment generated by the stadium renovation would be used to modernize Wrigley."
The ISFA needs the city to also relax the landmark status granted to parts of Wrigley Field. The landmark status, given to Wrigley in 2004, covers the ivy-covered brick walls, marquee, grandstands, and manually operated scoreboard. Wrigley would then be gutted and modernized.
Crane Kenney, the Tribune Co. senior vice president who oversees the Cubs, added, "If you’re going to restore and maintain the facility, you’re going to have to take parts of it down and rebuild it, just like we rebuilt the bleachers two years ago. Landmarking authorization doesn’t let you do that."
If all of this (and it’s a big if), goes through, brace yourselves, the Cubs would probably play the 2010 season at (Gasp!) U.S. Cellular Field on the south side of Chicago!! Can you handle that??!!
Let’ s be honest for a moment. Like Crane Kenney says, the renovation would be similar to the bleacher renovations a few years ago. I had my doubts about the bleacher renovations, but they did a great job and it doesn’t look like they changed a thing. I go to Wrigley Field a lot, as all of you know. I love that ballpark like it’s my home, but there is a time when it’s time to do a little remodeling. That time was probably when chunks of concrete started falling from the upper deck in 2004. It happened at least three different times that season and the Cubs were required to hire structural engineers to inspect Wrigley. Shortly after the inspections, the upper decks were refitted with netting that made it look like a cheesy Red Lobster. The concourses are cramp, there are some weird odors, and the facilities are out of date. Even worse are the facilities the players have. The locker room for the home team is very cramp, they don’t have batting cages near the dugout like every other major league team, and the press room is laughable. Wait till you see what it looks like with 20-30 more Japanese reporters. It’s time for a change. The Tribune, Harry, and the Cubs have been selling the idea of this wonderful little ballpark that everyone loves ever since the early eighties. Fact is, during much of the 70’s and early 80’s, no one went to Wrigley Field. You could easily walk up the day of the game and get great seats. For much of the 70’s, attendance for the season was a little over a million. But in the magical season of 1984, Cubs attendance hit a record with over 2 million fans. Since then, the Cubs have been over 2 million fans every year except for three, two of those were because of the baseball strike of 94 and the following year, 1995. The Cubs have topped over 3 million fans for the last four years. Also, Wrigely has gone through plenty of changes and expansion since it was built in 1914. Wrigley underwent its first major change during the 1923 season. The Cubs renovated the grandstands and added many more seats. It took the Cubs two seasons, 1927 and 1928, to put the second tier (where my seats are) on to Wrigley. In 1937 the bleachers were renovated and expanded. Things stayed pretty dormant under PK Wrigley’s ownership (although new seats were added every few years), but in 1988, the Cubs finally added lights to Wrigley Field. In 2006 the new bleachers made their debut. Other seats have been added, signs put up, etc all over the park over Wrigley’s long history. This will be another evolution of the ballpark.
As far as playing at the "Cell", who cares, it will only be for one season (probably two knowing how things get done in Chicago), but it won’t be horrible. I recently went to the Cell (the game where Barrett punched Piercynski) and it was an enjoyable experience. (except for the score that day) The food was excellent, good view from nearly all the seats, clean restroom, etc. And there was parking!!! Fans tailgate, drank beers, played bags, listened to music, and had a good time. I think we can handle that for a little while.
I love Wrigley with all my heart. Some of my best memories were at the old ballpark. All she needs is a little nip and tuck and we’ll be back on the North Side, cheering our Cubbies for another 100 years! I am starting to buy into this idea, what do you guys think?!