Cubs unveil preliminary Wrigley plans
Cubs unveil preliminary plans for Wrigley Field and area http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...1/57694325.jpg
An artists rendering of "Cubs Alley," which would run adjacent to Clark Street, between the proposed Triangle Building and west wall of Wrigley Field.
Aside from park restoration Triangle building concept undergoing transformation
The Cubs have gone through five managers since talk of renovating Wrigley Field and a triangular parcel of land west of the ballpark began in 2001.
Most of their grand plans were put on hold because of economic factors and a change in ownership, leading to the controversial project Chairman Tom Ricketts unveiled last week.
After days of lobbying for political support for the financing of the project, the Cubs on Tuesday released some early renderings of the proposed renovations and development, which include clubhouses built underneath the playing surface, the addition of several upper-deck patios facing Clark and Addison streets, wider concourses and another version of the long-awaited "Triangle" building.
While the public financing portion of the project remains the subject of heated debate, the "renovation and preservation" plan is more creative, and expensive, than the original model.
Trying to find a way to get the most out of limited space at and around Wrigley, the Cubs might dig down for a solution.
"It's a chicken-and-egg issue," Cubs President Crane Kenney said. "If you want to improve the facility, you need to move some things out."
The biggest endeavor involves the home clubhouse, which would expand to an area beneath the spot left fielder Alfonso Soriano currently patrols. The original idea in 2001 was to build an underground clubhouse annex in the Triangle building with state-of-the-art batting cages.
The Cubs eventually decided that would mean too long a walk for players, and engineers convinced them a clubhouse could be built under left field over the course of three offseasons. An excavation project will begin next week to see how far they have to dig to reach bedrock.
"You'd love if you left the building for a year of playing time, (then) you wouldn't have to re-excavate it," Kenney said. "That's one of the reasons the project costs a little more because if you want to keep playing here through the various construction projects, it's a little more expensive. "
Playing elsewhere for a season is not an option, Ricketts said, because it would hurt neighborhood businesses.
Another new wrinkle is the conversion of empty space in the upper deck into patios for concessions and restrooms, similar to the Smirnoff Patio Deck that faces the corner of Clark and Addison. The patio provides no view of the game but has flat-panel TVs and is a popular meeting spot for groups and private parties.
"It doesn't really change the appearance of the park from the outside," Kenney said. "But you are creating huge spaces for people to gather, with great sunshine, so it's sort of a no brainer."
The Cubs say the changes wouldn't violate the city's landmark ordinance, which protects parts of Wrigley Field.
"Whatever is happening, we will not change the structure of the ballpark," Ricketts family spokeswoman Lissa Druss Christman said. "It won't go before landmarks. We are not asking for any landmark changes to the building."
Plans for the Triangle building are still in flux. The renderings did not reveal how tall it would rise.
"The Triangle building, the concept, has been a drawing forever," Ricketts said. "And we're trying to get over that. Once we know we have the resources to set aside, so we can get the park to where it has to be so it can exist for 50 more years, we're going to be sitting down with the community and neighborhood groups to understand what's missing for them and the families here at Wrigleyville."
Restaurants, concessions and parking are a given, but a Cubs museum and a hotel are only possibilities, Kenney said. A pedestrian walkway with a retractable roof, referred to as "Cubs Alley," would be similar to Yawkey Way, a street adjacent to Fenway Park that closes to traffic on game days, creating a lively street-party atmosphere.
"It's a version of Yawkey Way, except we control both sides of the street," Kenney said, pointing out the Red Sox need the city of Boston's permission to close Yawkey Way. "We bought (the land) four years ago, so we own this whole parcel."
The Triangle building has evolved since it was termed "multipurpose" in June 2001, when the Cubs unveiled a plan that included a garage, a restaurant, concessions, restrooms and a Cubs Hall of Fame.
Three years later, the Cubs filed a Planned Development with the city for a revamped version of the Triangle building, along with the open-air pedestrian parkway between the building and the west side of the ballpark, and renovation of the bleachers. Batting cages, pitching mounds and a clubhouse annex for the players were added, and the team announced: "As with all improvements to Wrigley Field to date, the Cubs are prepared to finance the construction themselves."
The bleacher project came to fruition, but Tribune Co. let the Triangle project languish through a prolonged sale of the franchise that finally ended in October 2009.
The Cubs believe the latest renovation plan is the surest way to preserve Wrigley Field for decades to come. The alternative, Ricketts said, is continued patchwork improvements to the existing structure, which turns 100 in 2014.
"If we don't do anything now, the problem doesn't go away," he said. "It gets worse."