An agreement to install two new electronic signs at Wrigley Field has been reached between the Chicago Cubs and the city of Chicago. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks unanimously approved of the deal in a vote Thursday evening, making the signs one step closer to becoming reality.
The proposed Jumbotron in left field would be 5,700 square feet in area, while the right field advertising board would be 650 square feet. The team’s original plan called for the left field sign to be 6,000 square feet and the right field sign to be 1,000 square feet.
The redevelopment of the ballpark and the neighborhood around it has been a touchy issue for Wrigleyville residents and Cubs fans alike. Since Cubs owner Tom Ricketts first proposed the $500 million renovation plan earlier this year, the main point of contention has been the outfield signs and the effect they could have on the rooftop businesses across Waveland and Sheffield from the ballpark. Rooftop owners are worried the new signs could block their views of the playing field and have fought vigorously to prevent the city from approving of their construction.
The outfield signs would not only pose a threat to the view of those sitting on rooftops, but to all fans in the ballpark. The classic view looking out over Wrigley Field has already been tarnished in recent years by Ricketts’s installation of a Toyota sign in left field during the 2010 season. Baseball fans could now be forever losing the sight of baseball’s last pristine ballpark that is mostly untouched by commercialism and modern scoreboards.
In addition to the mammoth left field video board (it would have the area of more than a square mile) impeding on the feel of Wrigley as a true throwback park, news also came earlier this week that the team could place advertising on the clock of the center field scoreboard and the top of the outfield wall. Advertisements could be placed on the basket that runs along the top of the outfield wall, as well as on the center field batter’s eye. Additional advertising could be installed on the backstop behind home plate and on the front of the press box.
Ricketts has not been hesitant to place advertising on every inch of the ballpark he can find since his family took ownership of the Cubs following the 2009 season. The team plans to have 45,000 square feet of advertising inside and outside the ballpark once the renovations are complete. That is approximately twice as much advertising as there is now.
I understand Ricketts is doing this all for the sake of increasing the team’s revenue so it can be more competitive at attracting high-priced free agents. There is no doubt Wrigley’s concourses could use a facelift and amenities for both fans and players could be improved. Having a larger, modern clubhouse, dugouts, and hitting facilities could go a long way towards signing free agents that are put off by the ballpark’s aging interior.
But what could the consequences of some of these changes, the advertising and outfield signage in particular, do to the look and feel of Wrigley Field?
A Wrigley Field with an oversized Jumbotron in left field and advertisements everywhere you look is not how I would like the ballpark to be modernized. Wrigley can enter the 21st century without becoming unnecessarily commercialized. Ownership should be able to put a winner on the field without selling the franchise’s soul at the same time.