Wrigley Field’s installation of the left field Toyota sign came with controversy. History could repeat itself in the outfield.
The ballpark may welcome another large sign into right field, as the team formally requested permission to install the new advertising Jan. 24. The proposed sign is 650-square-feet and would block views from rooftops across the street.
The sign seems like a great idea to Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. It’s part of the $500 million projected renovations and reconstruction his family wants to carry out at Wrigley, and somehow another outfield sign is the perfect addition.
Ricketts isn’t making a wise decision. The new sign is problematic in several ways.
For one thing, it’s already ticking off rooftop owners. The rooftops surrounding Wrigley Field have been an integral part of the fan experience since 1914. It’s a unique aspect of the ballpark, and it helps extend the Friendly Confines just a little farther out. The new sign would partially block the view from right field rooftops, cutting off owners’ revenue. It’s already making the Friendly Confines in Wrigleyville turn a little hostile.
“Rooftop owners believe a blockage of our views violates the contract we have with the owners of the Cubs,” said Ryan McLaughlin, spokesman for the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association. “We have instructed our legal team to proceed accordingly.”
That’s right. On top of trying to focus on a winning season, the Cubs could now face court battles. The Association contends this signage “violates terms of a revenue-sharing deal with the Cubs that still has another 10 years to go,” according to Crain’s Chicago Business. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has had to step in, as has Wrigleyville’s Alderman Patrick O’Connor, 40th.
If legal woes aren’t enough to make Ricketts think twice, his proposal to revamp Wrigley should. The plan is huge, amounting to $500 million and will last five off-seasons. While the renovations are needed in some areas of Wrigley (the ballpark is, after all, 100 years old), the last thing Ricketts should focus on is installing a sign that serves no purpose other than to block off rooftop views and infuriate owners. The rooftop owners have a deal with the Cubs to share 17 percent of their revenues. With half of the field blocked, is it even fair to pay out to the team?
But the biggest issue of all is not the lawsuits or the utter lack of necessity of the sign: it’s going against traditions at Wrigley. This argument may not have concrete evidence to back it up, but die-hard Cubs fans appreciate the historic value of the ballpark. In a day and age of flashy electronic screens, advertisements lining outfield walls and pop songs instead of an organ, it’s easy to appreciate the time capsule Wrigley Field is. It’s true Wrigley has modernized in recent years to keep up with the times and MLB rules.
Yet it goes against everything that’s so traditional about Wrigley Field, in that it’s home to America’s past time, the same way it was a century ago. The sign isn’t native to the park. There just isn’t any need for it. And it in no way helps restore the historic ballpark, which is what Ricketts’ cool $500 million should be put towards.
It may just be a sign to some people, but it’s a statement to some Cubs fans. It’s saying that Ricketts is more concerned on reconstructing Wrigley Field to bring in more consumers and more money. It’s opening the door for more advertisements in the outfields, or perhaps elsewhere in the park. And it’s showing it’s more important to be flashy than to respect rooftops that have been around since the beginning.
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