Team wants more bleachers, multi-purpose addition

Updated: June 18, 2004, 5:09 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs are trying to give Wrigley Field a facelift.

Again.

The Cubs gave the city of Chicago a renovation proposal Friday that includes a 1,980-seat expansion of the bleachers, renovation of the exterior outfield walls and a new multipurpose building on the west side of the ballpark that would include a restaurant, parking garage and underground batting cages and pitchers' mounds.

The Cubs also want to build an open-air pedestrian walkway between the building and the stadium.

"These are not really new plans,"said Mike Lufrano, the Cubs vice president of community affairs. "This represents the final piece of the plan that we really proposed starting in 2001 to improve Wrigley Field and the campus surrounding the ballpark.

"We share the interest of the city in getting it wrapped up, giving certainty to the rooftop businesses, to the Cubs, to securing our future in Wrigley Field."

Lufrano said the Cubs don't expect construction to begin before the end of the 2005 season. The plan has to be approved by the city's plan commission as well as the City Council, and the landmark committee also has to sign off on it.

The Cubs drew the ire of neighbors and city officials when they unveiled their initial expansion plans and request for additional night games in June 2001. Rooftop owners claimed the bleacher expansion would block their views, and neighbors complained that support columns needed for the project would interrupt traffic flow.

Neighbors also raised concerns that additional capacity could lead to more traffic jams and more drunken fans throwing trash and urinating on their lawns.

The neighborhood concerns helped stall the renovations, which the Cubs originally hoped to have completed by the start of the 2002 season. The city council also gave the ballpark landmark status, making it harder to make changes to it.

The city finally gave the Cubs permission in February to add up to 30 night games over the next three years after the club agreed to spend more money to address congestion, litter and other game-related problems. The Cubs also settled a federal lawsuit with rooftop owners in April.

Beth Murphy, owner of Murphy's Bleachers, a tavern just beyond the center field wall, said she worries that an expansion might detract from the aesthetics of the ballpark and that more fans would further clog the congested neighborhood.

"I would rather they not expand," Murphy said. "We haven't seen the impact of the additional night games on the neighborhood. I think it's too soon to be looking at yet another change to the ballpark.''


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press