CHICAGO — The historic home of the Chicago Cubs will get a $500 million facelift, including its first electronic outfield video board, as part of a hard-fought agreement announced Sunday night between the City of Chicago and the baseball team.
Wrigley Field also will host an expanded number of night games under the announced pact, as part of Cubs owner Tom Ricketts’ plans to renovate the second-oldest ballpark in the major leagues, boost business and make baseball’s most infamous losers competitive again.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel hailed what the two sides called a “framework” agreement in a joint statement issued Sunday night, noting that it includes no taxpayer funding. That had been one of the original requests of the Ricketts family in a long-running renovation dispute.
“This framework allows the Cubs to restore the Friendly Confines (of Wrigley) and pursue their economic goals, while respecting the rights and quality of life of its neighbors,” Emanuel said in a news release sent to The Associated Press.
Still uncertain was how the agreement will sit with owners of buildings across the street from Wrigley who provide rooftop views of the ball games under an agreement with the Cubs that goes back years. This month they threatened to sue if the renovations obstruct their views, which they claimed would drive them out of business.
The Ricketts family, which bought the Cubs in 2009 for $845 million, initially sought tax funding for renovation plans. With that out in the new agreement, the owners will seek to open new revenue streams outside the stadium. Under the agreement, the Ricketts family would be allowed to build a 175-room hotel, a plaza, and an office building with retail space and a hleath club.
Included in the agreement are plans for 40 night games, four yearly concerts and easing of restrictions on smaller events. Currently the team plays about 30 night games.
The site of Babe Ruth’s “called shot” home run in the 1932 World Series and more heartbreak than Cubs fans would like to remember, the 99-year-old Wrigley is only younger than Boston’s Fenway Park. It has long been a treasured showplace for baseball purists — night games were only added in 1988 — but team officials for years have desperately wanted a true upgrade, saying it costs as much as $15 million a year just to keep up with basic repairs.
The ballpark has also played no small part in the lore of the team, as fans were reminded April 10 when someone delivered a goat’s head in a box addressed to team chairman Tom Ricketts. Neither the team nor the Chicago Police Department have talked about a possible motive for the strange delivery, but as every fan knows, it was in the 1945 World Series when a tavern owner arrived at the park with his pet goat — which had a ticket. According to legend, the owner was told that the goat smelled and was denied entry. The angry tavern owner then put the “Curse of the Billy Goat” on the Cubs — and the team has not been back to the World Series since.