Cubs

Years from now, what will Wrigley look like?

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Years from now, what will Wrigley look like?

Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010
Updated 10:22 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Wrigley Field is supposed to feel timeless, though the building cant last forever. There is steel and concrete at Clark and Addison, and sketches and spreadsheets surrounding future projects.

What will Wrigley Field look like by 2014? Approaching its 100th anniversary, no one can really give a definitive answer, but everyone will have opinions.

Chairman Tom Ricketts isnt certain how long the Cubs can continue just patching up Wrigley Field each offseason without a comprehensive plan for renovation. But he also doesnt see that point in the future where it becomes too costly to remain at the stadium.

Ricketts wants to make sure that the ballpark is there for another 50 years. The Cubs dont want you to call it a mall, but here are some of the Triangle Building elements under consideration: hotel; restaurants; concessions; baseball museum; merchandise shop; parking garage; and television studio.

A renovated Wrigley Field would include a new retail and entertainment complex adjacent to the stadium. (Illustrations courtesy of the Cubs.)As outlined Tuesday by team president Crane Kenney, it would include a retractable roof over the space between Wrigley Field and the new facility, which has already spent years on the drawing board.

The development just west of the stadium, shaped by the streets at Clark and Waveland is central to the argument being made by the Ricketts family. The Cubs gathered local labor and business leaders at a news conference Tuesday hoping to frame it.

The Cubs estimate their stadium renovation plan which calls for the state to float 200 million in bonds and the Ricketts family to match 200 million more in private investment around the neighborhood will create 1,000 construction jobs and hundreds more permanent jobs.

Their research firm projects millions more in annual sales tax and property-tax revenues for local government, as well as a 66 million boost each year in regional tourism. Their message is that the economic activity generated by a reinvestment back into Wrigley Field will more than offset the money paid by fans buying Cubs tickets taken from the amusement-tax pool.

The plans unveiling came at a time when the mayor is about to retire (Richard M. Daley) and the governor was just narrowly elected (Pat Quinn) and the state could soon be facing a 15 billion budget deficit.

Ricketts will continue briefing political aides and is open-minded about alternative measures. But he said that the Cubs are not considering personal seat licenses as a way to raise funds.

Ultimately, we have to work with the state to come to some sort of conclusion that works (and guarantees the bonds), Ricketts said. The increasing amusement-tax revenues should support the bonds pretty well. To go to the markets, we might need a state agency to issue them for us, so we have to keep working with the state to come to that final answer.

The citys other professional teams have benefited from government involvement but the concept of committing future revenues at this moment to the Cubs and not schools, hospitals, and police and fire departments has been criticized extensively online and in editorials.

Ricketts who limited his comments to reporters last season but has been on a media tour the past several days will keep trying to change public perception.

The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority operates U.S. Cellular Field, while the Chicago Park District owns Soldier Field. But the Cubs are using historic Fenway Park with its space limitations and Yawkey Way pedestrian area as a model.

The Cubs estimate that they devote less than half the total square footage to baseball operations (14,515) that other teams use at new stadiums (30,000). Kenney explained that engineers are studying ways to build new clubhouses underneath the field, as well as add battings tunnels and training rooms during a gradual process over several offseasons.

The first year you would dig this out, (put) in a slurry wall (and) cover it back up and play, Kenney said, pointing to an area in left field. The next year you would re-excavate it and youd put a concrete floor and ceiling on it and then cover it up. (As) theyre playing on top of it, youre building out all of this stuff underneath.

The Cubs need to move their administrative offices and storage space and make room for food preparation. There are concepts for rooftop patios throughout the second deck, like the one that currently sits at the front of the building.

Ricketts is a co-founder of Incapital LLC, a securities and investment banking firm that has grown into one of the countrys largest bond underwriterstraders. He said that this wasnt the plan all along as his family explored buying the team and the stadium and a stake in Comcast SportsNet from Tribune Co.

Its a strategy crafted after a first year of ownership spent studying the teams operations. The essential idea is that the bricks-and-ivy views wont change. But once you leave your seat, youll get the modern conveniences found everywhere else. With three million fans a year, the threat of moving isnt credible.

Thats not an option for the Ricketts family at this point, the chairman said. Were staying at Wrigley Field. Were doing everything we can to preserve it.

The proposal to upgrade Wrigley Field and its surroundings calls for wider concourses and rooftop patios throughout the second deck. (Illustrations courtesy of the Cubs.)

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

It's been a tale of two halves for the Cubs veteran Jon Lester, who after a sparkling first half of baseball that saw him win 12 games with a 2.58 ERA, has looked nothing like a 2018 All-Star. Prior to Thursday's start, Lester had posted a 10.32 ERA, allowed 4 or more runs in 4 of his 5 most recent starts, and had yet to win a game in the second of the season. 

The 34-year-old veteran flipped the script Thursday night, throwing 6-shutout innings while striking out 8 Pirate batters in the Cubs 1-0 win in Pittsburgh. Lester surrendered only 5 hits and baffled the Pirates all-night, finally busting out of his slump and giving the Cubs his 2nd quality start since the All-Star break. 

Lester attacked the bottom portion of the strike zone all night with his fastball, which topped out at 93 mph, generating 4 whiffs with his heater. Over the last month, Lester has said he's felt he can't quite execute his "out" pitches, explaining that when he has a hitter set up for a strikeout he hasn't been able to throw the ball effectively in those moments. 

And while Lester walked off the mound after the 6th inning amassing 8 punch outs, the veteran starter never looked like he was trying to strike out batters. He just continued to dot the corners, occasionally raise the eye-level of the batter with an elevated heater, and threw his secondary pitches just enough to keep the Pittsburgh batters uncomfortable at the plate. 

The Cubs offense once again struggled, facing Ivan Nova who has won four his last five starts against the Cubs, but Ian Happ's solo shot in the 4th inning was enough run support for Lester to push the Cubs to 20 games over .500. But the biggest takeaway from Thursday night's win isn't that the Cubs came out on top, it's that Jon Lester returning to form gives this Chicago rotation something they've lacked seemingly this entire season. 

Stability at the front of the rotation. 

With Cole Hamels impressive three starts in a Cub uniform and Kyle Hendricks finally figuring out his issues on the mound, if Jon Lester can replicate Thursday's performance throughout the rest of the season, the Cubs rotation may finally turn into the strength many thought it could be before the season started. At the very least, Lester showed that whatever he's been working through over the last month of baseball is fixable. 

It's only one start in a string of poor outings for Lester, and while The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma did find some positives in his starts prior to Thursday's big win, Lester will have to show he can maintain this level of pitching through the remainder of this season. But I think our own Tony Andracki put it best tonight on Twitter. 

With the Cubs pitchers finally starting to perform to their expected level, and the return of Yu Darvish looking closer each day, it could be the Cubs starting pitching that carries through the rest of the season. 

Joe Maddon speaks out on Wednesday night's Marlins-Braves brawl

Joe Maddon speaks out on Wednesday night's Marlins-Braves brawl

Much has been made about Wednesday night's brawl between the Marlins and Braves, which started when Braves young star Ronald Acuna was nailed in the elbow with a 99 mph fastball from Jose Urena. The strangest part of the whole situation was that it seemed like Urena was unprovoked by Acuna or any of the Braves players prior to plunking the former No. 1 prospect in all of baseball.  

The ever wise Cubs skipper Joe Maddon was asked about the incident prior to Thursday's game, making it clear he felt plays like these needed to leave the game entirely. 

It was announced Thursday afternoon that Urena would be suspended just 6 games for intentionally throwing Acuna, which means the Marlins starter will likely only miss one game for trying to hurt Acuna. The good news is that Acuna did not sustain any serious injuries, but Joe Maddon is right there is no reason for people to be hurling nearly triple-digit fastballs at players. Whether provoked or not, intentionally throwing at players is something that needs to be phased out of the game, and its safe to assume Maddon would agree.