Group: End ‘piecemeal’ Wrigley ads

TOYOTA SIGN | Landmarks president calls for master plan for whole ballpark

April 20, 2010

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

The Cubs should not be permitted to put up an illuminated Toyota sign rising high above the Wrigley Field bleachers without a “master sign program” for the entire ballpark, a preservation group said Monday.

Landmarks Illinois President Jim Peters said the 2004 ordinance that landmarked the ballpark’s “historic elements” required a master sign program that has not been delivered.

Interior signs at 96-year-old Wrigley have been approved on a piecemeal basis.

Peters acknowledged that advertising creep has so far been “pretty compatible” with the landmark designation.

There are ads behind home plate, in the dugouts, on the green doors of the outfield walls and in narrow electronic bands in the upper deck. The Chicago Board Options Exchange has its initials on the brick wall in front of premium seats along the third-base line.

The Toyota sign rising 59.5 feet above the sidewalk would break new ground for advertising to rake in up to $2.5 million in annual revenue.

“When you start erecting larger-scale signs above the bleachers, the need for a master program becomes apparent. We don’t believe the sign should be approved until there’s an approved sign program for the entire ballpark,” Peters said.

“If you do it piecemeal, you have no idea what’s next or where. You could be left with a series of signs that wouldn’t be compatible with the ballpark.”

Mike Lufrano, vice president of community relations for the Cubs, said the piecemeal approach to Wrigley signs was not the team’s call.

“The city preferred to review signs on a case-by-case basis. That’s the process we’re engaged in,” he said.

Lufrano said the Cubs are “willing to discuss” a master sign program. But, he said, “That’s a longer-term discussion that should not stand in the way of this sign. ”

Peters urged members of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks to reject the Cubs’ revised application after the city’s Department of Zoning passed the controversy along to them.

Now that the Cubs have complied with the city’s request to move the Toyota sign inside the ballpark — and 8 feet closer to home plate — it qualifies as an interior sign that does not need zoning approval.

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