The Chicago Cubs want to shut down car traffic on Addison and Clark streets adjacent to Wrigley Field during games, team officials announced today.
In a move to extend the security perimeter around the stadium, the Cubs say they are in advanced talks with the city about limiting traffic on both streets to city vehicles and buses during all events at the park.
The push, the team said, comes from a Major League Baseball security recommendation for ballparks to maintain at least a 100-foot perimeter of control in every direction.
As part of that plan, the team also wants to extend the sidewalks adjacent to Addison and Clark by eight to 10 feet into the streets to try to prevent pedestrian traffic from spilling into the public way.
“We’ve asked for the city’s support to extend the perimeter of our ballpark in every direction,” Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said today at the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. “It will require rerouting traffic—probably not bus traffic, which the city controls—but it’s the right thing to do.”
If approved, all four streets adjacent to the park would be closed to traffic during Wrigley Field events. Sheffield and Waveland avenues along the stadium’s east and north borders are already closed to traffic during Cubs games.
The proposal, while intended to improve security, could set up another point of contention between the city and team related to its $575 million stadium renovation and redevelopment of its surrounding area. The team already extended its property line on Sheffield and Waveland last year to expand its bleachers.
But Kenney said shutting down Addison and Clark is simply a matter of public safety.
“It would give us some comfort that the wrong types of people aren’t going to roll up next to the park during a game,” Kenney said. “The reality is, on game days, we’re now a target.”
A spokesperson for 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney could not be reached for comment.
Security at Wrigley Field’s entry gates also will change, with the Cubs adding walk-through metal detectors at all gates under new MLB rules.
The new system will likely lengthen the time it takes to get into Wrigley Field, at least until the Cubs can finish building a new entrance on the stadium’s west side, which is unlikely to be done before the end of the 2016 season.
“Security is not going to get any easier for us,” Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts told fans during a panel at the convention, citing the recent terrorist attack in Paris. “We’re going to be more diligent, and that’s going to require, unfortunately, more time.”
PLAZA RULES FIGHT
Cubs officials also went on the offensive against Tunney (44th) over recent tweaks to the plaza liquor license proposal he introduced Jan. 13 in the City Council.
The original proposal two years ago set cutoff times of 11 p.m. weekdays and midnight on weekend for beer and wine sales in the plaza Cubs ownership is building on the stadium’s west side. But after seeking input from local bar owners and residents, Tunney’s new ordinance rolled that back to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Some bar owners in the Wrigleyville area are wary of the city allowing the Cubs to create a massive beer garden that could steal some of their business. But many could benefit from increased foot traffic around the area during the off-season or when the Cubs are on the road.
The proposal is still subject to change and will likely go before the Chicago Committee on License and Consumer Protection next month.
The new proposal “would restrict us beyond the restrictions that apply to everyone else in the neighborhood. We don’t think that’s fair,” Kenney said, noting that the team supported the hours in the original proposal. “As with everything, it seems, we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board with (Tunney) and try and get something we think would work for the plaza.”
Tussling with Tunney over issues related to the Cubs’ stadium renovation is nothing new to either side. It’s a product of the unique nature of Wrigley Field, which is both a neighborhood business under Tunney’s governance and a valuable asset for the city in luring tourists.
Kenney bemoaned the incessant disputes with Tunney and city officials over the renovation plans.
“To have our alderman oppose us (regarding the plaza proposal) is—I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by anything these days, but I was a little surprised on this one,” he said. “It’s not protecting the rooftops this time, and it’s not protecting those opposed to night games, it’s now protecting a certain group of bar owners from competition.”