Is Wrigleys new sign kosher?

Originally posted: April 11, 2008

The City of Chicago landmark ordinance that regulates Wrigley Field couldn’t be clearer: Among the ballpark’s protected features, it says, are the brick wall, “in its entirety, circling the playing field (i.e., along the foul lines, behind home plate, and the outfield wall, including the ivy).”

Biz_11naminga4cHow, then, to explain the photograph that appears in today’s Tribune business section, which shows the letters “CBOE” in bright yellow on the brick wall? A caption says: “The Chicago Board Options Exchange this year won the sponsorship rights for a new section of premium seats between the Cubs’ dugout and the left-field bullpen.”

But the caption doesn’t tell us whether the City of Chicago approved the sign. In fact, city officials say, they didn’t. But the Tribune Co. executive in charge of the Cubs says that approval was not necessary.

Brian Goeken, the city’s deputy commissioner for landmarks, told me in a voice mail message this morning: “We have not approved any signage. We weren’t aware of that. We’ve reached out to the Cubs to get more information about it.”

He added that he hadn’t seen the sign so he didn’t know whether it would be subject to review under the landmarks ordinance. “Once we get [the information],” he said, “we’ll evaluate it and determine whether it is subject to review or not.”

Crane Kenney, the Tribune Co. senior vice president in charge of the Cubs, sent a subsequent email, which maintained that the CBOE sign–he called it a sticker–is no different from the signs for UnderArmour on the old green doors that are part of the outfield walls. The doors are not protected under the landmark ordinance. “Landmarks review does not rise to the level of approval these applications,” he said.

He added: “From our perspective, keep in mind our twin goals: first, win a championship and second, preserve the essence and charm of the Friendly Confines. It’s our job to manage the delicate balance between over-commercialization of the ballpark and expanding our scouting, player development and payroll to give our fans a winning team.”

“We would like to think we’ll get credit for the careful stewardship to date (most recently the bleacher expansion, which drew a huge wail when proposed but is now widely accepted as the best alteration to the stadium in the last 20 years). We’ll continue to venture in small ways into new territory. Our fans have waited long enough.”

What’s your take on the sign? Is it no big deal or does it chip away at Wrigley’s beauty?


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