Toyota sign at Wrigley gets committee okay

Ald. Tunney reverses himself after Cubs agree to moratorium on new signs

May 25, 2010

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

An illuminated Toyota sign rising 40 feet above the Wrigley Field bleachers could be in place by mid-June, thanks to a sign permit approved today in exchange for a four-year moratorium on additional outfield signs.

The City Council’s Buildings Committee approved the permit after local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) reversed himself on a sign he once called “not in keeping with the character of the neighborhood or the spirit of the landmarks” designation of Wrigley’s historic elements.

“There’s an old adage that the only thing constant is change. We have to live with a living and breathing landmark that needs to survive and needs to change,” Tunney said today at a buildings committee hearing.

“There is community support. There is community objection. . .  . [But] I have decided, based on some conditions that we’ve agreed upon with the Cubs, to move forward and to ask for your support.”

The deal that paved the way for Tunney’s reversal was disclosed last week by the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Cubs promised not to install any additional signs rising above the height of the existing bleachers before June 9, 2014.

During that four-year hiatus, the team will work to develop a master plan for future signage at Wrigley.

The Toyota sign would obscure the view of a Horseshoe Casino sign on the rooftop of a building at 3701 North Kenmore owned by Tom Gramatis.

If Gramatis convinces the Zoning Board of Appeals to block the Toyota sign, the four-year moratorium is off. In that event, Tunney has agreed to support “a different sign” with the same basic features.

Tom Moore, an attorney representing the Wrigley Rooftop Association, called today’s vote the “fork in the road.” He warned that, once the four-year hiatus is over, it’ll be open season on signage.

“The way my people understand the four years is, ‘Then, we want more signs,’ ’’ Moore said.

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said the 360 square-foot Toyota sign will rise in the only outfield location available without blocking the view from rooftop clubs that share 17 percent of their revenue with the team.

And what happens after the four-year moratorium is over?

“I’m not gonna try to predict what happens in four years. . . . I’m not sure sure where you put signs. I’m not sure what happens next way down the path,” Ricketts said.

“The fact is, we’re only discussing one sign. People who are concerned that we’re suddenly gonna have 10,000 signs in the outfield at Wrigley — I respect their concern, but it’s really misplaced concern.”

If the full City Council approves the sign on June 9, the Toyota sign could be up a few days later. It could generate as much as $2.5 million annually to help maintain the 96-year-old shrine of Major League Baseball.

“It is a considerable amount of money. It is money that we can raise without changing ticket prices or charging more for food. It’s the right way to bring more revenue to the park,” Ricketts said.

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