Saturday, March 9, 2013

Political people want to keep Cubs at the 'humble abode' of Elwood J. Blues

How much will structure change after renovation?

There’s one inherent fact to comprehend when it comes to the way Chicago political people interact with the professional athletic teams that represent this city.

They don’t want change!

THE WHITE SOX will always be at 35th Street, while the Bulls and Blackhawks (who’d have ever envisioned so many wins in this strike-shortened season?) will play their games on Madison Street.

The Bears will be in Soldier Field. While the Cubs will forevermore be the team that plays at Clark and Addison streets.

Think about it. The White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks moved to new stadiums in the 1990s that were located across the street from their old buildings – allowing for minimal change in the way we think of those teams.

The Bears play in that flying-saucer contraption located within the old Soldier Field, no matter how hideous it makes the overall structure look.

SO NOW THAT the Chicago Cubs are trying to engage in serious negotiations about a renovation of their stadium so that the 99-year-old building will survive a few more decades, the Cubs have the serious drawback in negotiations that they can’t seriously play a threat to move.

Even though I suspect some of their northwest suburban base of fans would probably prefer it if they no longer had to make the trek to the Lake View neighborhood and could instead go to a place like Arlington Heights or Schaumburg.

Of course, that would go contrary to the trend of modern-day stadium building – which comes up with structures that like to pretend they’re based on the classic ballparks of old but are usually built on the fringes of downtown.
TUNNEY: Talking tough, because he can!

But we’ve never had that attitude in Chicago. When the White Sox tried back in the 1980s to talk of building a new stadium in DuPage County, or when others tried to talk of a multi-purpose stadium for the White Sox and Bears in the South Loop – they were non-starters!

THE POLITICAL PEOPLE back then only wanted to talk about construction that would keep a sports team at 35th Street near the Dan Ryan Expressway – as though it is written in stone that the ball club can go nowhere else.

Even though a modern facility probably would have fit in better at a different location than it does on the fringes of the old-school Bridgeport neighborhood.

The same attitude is going to prevail with the Cubs – which will limit the amount of change that will be permitted to the structure to make it competitive with the new stadiums that are overglorified shopping malls with sports themes, or perhaps baseball-themed amusement parks.

Where the game on the field is secondary to the whole spectacle of being present in the building.

THE RICKETTS FAMILY that now owns the Chicago Cubs wants to do a significant overhaul of the old building, but city officials are making it clear they’re not about to give in on much change.

Alderman Thomas Tunney of the 44th Ward has said he wants assurances of more parking (which Wrigley Field now notoriously lacks), better police protection and guarantees that the renovated ballpark wouldn’t become an architectural albatross that overwhelms the neighborhood – such as what U.S. Cellular Field sometimes does to the Armour Square neighborhood.

And Mayor Rahm Emanuel seems determined to treat the Cubs as he might have once treated Republican politicos who were trying to undermine Barack Obama’s presidential authority.

What brought this thought into my mind was reading the assorted Internet comments being posted. There are those who think the Cubs ought to tell the city to “Shove it!” and move to a suburban location.

AS THOUGH LIFE were that simple.

Particularly since I suspect many suburban officials like the idea of having the amenities of life’s entertainment nearby without having them within their own boundaries. Because then, they’d be responsible for their maintenance.

It may well be only Chicago city officials who would want to take on a project such as a $300 million overhaul of Wrigley Field (with another alleged $200 million to upgrade the surrounding neighborhood).

Which may well mean that Chicago gets the upper hand in these negotiations.

WHILE I DON’T have a problem with professional sports teams playing in city- (or state-)owned stadiums, I only wish these governments could negotiate worthwhile deals that make it viable for them – as well as the teams!

Not selling out the house to benefit the Cubs could well be a major accomplishment for the Emanuel administration. Let’s only hope that city officials don’t forget that fact.


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