Friday, June 14, 2013

What a difference (nearly) 3 decades make -- DuPage now wants baseball

It would be ironic if DuPage County officials were to offer up something resembling a site for a new Chicago Cubs stadium at Lake Street and Swift Road in west suburban Addison.

Soon to be abandoned for DuPage?
For that was the site just south of the Medinah Country Club that some 30 years ago was the preferred site for a new stadium that was desired by the Chicago White Sox.

DUPAGE OFFICIALS BACK then shot down the idea, fearing the kinds of crowds that would start coming to their community to see professional baseball. It also didn’t help the White Sox’ desires back then to escape their “Sout’ Side” image that political officials who ultimately foot the bill for the now-called U.S. Cellular Field that they think the Sox belong at 35th and Shields – and nowhere else.

A suburban stadium in DuPage County went nowhere then. But I wonder if enough has changed that it could go forth now.

Earlier this week, DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said he’s willing to offer up a site where the Cubs could build a new stadium to replace the 99-year-old (and aging) Wrigley Field.

In fact, he told the Chicago Tribune he has two sites in mind where a stadium could be built. He didn’t specify where they were located (so I don’t know that Lake and Swift is even in the running), but he did say they were both at least 40 acres in size and were located near commuter train lines.

WHICH WOULD MAKE it fairly easy for people who are city-based and don’t rely on automobiles to get everywhere to think about going to the occasional game. Although it also would change the culture around the ballpark if people who make distant trips for a ballgame to can actually drive their automobiles right up to the stadium – instead of parking at a distant lot, THEN having to catch an “el” train to get to the stadium proper.

The whole idea of a suburban move for the Chicago Cubs is intriguing because it’s not just DuPage County that wants them. Officials in Rosemont (out near O’Hare International Airport) have also said they’d be willing to make available a large plot of land for a baseball stadium.

At that site, it literally would be possible for people to use the CTA Blue Line (to O’Hare) to get to Rosemont. So it wouldn’t be as dramatic a break as the farther west suburbs of DuPage.

Kept a sense of history
But I can’t help but think this is more about Cronin and Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens (son of long-time municipal head Don) trying to get themselves some public attention.

PERHAPS THEY’RE HOPING that after the Cubs bypass their proposals, some other entity will hear of their offer and perhaps take them up on it. At the very least, it gives them some free advertising.

Yet I can’t help but remember the outcome for the White Sox back in the mid-1980s. They WANTED to go to DuPage and become the preferred ballclub of a growing suburban Chicago.

It didn’t happen.

It really is the mindset of our political people that the White Sox belong on 35th Street, while the Cubs are anchored to Clark and Addison streets.

IN THE END, I do expect city officials to concoct some sort of measure that allows for a massive renovation of the nearly-century-old Wrigley Field grandstand that adds in all the money-making amenities that allow the Cubs to gouge top dollar from their spectators.

Besides, take it from White Sox fans who turn out at 35th Street and like the physical connection to the fact that the team has played all its home ballgames since their creation in 1900 at sites within walking distance of the current stadium.

Take the number of fans who insist on stepping on the “home plate” marker of the old Comiskey Park before going into the new stadium to see a game.

What could any suburban stadium for the Cubs offer that could match that historic tie? No matter how nice and convenient its parking lots may be!


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