Cubs detail Wrigley Field rehab in two phases
By Jared S. Hopkins and Ameet Sachdev Chicago Tribune (MCT)
Dec 17, 2015 at 6:57 PM
CHICAGO — Once the Chicago Cubs finish renovating Wrigley Field, some of the most luxurious seats at the historic stadium may not even come with a view of the field.
As part of its four-year, $575 million overhaul of the stadium and surrounding area, the team wants to build “bunker suites” below the stands in the left-field infield, according to plans the team filed with the city.
The three suites are shown on architectural drawings and described in an eight-page document summarizing the team’s bleachers revisions and construction phases. The materials, which the Tribune obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request, were submitted to the city prior to a July landmarks commission hearing in which the plan received approval, but the details in those materials have not been previously disclosed.
The records reveal more about the Cubs’ plans than the team has said publicly, in part because the suites did not need approval. Additionally, the records provide more details on an upper-level concourse just below the roof line, which will be a conduit between patios and allow fans to walk the length of the ballpark along Clark and Addison streets. That concourse was depicted in previous renderings but never described in detail.
The suites beneath the stadium will not have views of the field but will lead to seating areas, team spokesman Julian Green said. He said the suites’ use hasn’t been determined. “We are still exploring the use and function of the bunker suites,” Green said.
Still, bunker suites have been a growing trend at stadiums for at least a decade. They are often on or near the same level as the playing field and come with private dining areas and entry to seats close to the action. The bunker suites at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which opened in 2012, and the remodeled Madison Square Garden in New York reportedly are leased for $1 million each.
The document also says that the Cubs hope to complete most of their Wrigley Field renovations by the start of the 2017 season.
But Green said the timeline does not include all the renovations planned for Wrigley and is merely an update to existing plans. The team said work actually will take four offseasons, meaning construction will occur through the 2017 offseason. The entire project, including a hotel across from Wrigley on Clark and a plaza south of Clark and Waveland Avenue, is expected to be finished by opening day 2018.
The Cubs have split the $375 million project — an additional $200 million will be spent on developing the area surrounding the ballpark — to repair and modernize the 100-year-old stadium into two phases.
The first phase of the renovations is scheduled to begin after this season and focuses on work to raise team revenue: expanding the bleachers, installing the Jumbotron over left field and adding interior signage. The Cubs plan to begin other major changes — such as installing a new gate on the west side of the ballpark, relocating bullpens from along foul-lines to underneath the bleachers, and building a new visitor’s clubhouse — after next season.
In the document, the team said the timeline is its “best approximation” and that “all times are subject to change based on the realities of construction and other factors affecting the project.”
One factor that could delay construction is if the owners of 15 rooftop clubs overlooking Wrigley sue the team for obstructing their views with the Jumbotron and advertising signs in the outfield. The two sides continue to negotiate, a requirement from Mayor Rahm Emanuel last month for the team to have the landmarks commission vote on the team’s latest proposals.
Besides an estimated timeline and details on the suites and new concourse, the documents offered other construction plan details:
Some ramps leading to the terrace and upper levels will be redesigned, and more than half the ramps from the back of the terrace to the upper level will have sections replaced with stairs. The lower portion of the four major concourse ramps will be replaced with stairs. The winding ramp in the left field concourse will be removed and a new staircase to the terrace level will be installed. The team said replacing ramps is for “structural work and to remove aging concrete.” There will not be any escalators, Green said.
The caretaker’s cottage, the trailer-like structure on the northwest corner of the stadium, will be reassembled on a new foundation. The team initially wanted to relocate the cottage during renovations but could not because it’s so old. The cottage, which used to be the old groundskeeper’s cottage, is now used for office space.
The team will look to increase signage where it already exists. There are LED boards on the right and left field portions of the upper level fascia as well as the underside of the upper-level roof.
The club will add at least 10 elevators, according to the document, although Green said team officials are reevaluating how many elevators actually will be added. In some sections, plastic seats will be removed and replaced with new ones that look similar. The team also will add new support columns, but Green said they will not lead to more obstructed views for seats in the grandstands and upper decks.
Signage on the grandstand facade was revised based on input from the National Park Service. The Cubs have been working with the federal agency in an effort to earn a spot on the coveted National Register of Historic Places and receive federal tax credits. The historic preservation tax credit is equal to 20 percent of qualifying rehabilitation costs. The Boston Red Sox reportedly received $40 million in federal tax credits toward their $285 million upgrade of Fenway Park.
Although the document says most of the renovations should be finished by the start of the 2017 season, Green said some work — such as additional restrooms and the upper deck patio construction — will occur after that point.
Tribune reporter Hal Dardick contributed to this report.