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updated: 1/21/2013 5:20 AM

Renovating Wrigley Field is long past due

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  • The Cubs have announced their $300 million renovation plan for Wrigley Field, and this is a view of the proposed center-field area.

      The Cubs have announced their $300 million renovation plan for Wrigley Field, and this is a view of the proposed center-field area.
    Illustration courtesy of Chicago Cubs

 
 

Finally comes a common-sense approach to renovating Wrigley Field.

Cubs ownership, the Ricketts family, essentially acknowledged over the weekend that taxpayers aren't going to pay for the project.

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Nor should they. Allocating money to a ballpark -- as valuable as sports, baseball and the Cubs are to the community -- is irresponsible when schools, streets and social services need funding.

The Ricketts' compromise proposes that they'll pay for a $300 million makeover if the city lifts restrictions on new revenue streams in and around the ballpark.

As long as the Cubs continue paying taxes at a high level, the only better new plan would be to build a replica Wrigley Field somewhere else like the suburbs.

Anyway, a major hang-up to renovating the current park is Wrigley Field's landmark designation, which seems to signal that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was debated at second base, resolved on the mound and signed at home plate.

Ricketts noted that Wrigley is a ballpark and not a museum. True, though it could be the Midwest branch of Universal's House of Horrors.

OK, so Babe Ruth pointed in Wrigley Field. Ernie Banks played all his home games in the park. Residing inside the park are ghosts of a Billy goat in a nook and the Bartman ball in a cranny.

Big deals all, but this still is just a baseball field.

Today of all days it should be noted that Dr. Martin Luther King didn't march into Wrigley Field when he came to Chicago. Nor was this the park in which a rally celebrated Barack Obama's first presidential election. Jackie Robinson did play in Wrigley Field but also in many places that have been torn down.

Heck, the Cubs never even won a World Series in Wrigley Field. Washington didn't sleep here even if countless Cubs outfielders did.

Yet landmark status limits what the Ricketts family can do? Enough already. We aren't talking about the site of the 1968 Democratic convention or Haymarket Square or Mrs. O'Leary barn.

While it's too dramatic to say that Wrigley Field is an ill wind away from falling down, it has outlived its usefulness for 21st century professional baseball.

As long as the Ricketts are willing to ante up, the city should be willing to let them, albeit with a sane system of checks and balances.

Like, neighbors would have to endorse more night games and the closing of Sheffield Avenue for game-day festivals. Inside the park, though, items like LED boards and billboards are the Ricketts' call.

Wrigley Field for decades has trailed other major-league parks in revenue per fan from advertising, parking lots, corporate areas, restaurants and concessions.

It isn't in the Ricketts' interests to splash graffiti on this rustic old asset, so they should be trusted to redecorate tastefully.

The center-field scoreboard would be preserved. The ivy on the walls, bricks behind home plate and bleachers that many of us grew up in likely would be, too.

Maintaining the park's current intimacy might be difficult, but the overall charm might improve. Fenway Park wasn't desecrated by alterations, replacing Yankee Stadium wasn't disastrous, and Dodger Stadium is as appealing despite more advertising signage.

If a Wrigley Field upgrade would help the Cubs raise cash to win a World Series, could even the purest of purists be opposed?

It's time to get something done, start a new tradition and recognize that this latest Ricketts family proposal makes sense.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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