Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts reaffirmed his commitment to renovating Wrigley Field and keeping the team in Chicago today during a speech to suburban business executives.
Ricketts, speaking at the fourth annual DuPage County Regional Business Outlook forum in Oakbrook Terrace, said his proposed $500 million renovation of Wrigley Field is the only priority for the Cubs and he is confident the owners, the city of Chicago and Wrigley Field neighbors will come to an agreement.
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He downplayed remarks he made last week to the Union League Club of Chicago, in which he was quoted as saying he might move the Cubs to another location if the renovation plans are not approved.
"We really haven't played the other options card," he said. "We tried to take the high ground and we're really focused on hoping that everyone with incentive to restore and preserve and improve Wrigley Field will work toward the common goal, and I think we're getting really close to that."
Ricketts said keeping the Cubs at Wrigley Field has a personal meaning for him and his family. Ricketts lived across the street from the field at one time, and he met his wife while watching a game in the bleachers. He said the goal of the overhaul is to restore Wrigley to the look it had in 1935, while improving the fan experience with modern conveniences, such as more washrooms and better concessions.
"What I'm excited about is when I drive up to my office in the future, I'll be able to see a beautiful ballpark the way it was meant to look when people really loved it and put a lot of money and care for it."
In addition to facade improvements which Ricketts said would restore Wrigley to the beauty it had when it was first built almost 100 years ago, the renovation plan include major upgrades to concession areas and restrooms, an expanded clubhouse and fitness facility, and an underground batting practice area for players.
The most controversial part of the plan includes the installation of 6,000-square-foot video screen in left field, as well as additional signage in right field. Neighbors who own rooftop clubs and bleachers oppose the signs, saying it will obstruct their view of the field and affect their businesses.
That opposition sparked the comment last week that led to speculation the Cubs may leave Chicago if the package isn't approved by the city, and that created speculation of the organization looking at the suburbs if that secario arose. Rosemont Mayor Donald Stephens put out the welcome mat for his town earlier this year, and Naperville had also been mentioned as a possible location,
But Ricketts noted the renovation plans include upgrading the area around the park as well to create a "town square atmosphere on the north side of the city' which would bring in potential for surrounding businesses as well.
"It's a great thing for the city of Chicago, the players, and an incredible improvement to the fan experience," he said.
Ricketts made light of the controversy during his opening remarks, in which he talked about his invitation to speak to the business group.
"If they don't have bacon AND eggs, I -- on behalf of our family -- will be forced to explore other breakfast speaking options," he quipped.
But while he stresses he does not see the Cubs leaving Chicago, DuPage County leaders left the option open for him.
"You and the Cubs are always welcome in DuPage County," said former DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom.