Cubs' scramble on Wrigley Field hits bump when mayor balks
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs' scramble to get as much of a massive renovation of Wrigley Field done before next month's opening day hit a bump Tuesday when Mayor Rahm Emanuel dashed the team's hopes of winning city approval to keep construction crews working around the clock.
"The city ordinance is clear that you can't have 24-hour building," the mayor told reporters, who also made a point of saying that whatever the Cubs told the media about extending the hours of construction, they had not raised the issue with him.
Team officials, who said that they need pick up the pace of the project because winter weather has put construction behind schedule, tried to assure people that whatever they said Monday about asking the city to let construction go "more 24/7" was not what they would seek.
Saying the team understands the mayor's "perspective" and the "need to be conscious of the impact on our neighbors," the Cubs in a statement issued Tuesday said they hope the city will allow work to be done from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. and Monday through Saturday, instead of the 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. schedule they must adhere to now.
All this comes at a stressful time for both the team and the mayor. The Cubs, who have already acknowledged that the bleachers will be closed to fans on opening day, say they need the additional work time to erect the centerpiece of the $575 million renovation project: the huge video board in left field. And the mayor, in the middle of a re-election campaign, knows voters are watching to see if the Cubs get preferential treatment from him.
It also represents another chapter in the sometimes rocky history of the Cubs' effort to renovate the 101-year-old ballpark. A few years ago, as the Cubs were trying to win support for its plans, Emanuel stopped so much as even taking phone calls from the team's chairman after a report that the chairman's father was thinking about bankrolling a racially tinged campaign against Emanuel's former boss, President Barack Obama. Last year, Emanuel announced he was delaying a hearing on the Cubs' renovation plans after learning that they included elements that neither he nor anyone else at City Hall had ever seen before.