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Cubs get signage approval, ending stadium revenue excuses

FILE -This file photo shows an artist rendering provided May 1, 2013 by the Chicago Cubs showing planned renovations at Wrigley Field. The Cubs said that have reached an agreement with the city that would allow the team to build a Jumbotron in left field at the team's historic ballpark while adding another sign in right field. The agreement over the changes to Wrigley Field must be approved by Chicago's landmarks commission, which is meeting Thursday, July 11, 2013. A team spokesman said the Jumbotron is slightly smaller than what the Cubs initially wanted and the right field sign is significantly smaller. (AP Photo/Courtesy the Chicago Cubs, File)

CHICAGO – The Cubs will have a harder time using stadium revenue as an excuse for failing to field a winning team or spending money in the offseason.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks unanimously approved the agreement between the Cubs and the city on Thursday regarding signs at Wrigley Field, most notably a jumbotron in left field and an advertisement in right field – similar to the Toyota sign currently residing in left field. The Cubs believe revenue generated from the advertisements sold on these signs will generate $300 million over five years to use for Wrigley renovations.

“I think it’s in the best interest of Chicago, which I think the mayor has seen fit to help and get involved in this process, to try and move this process forward,” Cubs spokesman Julian Green said. “We believe, as the Chicago Cubs organization, that it is in the best interest of everyone to try and bring this project to a close.”

The Cubs have said during the early stages of the renovation plans that they've been somewhat restricted in their spending and investing in the team while the Wrigley renovations are up in the air. With the jumbotron and ads in the outfield getting approved and those plans now set in motion, the Cubs no longer have that as a built in excuse for defending any decisions to limit offseason spending and act like a small market team.

“I cannot support a proposal that so dramatically affects the quality of life of my residents,” Alderman Tom Tunney said during the meeting. “From blocks and blocks away, the light from the proposed 6,000 square foot jumbotron will flicker in living rooms and bedrooms throughout the ward.”

The approved jumbotron signage can be 5,672-square feet, no more than 95 feet wide, and the bottom of the LED board will be eight feet above the top of the bleachers though it won't be higher than the center field scoreboard. The commission's approval quells the threat, regardless of how seriously it was taken, of the Cubs moving and building a new ballpark elsewhere.

While the approval was a win for the Cubs, their battle to renovate Wrigley isn't over. Not surprisingly, the Wrigleyville rooftop owners were not happy with the outcome, which will likely block multiple rooftop views. Public testimony during the nearly five-hour meeting largely supported the rooftops in opposing the jumbotron and signage, which one area resident said would destroy the uniqueness of the ballpark.

“I continue to be optimistic,” rooftop owners spokeswoman Beth Murphy said. “This is discouraging, there’s no question. I do not know how the jumbotron and the right field sign fits in with landmarking. I do not understand that at all.”

Murphy and other rooftop owners are convinced this approved proposal will cause some of them to go out of business due to blocked views. The approved proposal doesn’t eliminate the contract the rooftop owners have with the Cubs. However, Muprhy avoided answering whether they will file a lawsuit for violating that contract.

“We’re going through the process, but we do have a contract with the Chicago Cubs,” Murphy said.

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