Wrigley Field turns 100 in midst of rooftrop controversy

Last Friday, Wrigley Field opened the gates on its 100th season, and maybe one of its last.

Wrigley rooftop owners, who worry new proposed billboards will block their views, have stalled Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts’ $500 million renovation plan indefinitely.

The Cubs signed a 20-year agreement with the Wrigleyville Rooftop Association in 2004, legalizing rooftop seating and creating a partnership of sorts with the Wrigley community. But that partnership may disappear if the two sides cannot reconcile their demands for the good of the Cubs franchise.

Ricketts said from the beginning of his tenure as chairman in 2009 that he loves Wrigley. He’s not just a businessman, he’s a fan.

But it is precisely that mentality that keeps Ricketts from playing hardball with the rooftop owners.

No Cubs fan wants to move from Wrigley Field. It would decimate 100 years of history, tradition and loyalty. But, in order for Ricketts to be taken seriously, he needed to make moving seem like an option.

What if Wrigley Field was in Skokie, Ill.? Or Orland Park, Ill.? Or some other suburb with mayoral support and some cash to burn?

“Build it and they will come,” right?

Ricketts needed the rooftop owners to sweat, make them worry more about keeping the Cubs than losing a little business.

But he didn’t. He professed his love for all things Wrigley and allowed the rooftop owners a larger say than they deserve.

The Cubs would be nothing without their fan culture, but no professional sports franchise should be held hostage by petty demands.

It seemed as though an agreement was possible when rooftop owners created a plan to put up digital billboards that would generate ad revenue for the Cubs without compromising rooftop views. But the Cubs remained staunch in their desire to put up signs at their own discretion.

Renovations were supposed to begin this past offseason but now are scheduled to start after the 2014 season comes to a close.

Wrigley Field is one of only two ballparks to reach the 100-year mark and should be celebrated as a fragment of baseball history and a staple of Chicago pride.

Instead, Chicagoans find themselves caught up in worry.

If the renovations don’t happen, Wrigley may not be able survive for future generations of Cubs baseball.

And if the feud forces Ricketts to move the Cubs, even an exact replica of Wrigley Field won’t feel the same. It would only be a shell of a once-great baseball institution.

There are only so many things Cubs fans can boast about.

They’re not used to hoisting the pennant, or playing baseball deep into October, and sitting above .500 is a rarity. But they have Wrigley, and if this dispute forces the Cubs to move, everyone loses.

Aryn is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @arynbraun.