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LPCI's Comments on Renovation Plans for Wrigley Field



A proposal to add 2,300 seats to one of the nation's most historic baseball parks has received a qualified endorsement from LPCI, which sent its comments on the proposal to the Chicago Cubs on January 8, 2002.


The Cubs had unveiled plans to construct an addition to Wrigley Field's famed bleachers in summer 2001.  The proposal would expand the number of bleacher seats from 3,300 to 5,400 by constructing above the sidewalks on two surrounding streets.


The renovation plans also included 200 new box seats behind home plate, conversion of the center-field "batter's eye" area to a glass-enclosed restaurant, and a dozen more night games.


The proposed alterations have generated widespread community debate, both by the private clubs that occupy the rooftops of surrounding buildings and by area residents who oppose additional traffic congestion and night games. Meanwhile, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks has recommended that the 88-year-old ballpark be designated as a local landmark, which would require that alterations be reviewed by the Commission.


In October 2001, a coalition of nearby property owners submitted an alternative design that called for only 900 new bleacher seats.


In order to judge the merits of the two proposals, LPCI invited both groups to present at a meeting of its Preservation Issues Committee.  An ad hoc task force then evaluated the designs and drafted a letter that was subsequently approved by the LPCI Executive Committee.  LPCI's letter noted that building additions are "a well-accepted alternative for accommodating change to a historic structure."


Citing the U.S. Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings, the letter says that the proposed additions: were compatible with the historic scale of the bleachers, would not destroy character-defining features, were placed on a rear elevation, and were clearly differentiated from the historic resource.


LPCI suggested that the size of the bleacher addition should be reduced slightly, in order to maintain the historic "visual separation" between the bleachers and the grandstands. 


It also recommended a more compatible design for the sidewalk overhang and the removal of exterior concrete panels that had replaced portions of the historic brick walls in 1958. 


Finally, the letter strongly urged City Council passage of landmark designation for Wrigley Field, including its ivy-covered walls, scoreboard, and other exterior features.



Wrigley Field was built in 1914 as a single-deck facility.  Its upper deck seating was constructed during the 1920s and the bleachers were added in the late-1930s. Current seating capacity is 39,500.  The only older major league ballpark is Boston's Fenway Park, which was constructed in 1912.









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