State's plan to buy Wrigley lands it on endangered list
PRESERVATIONISTS | Group fears 'bad ideas' in ballpark rehab
BY ANDREW HERRMANN Staff Reporter [email protected]
While fans have been concerned about the possible renaming of Wrigley Field, some preservationists have been more worried about how the Cubs' park will look if the state buys the North Side stadium.
The preservationist group Landmark Illinois put Wrigley Field on its most endangered historic places list Wednesday, saying the state agency that would run Wrigley has a rocky history with stadiums, citing the controversial redo of Soldier Field and seating complaints at U.S. Cellular Field.
The state, through the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, is arguing that buying Wrigley Field would save it. But Preservation Illinois president David Bahlman called reports that the authority would need to amend Wrigley's city landmark designation "a red flag."
"That gives us great concern when we think of the track record the sports facility authority has with athletic facilities,'' Bahlman said. "To be asking for a relaxation of the landmark designation [is] basically code for 'we want to do anything we want to do to the property.'
"The sports authority goes way overboard. We're really nervous about some of the bad ideas that might bubble up about what to do to the stadium to make it a cash cow."
Both Crane Kenney, the Tribune Co. senior vice president who oversees the Cubs, and former Gov. James R. Thompson, who has been involved in state negotiations to buy the 94-year-old Wrigley from Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell, have cited a need to reverse the park's city landmark status.
Kenney has said, "If you're going to restore and maintain the facility, you're going to have to take parts of it down and rebuild it, just like we rebuilt the bleachers two years ago. Landmarking authorization doesn't let you do that."
But Bahlman said the 2004 city landmark designation, which covers the uninterrupted sweep of the bleachers and grandstand, "carries a lot of wiggle room for sensible and compatible renovation."
Stadium authority spokesman Doug Scofield said "it's too early" to say that the landmark designation would need to be turned back.
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