Sam Zell, caretaker owner of the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field as part of his December purchase of the Tribune Company, wants everyone to know that “his role is to throw bombs and shake people up. He’s a man of his word.” For Cubs fans, that word has been “monetize”. (At least, that’s the clean version. Zell prefers naughtier words.)
He’s rolled as many grenades under the new furniture as possible, including layoffs on the Tribune side and throwing ideas out randomly to wring every last nickel out of the Cubs franchise before selling it off. However, his notion to sell naming rights to Wrigley Field isn’t remotely the worst of it; now he’s trying to destroy Chicago architecture. No, really. All of it.
As reported by the CHICAGO READER in January, Zell wants to hand over Wrigley Field to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (created to build US Cellular Field) so the taxpayers of Illinois can pay for a new parking garage, mall, and other amenities that would make Wrigley Field exactly like every other park in the majors.
Unfortunately for poor misbegotten Zell, Wrigley Field has local landmark status. While Fenway-like minor changes have been completed, he can’t get his way if Chicago preserves that landmark status.
Naturally, Zell wants landmark status lifted enough to let him have his way. Once that’s complete, he will presumably stop holding the Cubs franchise hostage and sell the team separate from the stadium.
In Blair Kaman’s piece in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE Monday, the architecture critic points out that removing or modifying landmark status for Wrigley would encourage property owners in other Chicago landmark districts to cry poverty without the ability to tear down their classic structures for condos or a Tilt-A-Whirl.
Chicago, world-renowned for its architectural beauty, would join New Wrigley as another plain place. As any environmental or architectural preservationist will tell you, any preservation effort only has to lose once to fail completely. That’s a record the Cubs and Wrigley Field can’t possibly hope to compete against.
(P.S. Blair, I hope you have saved well; that job at the Tribune won’t last much longer now that you’ve poked the vulgar bear.)