Chicago Cubs unveil plan for new rooftop signs, and say they’re bringing back an old tradition

Chicago Cubs unveil plan for new rooftop signs, and say they’re bringing back an old tradition

The Chicago Cubs are asking the City Council to allow the team’s owners to install LED rooftop signs on two buildings outside Wrigley Field.

Ald. Bennett Lawson, 44th, introduced an ordinance at Wednesday’s council meeting that would permit the construction later this season of a giant Coca-Cola sign with the familiar red-and-white design atop 1040 W. Waveland Ave. just beyond left field, and an advertisement for paint company Benjamin Moore over right field on 3623 N. Sheffield Ave.

The signs won’t be turned on unless a game is underway, and won’t flash or use video, Lawson said after the council meeting. The reaction from Wrigley Field’s neighbors has so far been muted.

“One of the things about these signs is that they are really facing into the ballpark,” Lawson said. “There’s not a lot of street presence or sidewalk presence. The money is made on TV. It should really be a minimal impact certainly for our residents.”

The proposal should go before the council’s Zoning Committee in two weeks, he added, and could secure final approval from the full council at its April meeting.

Cubs spokesperson Julian Green said Coca-Cola and Benjamin Moore are both already partners of the ballclub, and the signs are part of new multiyear rooftop deals.

The Ricketts family has sought to create new sources of revenue around Wrigley Field ever since it bought the Cubs in 2009 for $845 million. The family rehabilitated the stadium, and won praise from local business leaders for replacing a parking lot to the west with Gallagher Way, a mixed-use district with new offices, a conference center, a boutique hotel, more restaurants and retail, and a town square for concerts, outdoor markets and parties.

“The concerts are fabulous, everyone does well during concert season,” said Maureen Martino, executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce. Off-season events at Gallagher Way, including Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville, keep foot traffic up even during winter. “All of this activity has been very good for us.”

The change hasn’t always been smooth. Owners of several rooftop bars around the park sued the Cubs nine years ago after the team announced plans to place video boards in the outfield, claiming the structures would block their customers’ views. The Cubs prevailed in 2017 when a panel of federal judges ruled video boards did not violate a 2004 revenue-sharing agreement between the team and rooftop clubs.

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Green said rooftop advertisements have been a part of Wrigley Field ever since it opened in 1914. Generations of baseball fans were accustomed to a huge Budweiser logo spread across the roof of 3701 N. Kenmore Ave., just across Waveland Avenue over left center field, a spot later taken by United Airlines. And 3631 N. Sheffield Ave. was known for advertising both Torco oil and Miller Lite beer.

“There was also a third sign,” he said. “Following the 1932 World Series, Curtiss Candy installed an illuminated advertising sign for Baby Ruth on the roof of one of the buildings across Sheffield Avenue to mark Babe Ruth’s “supposed” called shot.”

Lawson said he met last month with East Lakeview Neighbors, a community group, and residents seemed satisfied with the Cubs’ signage plan.

“I would say the mood was indifferent,” he said. “Which is unusual for a group that has Wrigley Field in their area. But given the restrictions, given the location, they didn’t seem to have really any questions or concerns.”