CHICAGO — The Cubs hosted Commissioner Bud Selig, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and 350 distinguished guests on Saturday for the official groundbreaking ceremony of the renovations to 100-year-old Wrigley Field.
Selig, whose tenure began in 1992 and will end on January 25, called Wrigley one of the game’s great cathedrals. He also praised the Cubs for their efforts to restore the century-old stadium.
“When you think of a baseball park that embodies its city, its communities and its fans, there is simply no more powerful example in baseball than that of Wrigley Field,” Selig said.
“Make no mistake, the new ballparks around the country are wonderful. They’re integral parts of their communities, and they’re building traditions of their own. Most ballparks are aspiring to attain what Wrigley has achieved for decades upon decades.”
Selig also recalled his first trip to Wrigley in May 1944 — just prior to his 10th birthday — during the roughly one-hour ceremony.
“Wrigley Field took hold of a special place in my heart right then and there,” said Selig. “And frankly, it has held that spot for the past 70 years.” Project 1060, named in recognition of Wrigley’s address on Addison St., is a four-year, $575 million refurbishing of baseball’s second oldest ballpark (behind Boston’s Fenway Park) — and its largest makeover since adding lights in 1988.
The project includes a vast structural overhaul, beginning this offseason with an expansion of the main concourse and Budweiser Bleachers to accommodate new outfield signs — including a 3,990 square-foot video board in left field.
The subsequent three phases — one scheduled each offseason until Opening Day 2018 — will revamp concessions, restrooms, seats, luxury suites, retail and entertainment space, the press box and player facilities.
The bullpens will be moved under the bleachers from the base lines, and batting tunnels will be added to the clubhouses — which will also be expanded. The Cubs will have the second-largest clubhouse in baseball (behind the Yankees) when work is completed by Opening Day 2016, according to Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts.
Fans can follow the renovations at wrigleyfield.com, which was revamped this weekend to coincide with Saturday’s ceremony.
“In terms of what this means for winning, I mean you guys know the clubhouse well, the weight room, the training room — all of that is just embarrassing,” Ricketts said after the ceremony. “We’re going to have other facilities that other teams give to their players. Hopefully, that will translate to better performance on the field.”
Separately, the Ricketts family plans to construct a hotel, a fitness club, an open-air plaza and retail space adjacent to the ballpark as part of an effort to be “good neighbors” to the Lakeview community. Ricketts noted an ice rink, farmers market and free concerts are also on the agenda.
“We’re going to try to make it something that is more of a town square for the North Side, so that people can come here on any day and get a valuable experience,” Ricketts said.
The entire project is expected to create more than 2,000 jobs and generate more than a billion dollars in revenue for the local economy over the next 30 years, the Cubs said. A labor agreement with the Chicago and Cook County Building & Construction Trades Council will relegate these jobs to local residents, with 15 percent of the total billed man hours to be filled by qualified economically disadvantaged and/or dislocated workers, according to a Cubs statement.
The Ricketts family is privately financing the project, which Selig and Emanuel both praised as incredibly rare in today’s sports marketplace.
The Wrigley renovations begin amid a pending lawsuit by the rooftops owners against the City of Chicago, claiming a legally protected interest in the views of Wrigley Field, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Ricketts was brief and blunt when asked about the matter, saying: “I’m extremely confident on all the legal hurdles.”
The Cubs also face an aggressive schedule that will battle rigorous Chicago winters.
“Obviously, the building season that we have is not ideal,” Ricketts said. “Hopefully, there [won't] be any complications … over the course of the winter. But it’s a tight timeline. There’s going to be some stressful winters for our guys.”
The Cubs are working closely throughout the renovations with the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, which had four representatives on hand for Saturday’s ceremony. Wrigley Field was designated a landmark in 2004.
The construction companies hired for the 1060 Project include Pepper Construction, which worked on large-scale Chicago projects such as the Merchandise Mart and Shedd Aquarium; and D’Agostino Izzo Quirk Architects, which helped restore Fenway Park, Dodger Stadium and the Rose Bowl.
Preliminary renovations began on Aug. 27, when City of Chicago crews relocated underground water, sewer and gas lines. A day after the Cubs’ final 2014 home game, Sheffield and Waveland Avenues were closed to vehicle traffic. The Ernie Banks and Harry Caray statues, which were located in the construction zones, were removed on Oct. 1.
Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.