CHICAGO -- It was Moving Day at Wrigley Field on Wednesday.
For the statues, anyway.
While two of their division foes prepare for the postseason, the Chicago Cubs are embarking on construction season on their $375 million ballpark renovation. On Wednesday, they chiseled out the Ernie Banks statue at the corner of Clark and Addison and the Harry Caray statue by the bleachers and moved them to Michigan for restoration work.
No, they’re not putting a Kris Bryant statue in Banks’ spot.
The Banks statue will be placed in a temporary spot next year until the open-air plaza is complete in 2016, according to a team release, while the Caray statue should be back up outside the renovated bleachers near the corner of Sheffield and Waveland next season.
Along with the restoration work, both statues are getting new bases while the Cubs begin Phase 1 of a four-phase construction project that will last at least the next four offseasons.
Phase 1 will focus on the complete teardown of the left field and right field bleachers, culminating in the introduction of a 4,000-square foot videoboard in left field, a giant Budweiser sign in right and potentially five more signs in the outfield. The bleachers will be restructured underneath the seating areas, and will add a new left-field party patio and adjoining smaller videoboard, similar to the one currently below the right-field party patio.
But Phase 1 will also include the digging and construction of an underground clubhouse below current parking lots abutting Clark St. and Waveland Ave.. and structural work in the left field main concourse as the Cubs reinforce and improve the 100-year-old stadium for its facelift.
It was warm and sunny as construction workers put up fencing under the landmark-protected Wrigley marquee, but the Cubs know the weather will soon turn during their six-month timeline.
“It’s a difficult project,” Cubs vice president of communications and community affairs Julian Green said. “Keep in mind this is one of the most unique projects in all of sports.”
Green said there are some natural concerns about winter weather affecting the project, and he sent out a flare that the Cubs need the various city agencies involved in this project to move quickly on permits and other red tape so the Cubs can open for business in April.
“We have 26 weeks,” Green said. “It’s a very aggressive schedule. Notwithstanding the weather issues, it’s dealing with the city of Chicago with permits. We’re talking to the landmark commission today about how we take the ivy off the wall, how it’s stored and how we take off the bricks. Things like that can trigger delays. It’s important for us to have a good working relationship with the city of Chicago, whether it’s the building commission or (permit department). We want to make sure they’re being responsive to our needs as well, because that can potentially impact this project. Again, this is 26 weeks.”
Green said he thinks the city will be responsive to the Cubs’ needs, and that the team has hosted the Commission on Chicago Landmarks board members for tours of the pre-construction project.
Typically, Green said it takes about two weeks to clean up the construction zones and prepare all the wiring, pipes, etc. for the work, but the team is “accelerating that timeline” to get the bleacher work started.
“When this ballpark opens, we have to be able to accept fans,” he said. “It’s difficult to accept fans in a construction zone.”
The team is working on an official groundbreaking ceremony with Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the next couple weeks.
“We plan to hopefully have a really big celebratory event because we know the fans and Wrigley Field deserves it,” Green said. “We want to have a good showing once we have shovels in the ground.”