An open-air plaza adjacent to Wrigley Field will make its long-awaited debut hours before the Cubs’ April 10 home opener amid concern that hard-fought rules restricting occupancy and the sale of beer and wine will be difficult to enforce.
The plan approved by the City Council last summer gave local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) many of the safeguards he wanted to prevent the plaza from turning into what Wrigleyville residents have called the “Midwest’s largest beer garden.”
Liquor sales on the plaza will be limited to beer and wine. Those drinks can be sold only during “stadium events” such as games and concerts and at a maximum of 12 special events per year, each requiring its own special permit.
And on game and stadium concert days, attendance at the open-air plaza will be limited to fans with tickets.
On Wednesday, as team officials announced their grand plan to roll out the plaza they call the “Park at Wrigley,” Tunney aired his concerns.
“I don’t think we really understand how the plaza is going to work and the enthusiasm for the Cubs when they enter that field,” Tunney said.
“The rules say two hours before, you need a ticket. Opening day is crazy around the ward anyway. There’ll be plenty of police there. But I still think it’s not fully baked,” he said.
Without offering specific numbers, Tunney said he has been assured that the number of Chicago Police officers assigned to Wrigley will be “like the early playoffs” at least for the first week. There will also be “roving” street closures, the alderman said.
But Tunney said he is not at all certain that will be enough. “This is a new license. It’s a new event space. There’s a big screen there. There are other businesses on Clark Street that are gonna be busy. This is one of the reasons I had a really restrictive plaza ordinance,” he said.
“It’s a three-year ordinance. We don’t literally know how it’s going to work. We’re very concerned about occupancy, people able to get safely in and out of the stadium,” he said. “I’m nervous. There will be a set occupancy for the plaza. But we haven’t figured that out yet.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city is still working on the Wrigley security plan.
He refused to say whether he was prepared to grant the Cubs renewed request to shut down Addison and Clark on game days after last week’s terrorist attack in London strengthened the argument for it.
“This is not the first opening day that both Wrigley and the city of Chicago have done. We’re gonna make sure that everybody can enjoy it and be secure. And we’re gonna have all the security you need in place,” the mayor said.
“Don’t worry about the details of it. We’ll get that to you at the right time. Just know . . . that there’s gonna be a security plan — not just for opening day, but for the season,” Emanuel said.
Last summer, the Cubs won the limited right to sell beer and wine on an open-air plaza adjacent to Wrigley Field, but in a way that team officials claimed would tie the hands of the billionaire Ricketts family, which owns the team.
Now it’s time to put that claim to the test.
The Cubs announced Wednesday that the plaza that Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts has likened to the town squares of old Europe will make its debut at 10 a.m. April 10, hours before the team’s home opener.
The team also announced an initial schedule of family-oriented events they hope will dispel fears that the plaza will be a magnet for inebriated fans.
On May 13 and 14, the plaza will feature two days of food tasting, beer and wine pairings, live music and demonstrations by some of Chicago’s most celebrated chefs, including Paul Kahan, Stephanie Izard, Tony Mantuano and Joe Flamm. Tickets are on sale now at www.parkatwrigley.com.
The Old Town School of Folk Music will host biweekly morning and afternoon music programs, starting June 13.
There will be six sundown “Movies in the Park” hosted by the Music Box Theatre. The series will begin June 14 with a showing of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” which includes a legendary scene at Wrigley.
Between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thursdays, when the Cubs are not playing at home — from June 15 through Oct. 26 — Green city Market will bring sustainably raised foods to the plaza known as the Park at Wrigley. That feature will also include chef demonstrations and educational programming.
Ricketts also announced that the plaza would be home to “recognized national brands” along with restaurants and retailers unique to Chicago.
They include a two-story, tavern-style restaurants with an outdoor terrace; a two-story, 8,400-square foot store featuring Cubs merchandise; and a Jostens Jewelry Store owned by the designer of the Cubs World Series Championship ring.
“The opening of the Park at Wrigley is a major step toward my family’s goal of being a good neighbor,” Cubs and Hickory Street Capital Chairman Tom Ricketts was quoted as saying in a press release. “The park is an inviting destination where neighborhood families and visitors can gather for celebratory activities — whether the Cubs are at home or on the road.”