Decaying Wrigley will make or break neighborhood

Hours after news broke that Sam Zell would take the helm at the Chicago Tribune, speculation began that the real estate mogul would sell the Cubs but hang onto Wrigley Field and turn it into a mixed-use development.

Sure enough, Zell said that he would be selling the team separately from the park. It’s been said before but I’ll say it again: the Cubs are nothing without Wrigley.

Over the last couple of years, some of us wise Sox fans have been saying that if the historic Yankee Stadium faces demolition, so too can the rapidly-deteriorating ivy-covered walls at Addison and Clark. Yesterday, the “new” Sun-Times dedicated several pages to the idea that Wrigley’s days are numbered unless it goes the way of Fenway Park, renovated in 2002.

I don’t for one second believe the Cubs are going anywhere (though I would laugh quite heartily if they did). But what happens if several prospective owners perform feasibility studies to see if revamping Wrigley makes fiscal sense and come to the conclusion that it doesn’t?

In the unlikely event that the Cubs were to build a new stadium, it would be costly to do so on the North Side. Even if they were to head west, the majority of empty land has been filled in with new residential development.

The most likely scenario is that the Cubs stay put. But Wrigley’s structural decay needs to be addressed, sooner rather than later. The question is, how long will it take and where will the Cubs play? Whatever happens to Wrigley – and something has to happen – will no doubt have a strong impact on the greater Lake View neighborhood.

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