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Wrigleyville Businesses Relieved Cubs Will Remain on North Side

English: Wrigley Rooftops in 1978
English: Wrigley Rooftops in 1978 (Photo credit: Wikipedi

There’s relief among businesses in Wrigleyville now that the Cubs have reached an agreement with the city over its $500 million renovation plan.

Local residents and neighborhood groups had been worried that businesses would suffer if the Cubs couldn’t come to terms with the city and decided to play baseball elsewhere.

Jaime Gamez, owner of Wrigleyville’s hot spot Big G’s Pizza, doesn’t even want to think about what could have happened if the Cubs left the North Side.

With a stadium that holds approximately 40,000 people just a block away, Gamez said his business would definitely take a hit.

“Popular Wrigley rooftops would be out of business, and other hospitality businesses would suffer greatly — along with the neighborhood’s property values,” said Heather Way, executive director of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce

“The losses would be unimaginable,” Way continued.

“Wrigley Field is the state’s third-most visited tourist attraction,” Way added, noting that “if you look at it from that perspective and being the largest employer, if they were to go away, the impacts would be absolutely huge …  every business would suffer.”

A 2011 study by the Conventions, Sports & Leisure International reported that the Cubs account for $638 million of the local economy’s yearly earnings. The study suggests nearly $400 million of this spending would not occur without the Cubs. This income supports nearly 7,000 local jobs.

The Cubs are the largest employer in Lakeview, with over 2,000 employees.

“When an area’s largest employer leaves, leaving more than 2,000 people unemployed, nothing good is to come and the local economy is the first to suffer,” Way said.

Wrigleyville is known for its local bar scene with over 30 bars and restaurants located on Clark Street alone.

With multiple bars selling similar products in the surrounding area, competition would decrease without the same large game day crowds, which would force businesses to implement new marketing strategies or consider closing their doors.

The businesses that have come with the 3 million-plus people who attend Cubs games and other events every year has made Wrigleyville a more attractive area to live, said Marc Ganis, president of SportsCorp Ltd. He says the attractiveness has increased property values and commercial values within the last 20 to 25 years.

“I think visibility, in terms of branding, in terms of people seeing our logo and seeing the different kinds of pizza we have on display, we’re going to get less exposure. If the Cubs were to leave, it would completely change the dynamic of our business in the summer time,” said pizza owner Gamez.

With the Cubs and bars gone, Ganis said Wrigleyville would not attract the young crowd it’s known for, an important factor in the area’s rental market.

Ganis says if the Cubs were to pack up and move, the unique entertainment district that has come to define Wrigleyville would move further south into the Lincoln Park area, which would result in a quieter, more bland area for residents.

“Several of these bars would close,” said Jim Spencer, a Lakeview Citizen’s Council member. “That would be unfortunate, but really on a game day for a few hours there probably isn’t enough bar capacity, but on a non-game you could shoot a cannon in these places.”

Spencer said the famous year-around locations like Murphy’s Bleachers, Cubby Bear and Bernie’s would survive only because of their historic value, and only those businesses that have been established longer would succeed.

“I think we get a fair amount of business from [the Cubs], but we’ve been here 45 years,” D’agostino’s Pizza manager Ryan Johnson said. “I don’t think we would be too affected if they left.”

The mayor of the Illinois suburb of Rosemont had offered to provide the Cubs with a new home if the team’s renovation plans did not win approval from the city of Chicago.

Ganis says the suburb, home to the Allstate Arena and Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, would have benefited significantly from the businesses that would develop around a new stadium and could leverage existing buildings and infrastructures that Rosemont has been aggressively building the last few decades.

The city of Chicago stood to lose the $20 million Cubs pay in taxes every year to the city and Cook County, Ganis said.

“If the team decided to move out of Chicago, that would create a sizable hole in the city’s budget right there,” he said.

Lakeview Camber of Commerce officials had worried about what would happen to Wrigley itself if the Cubs left.

The 99-year-old field is a historic landmark, so it cannot be torn down. Way says the Cubs could not pay to maintain the Friendly Confines because it’s too costly, and she noted that no other major league team would likely move into the field because it’s not the ideal place for a baseball field.

“One would have to think that it would stay there and be used for a limited number of other events or it would be repurposed some matter. Ten or 20 years from now, there may be another purpose for it that we don’t envision right now,” said Ganis.

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