During the 2008 season, Z.W. Martin worked in the Cubs publications department. At the time, he saw the original scale model of the Triangle Building, learned what developers wanted to do to the land surrounding Wrigley Field and was introduced to the many roadblocks to both plans.
The Triangle Building
When I worked for the Cubs in 2008, I needed to get into the photo archives on many occasions to retrieve pertinent pictures of past Cubs players for various stories included in the Vine Line -- the team's in-house magazine. The archive room, -- well, building -- unfortunately, was not located in Wrigley Field, the since-torn-down dilapidated donut shop (and my office) or even the makeshift media relations trailers stationed in the triangle parking lot along Addison (because of the large influx of Japanese media due to the Kosuke Fukudome signing during the 2008 season, Wrigley Field often felt like an oversized school, its officials always scrambling to ensure each kid had a desk -- the trailers only added to this atmosphere), but in an alley off Clifton Avenue (the Cubs own various buildings in Wrigleyville). The walk was all of five minutes, but a daunting five minutes for an intern learning about Fire Joe Morgan for the first time.
The archive room was located on the second floor of a faded red brick, two story building behind a yellow house that had a "Beware of Dog" sign, but never a dog. I entered through a black door that led to a another black door and a stairwell. I never found out what was behind that second door, but there was a worn black bag of forgotten baseball equipment stationed in front of it. As instructed, I took the stairs and walked in upon a large room with warped wood floors. It was basically empty besides a wood desk and chair to the west, another set directly north and the old medal cabinets that I was supposed to spend hours sorting through to find the perfect picture of Mark Bellhorn (he had just signed with the Dodgers).
Nothing about the room was special, except a disregarded Plexiglas case sitting on the north desk. I first approached it with curiosity and was surprised to find a scale model enclosed. Within the hard transparent shell was a replica of the much vaunted Triangle Building in all its glory (whenever I needed to go back to the archive room, I would often examine the Triangle Building model for minutes, searching for things I missed). It was a simple model, lacking details such as cars or trees (just white foam boards), but detailed enough to make each section and level clear as to what it was designed to be.
It stood exactly where my office and the school-like trailers sat, but also included the rest of the triangle parking lot along Clark (starting at Seminary and running west to Waveland). The model started with a truncated Wrigley Field extending a bridge to a the second to top level -- both top floors assigned to parking (since then, the plans have been revised, making it more fan friendly -- a rooftop -- and not about parking). Below were to be an entire level (now two -- above link) used for front office space, something Wrigley Field desperately lacks. Below that, shops, stores and possibly restaurants (now an atrium and Cubs Pro Shop -- above link). The possibilities seemed open for interpretation and endless (not as much now).
Working within -- or just outside -- Wrigley Field, it was made abundantly clear the Cubs needed the Triangle Building. Their offices cramped. Their Baseball Operations Department woefully understaffed. Something needed to happen. Seeing a model of the Triangle Building made it real to me and not just something people talked about at the 15-year-old coffee machine or at the main desk where free Wrigley gum and candies were handed out (not a bad trade for William Wrigley Jr. Company -- stadium naming rights for gum). There were -- and are -- many obstacles to its construction (which I will get into later), but knowing the plans were out there meant those barriers could eventually be overcome and simply meant something hopeful, something good -- a World Series, perhaps -- had to of happened. Sometimes that's all you need in a sad and dark Cubs existence.
What will Ricketts do with the McDonald's property?
Just like any office, there was gossip and conjecture and free Carlos Zambrano bobble heads (that last one may be unique). Somehow conversations would turn to the surrounding buildings, the rooftops (one responsibility I had was to take pictures of the rooftops to ensure the owners couldn't lie about attendance) and the wasteland that is Addison along Wrigley Field and Clark west of Addison until just before Waveland. The biggest rumor that persisted was a hotel. A large hotel. A HUGE hotel taking up the 7-Eleven and McDonald's or, maybe, along Addison where the Starbucks and car shops line the stadium. It was discussed, but always dismissed. Too many roadblocks (again, more on that later) is how the conversations always would end.
However, with Tom Ricketts purchasing the McDonald's on Addison and Clark, this concept does not seem that farfetched. Simply because reasonable PR can be instituted. Instead of an outside, random, faceless developer, Ricketts can spin it accordingly: "It will directly improve the Cubs and bring home a World Series!" It could also potentially fund the Triangle Building, making public funds unnecessary or, at least, a little more reasonable. A double-whammy in the PR battle that I explain (slightly) better below.
Roadblocks to it all: peeved Wrigleyville-ians and money
The idea of a hotel in Wrigleyville is not new. It's been floating around forever, in a variety of locations. The largest issue is the backlash each proposed plan has received from locals. They do not want their quaint neighborhood turning into more than just that. They want it quiet -- or as quiet as a major night life destination, attached to a major sports venue can be. A hotel, in their eyes, will destroy local businesses and turn Wrigleyville into an inhabitable party/tourist zone, no matter how many parking lots are added.
As for the Triangle Building, the PR battle exists, but for a different reason. It lies with the money it will cost and where that money is coming from -- in this case, public funds. People don't want to have their taxes go to nicer offices for sports executives.
A venture like a Ricketts driven hotel proposition could potentially muffle both arguments: the Hotel Wrigleyville means the Cubs are World Series Champs! (indirectly) and also pays for the Triangle Building (directly). A "win, win" he could argue. The Cubs new owner may be the only force that can turn the local public outcry against a Wrigleyville hotel in on itself.
For now, though, Ricketts is content selling burgers and, during the season, merchandise in the parking lot of his newest acquisition. We'll see what his next move is once things settle down, but it would appear more is on the
Wrigleyville skyline horizon.
Then again, maybe he just likes the McRib.