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Cubs' quest for more '13 night games in trouble

Published: Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 10:41 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — The Chicago Cubs' push for more night games and later Friday afternoon games could be in jeopardy for the upcoming season because the team has been unable to reach an agreement with the local alderman.

The team had hoped to strike a deal on more night games in time for Ald. Tom Tunney, whose 44th Ward includes Wrigley Field, to introduce a measure at Wednesday's City Council meeting. But Tunney did not submit changes to the city ordinance that has limited night games since the Cubs installed lights at Wrigley Field in 1988.

Additional night games this season and beyond are one of several concessions the Cubs are seeking from the city as part of a proposed $300 million stadium renovation. The team also wants the city to loosen landmark and zoning restrictions that limit what the owners can do with their stadium.

Both Tunney and Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday that they wanted one comprehensive deal to rehab Wrigley and would not proceed first with just an ordinance to add more night games. "It's all of one piece," the mayor said. "We're going to do this comprehensively."

Tunney would like the Cubs to address parking, traffic and security issues that more night games, concerts and other nongame events would bring to the residential neighborhood surrounding the ballpark.

"Everyone's going to have to give a little," Tunney said. "We're not there yet."

The Cubs have scheduled 30 night games this season, and it's not clear how many more games the team seeks. The team also would like to start many of its Friday afternoon games at 3:05 p.m. instead of 1:20 p.m. The additional night games could boost the value of the team's broadcast rights because they draw higher television ratings than day games.

Another major hurdle to a comprehensive deal is the team's plan to increase advertising signage inside Wrigley. Adding more lucrative advertising billboards poses a threat to the rooftop clubs just outside the ballpark. The rooftop owners want the team to put signs on their buildings instead of installing billboards inside the ballpark. Talks continue.

The Cubs, meanwhile, would like to begin renovations as soon as the 2013 season is over.

"Everybody has a sense of urgency," said Dennis Culloton, spokesman for team's owners, the Ricketts family. "The team is still hoping to get things resolved by opening day at the latest."

Although the city could end up allowing more night games, it might be too late to change the schedule for the upcoming season because of Major League Baseball deadlines.

Tribune reporter Hal Dardick contributed.

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