Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Billy & Elton Returning to Wrigley Field this July


Three nighttime concerts at Wrigley Field apparently aren't too much for the congested Lake View neighborhood to handle, according to the alderman whose ward includes the ballpark.

Elton John and Billy Joel and the Dave Matthews Band will headline three more concerts this summer at Wrigley, thanks to an "exception" to the night-game ordinance that Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) plans to introduce at Wednesday's City Council meeting.

Elton John and Billy Joel will reprise last year's wildly popular concerts on July 7 -- a Wednesday night.

The Dave Matthews Band -- whose bus driver notoriously unloaded 800 pounds of human waste on a tour boat passing under the Kinzie Street bridge in 2004 -- is expected to headline Friday and Saturday night concerts in September. The dates haven't been finalized. Matthews played Wrigley in 2007.

Last summer, the Cubs held an unprecedented three Wrigley concerts in one summer week -- two by Elton John and Billy Joel, one by Rascal Flatts.

When the Southport Neighbors Association argued that it was too big a burden, in part because of a conflict with the group's neighborhood festival, Tunney called it a one-year experiment. He promised that, if things didn't go well, "There'll be no more concerts."

On Tuesday, Tunney said the three-concert experiment was so successful that it's worth repeating.

He also said he hasn't decided yet whether to demand that the Cubs forfeit one of their 30 night games in return.

"There are certainly naysayers," Tunney said. "There have been naysayers about doing any concerts. But the majority of the community thinks the concerts, so long as they're regulated and few and far between, provide benefits to the community.

"It's great for business in the neighborhood. It also provides real, first-rate entertainment at the park."

Jill Peters, president of the Southport Neighbors Association, appears to be softening her opposition to the three Wrigley concerts after developing a "good working relationship" with the Ricketts family, the Cubs' new owners.

"We've been having lots of conversations back and forth," Peters said. " I'm trying to address some of the concerns neighbors have raised, and I'm hopeful the Cubs will resolve most, if not all, of these concerns."

She wouldn't say what those concerns are.

The motivation for the concert series for the Cubs is the chance to bring in money that wouldn't fall under Major League Baseball's revenue-sharing umbrella. For every dollar the Cubs make on game days, 34 cents must be shared with other teams. For every dollar from a concert, the Cubs get to keep 100 percent.

The concert precedent began in 2005 with a pair of Labor Day concerts by Jimmy Buffett. In exchange, the Cubs agreed to donate $150,000 to neighborhood schools, take a one-year break from concerts and forfeit one of their 30 night games the following season. The Buffett concerts ended at 10:30 p.m., and seating was capped at the baseball limit of 41,000.

In 2007, the Cubs were hoping to avoid the night-game penalty -- until Tunney put up a fuss. The alderman demanded -- and the Cubs agreed -- to play only 29 night games that year. The team also agreed to cut off stadium sales of beer and alcohol at 9:30 p.m., provide security in and around Wrigley until 2 a.m. and monitor sound levels during and after the concert.

Neighborhood protections for this year's concerts are still being negotiated.

- Suntimes.com

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