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Chicago council to approve $500 million Wrigley Field upgrades

An general view of Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois, April 15, 2013. Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts announced a $500 million development
An general view of Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois, April 15, 2013. Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts announced a $500 million development

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Chicago City Council is expected to approve on Wednesday a $500 million proposed renovation of Wrigley Field, the historic home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

The 99-year-old ballpark, famous for its ivy-covered outfield walls and hand-operated scoreboard, is a key tourist attraction and has been declared a city landmark, so major plans like a jumbo video message board in left field and a neighboring hotel need approval.

The privately financed proposal includes a $300 million renovation of the park itself and $200 million for improvements outside the park, including the hotel.

The plans have already been approved by the city's landmarks and plan commissions, and the city council's zoning committee approved the proposal on Tuesday evening.

The Cubs started playing at Wrigley in 1916 and have not won a World Series since 1908, the longest championship drought in Major League Baseball.

The Ricketts family, which bought the Cubs from the Chicago Tribune in 2009, say they want to change that losing record and need to revamp Wrigley to generate more revenue to invest in the team.

Attendance at the park, which holds 41,100, has fallen to 12th place from 6th place among all Major League clubs over the last 10 years, according to league data. Crowds at home games this year have averaged 33,000, down from an average of 37,000 in 2003.

With the alderman for the densely populated neighborhood surrounding the park agreeing to support the proposal after months of negotiations, the full council is expected to approve it on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Karen Brooks and Philip Barbara)

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