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Ricketts awaits next step in Wrigley renovation

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MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said on Sunday that he hopes the team can finalize some matters with the City of Chicago in the next few weeks so the five-year renovation plan for Wrigley Field can get under way.

In January, Ricketts unveiled a $300 million plan to update the ballpark and that he is willing to pay for it if he can get some cooperation from the City of Chicago. The Cubs currently need city permission to add more night games and play Friday afternoon games, as well as to add more signage inside the stadium.

"The most important thing we want to remind people, for us, is this is really all about winning," Ricketts said after addressing the team's players at Fitch Park. "It's about doing what we have to do to get the resources to give to the baseball organization and the resources we need to restore the park. I think we've made a lot of progress. We're still working forward and the mayor's office has been helpful, but it's still in progress right now."

The hope is to have the matter resolved before Opening Day -- April 1 -- in order to get ready for the first phase of the offseason renovation. Ricketts said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been supportive.

"Hopefully, in a short period of time, we'll get to the point where we're ready to say it's done and start thinking about the future," Ricketts said.

At a Chicago City Council meeting last week, there were reports that Emanuel was willing to lift the limit of 30 night games per season to allow the Cubs to play between 37 and 44, but there was no discussion. The Cubs also want to open Sheffield Avenue for street fairs on game days. But the sticking point is the complicated issue of stadium signs that threaten to block the rooftops' view.

"There's a lot of things we have to deal with at Wrigley Field that other teams don't," Ricketts said on Sunday. "Whether that's signage restrictions, rooftops, other people selling Cubs gear right outside the park -- all of that is great for [the city], but it doesn't help us. We have to get those resources back into the team so I can give those to [president of baseball operations] Theo [Epstein] to put on the field or to get those resources into improving and preserving the third-largest tourist attraction in the state."

Ricketts reminded fans that the renovation plans will not interfere with the field or the unique nuances of Wrigley, such as the ivy on the outfield walls.

"For all fans, and players, too, the stuff you see when you're in your chair looking out on the field, I think that's stuff we all want to save," Ricketts said. "There's a special magic to Wrigley that we understand that we're not going to touch. It's the things that are behind the scenes.

"I'm sure any of the players would say they'd like to improve the clubhouse, I'm sure any of the fans would say they'd like shorter lines for the washrooms or for food and better selection of food," Ricketts said. "Those are things we have to build in. On top of that, anybody would say we've got to save it. Let's just go back to the fact that most of the money we're looking to put in is basically steel and concrete and the second most is electrical and plumbing. It's a 100-year-old building.

"The things that make Wrigley special are things we're committed to and things we believe in, but we have to do the things to make sure it's there at all."

Ricketts said the Cubs will not be adding more advertising signs this season, nor will they play more night games.

The club chairman met with the media after talking to Cubs players. His message to them?

"My message to the team, well, it's real Knute Rockne stuff, real emotional -- I think there were some tears in there," Ricketts said, joking.

He doesn't expect another 101-loss season.

"I think we'll have a great team on the field." Ricketts said. "We've built a lot of depth in starting pitching, there's a great energy in camp and we have smart guys and great coaches. I think we'll be good."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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