Statues removed as part of Wrigley Field renovation

Banks, Caray sculptures to be refurbished during offseason

Statues removed as part of Wrigley Field renovation

CHICAGO -- Renovations to 100-year-old Wrigley Field continued Wednesday as the statue of Ernie Banks on Clark Street was temporarily removed for restoration.

The statue will be taken to the Alchemist Sculpture Foundry in Kalamzoo, Mich., where it will be sandblasted, have the patina reapplied and a new sealer installed, according to Lou Cella of Rotblatt-Amrany, the Chicago-based art studio that sculpted the monument.

From there, Banks' statue will be transported to the Patten Monument Co. in Grand Rapids, Mich., where it will receive a new base along with Harry Caray's statue, which was also expected to be transported on Wednesday.

Both are planned to be reinstalled for display by Opening Day next year.

Cella said the statues didn't necessarily need a refurbishing, but the Cubs chose to do so given the timing of the renovations to Wrigley Field, a four-year, $575 million project that began last week. Both statues are firmly in construction zones of the bleachers and main concourse.

"They look pretty good to me, but since we have the chance, we'll do it," Cella said.

"The sculptures around Wrigley Field probably take a harder piece of abuse environmentally than anything else we do. Around here, when snowplows are throwing up ice melt and salt and just the exhaust and everything else -- just Mother Nature in general -- they take a pounding."

The overhaul is Wrigley Field's largest since adding lights in 1988, becoming the final big league ballpark to do so.

Sheffield and Waveland Avenues, which surround the outfield exterior, were closed last Friday -- a day after the Cubs' final home game -- to begin alterations to the bleachers. City of Chicago crews began preparing the area on Aug. 27 by relocating water, sewer and gas lines.

The bleachers are being expanded to accommodate five new outfield signs and two videoboards. The Cubs have said since winning their Landmark Commission approval on July 10 that the reconditioned bleachers would be ready by Opening Day 2015, but they didn't ensure that on Wednesday.

Cubs vice president of communications and community affairs Julian Green noted the team could be battling another frigid Chicago winter and hurdles through the city's Landmark Commission in the 26 weeks between now and Opening Day.

"Our hope is to get this done in time for the 2015 season," Green said. "But in a city like Chicago with sub-zero temperatures and 100 inches of snow from last winter, it's a difficult project. Keep in mind, this is probably one of the most unique projects in all of sports.

"Certainly we have some concerns, but we're confident that we have the best design bill project team on this project to help us get it done."

Green also noted the wide range of unknown hiccups that could surface in dealing with a 100-year-old complex.

"You crack open some basements and cabinets and storage facilities, who knows what you might find," Green said. "When you're dealing with a project like this, anything can happen, and so we're trying to plan for unknowns. It's not a new facility. This is not just building from scratch."

It takes roughly two weeks to get the ballpark ready for the structural work on the bleachers and main concourse, Green said, which will see 50 million pounds of new concrete installed with refurbished steel support by 2018.

Wrigley Field was designated a landmark by the city of Chicago in 2004, and as such, must go through extensive protocol when making alterations to the facility. Green said he believes the Landmarks Commission grasps the urgency of completing Phase 1 within its intended timeframe.

"We've been talking with them, walking them through the process, so we believe they understand it," Green said. It's a big project, but again, it's 26 weeks. They are definitely critical to making sure that we can get this done on time and that we can accept fans."

The signage approval, ruled unanimously by the Commission three months ago, was granted over a year of friction with 44th Ward alderman Tom Tunney and various neighbors -- particularly the rooftop owners, who have a pending lawsuit with the city.

The Cubs are not the defendant in the suit, and they largely refrained from commenting on its proceedings. They still plan to host a formal groundbreaking ceremony within two weeks, pending the mayor's and commission's schedules.

"There are a number of agencies, firms and individuals for that matter, who've had something to do with trying to get us where we are today. And so with a lot of coordination, we plan to hopefully do a really big celebratory event because we know the fans and Wrigley Field deserves it," Green said. "So we want to have a good showing once we put shovels in the ground."

Fans can follow the renovations at wrigleyfield.com, where video updates will be posted from time to time.

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.