Cubs get exception for weekend nights
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) have agreed to loosen restrictions on the number of Friday and Saturday night games at Wrigley Field during this pandemic-shortened season to minimize the health risk to players.
The one-year exception to the night-game ordinance is on the agenda for the meeting Thursday of the City Council’s License Committee.
It would pave the way for the Cubs to play 11 weekend night games — six on Fridays and five on Saturdays. All but one of those weekend night games would start at 7:15 p.m. The home opener on Friday, July 24, is scheduled to start at 6:10 p.m.
The current night-game ordinance limits the Cubs to two Saturday night games per season and prohibits any Friday night games.
The restrictions were designed to prevent baseball crowds from overwhelming the congested neighborhood on weekends.
‘‘You were trying to help the theaters and restaurants,’’ Tunney said Tuesday. ‘‘When there’s a night activity at Wrigley, people don’t come into the neighborhood unless they’re engaging in Major League Baseball.’’
Cubs spokesman Julian Green portrayed the one-year exemption as a safety measure aimed at protecting the health of visiting players.
‘‘Given that we’re playing in the middle of a pandemic, the goal is to — if you’re starting a weekend series on Friday — have the visiting team come in on Fridays instead of Thursday nights, which limits the nights in a hotel,’’ Green said.
In 2013, the Cubs got the go-ahead to play up to 46 night games per season and to hold four concerts under a deal that pleased neither side.
Through the years, Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney repeatedly has called for the city to lift the cap on night games at Wrigley to allow the league average of 54 games under the lights. He has portrayed the Cubs as ‘‘one of the few teams that not only has to beat everyone in our division, we also have to beat the city that we play in to try and win games.’’
Still, Green said the Cubs have no intention of turning the one-year waiver into permanent permission to hold games on weekend nights.
‘‘We’re certainly not leveraging a pandemic to get more night games,’’ Green said. ‘‘That’s not what this is. We’ve always wanted more night games, but this is an exception.’’
The Cubs will play six night games on Friday and five on Saturday this season.