Cubs get ex­cep­tion for week­end nights

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY FRAN SPIELMAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER

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.’’

GETTY IMAGES

The Cubs will play six night games on Fri­day and five on Satur­day this sea­son.

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