City Buildings Commissioner Stan Kaderbek on Monday gave the green light for Chicago Cubs games to continue at Wrigley Field after an engineering firm concluded that quality repairs have been made to the 90-year-old park.
Kaderbek's announcement came at a City Hall news conference seven hours before the Cubs were scheduled to take the field against the Milwaukee Brewers.
But the commissioner made no apology for threatening to close Wrigley after being told of allegations of shoddy repair work by a Los Angeles Times reporter.
In a statement issued later Monday, Cubs President Andy MacPhail said that he was "pleased, but not surprised," that the team would play that night.
"The city has conducted enough inspections of Wrigley Field by now that they should be satisfied we are not printing a newspaper here," MacPhail said.
Monday's action came after several weeks of controversy between the Daley administration and Tribune Co., the Chicago-based company whose holdings include Wrigley Field, the Cubs, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.
Mayor Richard Daley has accused Tribune Co. and the Cubs of failing to be forthcoming about problems at Wrigley and the Chicago Tribune of failing to thoroughly report the problems. Officials of the parent company and its subsidiaries have contended they have acted properly.
John Baker, 46, was not worried the game would not go on as he got the toy goats and bead necklaces he sells at games ready as usual Monday. "This game was going and it's a lot of hot air from City Hall," he said, adding that he would soon start offering Velcro goatees to his merchandise.
Jeff Stielow, 47, checked the Internet three times Monday morning to make sure the game would be played. "I was pretty sure they were going to play. That's a lot of money to lose," he said.
Stielow, who has limited season tickets with his son, Chris, 13, believes the back and forth between the city and Tribune Co. is typical Chicago.
"Obviously the Tribune's a big company and so is Mayor Daley," he said. "So it's a lot of politics."
The city last week hired Construction Technology Laboratories (CTL) of Skokie for an independent assessment of ramp repairs that Cubs officials said had been made at the ballpark in response to problems identified in a 2001 report commissioned by the team.
Two engineers from CTL worked at Wrigley on Friday, 10 on Saturday.
"Based on our limited investigation, it appears that the pedestrian ramps have been repaired and maintained in a prioritized and systematic manner over the past few years based on the recommendations of the 2001... report," CTL Vice President Kevin Michols said in a letter to Kaderbek dated Monday.
Kaderbek and Michols, who appeared with the commissioner at the news conference, said that plans submitted recently to the city included some for repairs that inspectors found had not been made.
"CTL's investigation, however, showed that there was no need for those repairs," Kaderbek said. "We are directing the Cubs' engineer to update the [construction] plans submitted for permit to properly reflect the work actually performed."
Past repair work was done without permits, something that Daley strongly has criticized.
Kaderbek said that $1.9 million in receipts submitted to the city by the Cubs for work at Wrigley indicate "significantly more spent on repairs than is shown on the plans." Team officials must provide more information to "tell us what you have spent that already has been permitted and if there is anything else, by the way, that you haven't permitted that should have been permitted."
The city is paying the cost of the CTL inspection, a bill that is expected to be in the five-figure range, officials said. But a Tribune Co. contribution in an equal amount for a worthy cause would be welcomed, Kaderbek said.
Kaderbek said that Crane Kenney, Tribune Co. senior vice president and general counsel, told him that a Los Angeles Times reporter who interviewed Kaderbek last week and mentioned reports of shoddy repairs at Wrigley had confused her information with allegations of shoddy work at O'Hare International Airport.
Kaderbek said he was unaware of any poor work at O'Hare. A spokeswoman for the city's Aviation Department said she also was not aware of any problems at the airport.
"It is unfortunate that the Tribune Co. disagrees with me regarding what their employee stated," Kaderbek said. "Regardless, we think everyone agrees that the most important concern we have is public safety at Wrigley Field. ... It would be irresponsible of us to ignore this information, and we cannot take the chance when it comes to ensuring the safety of people at Wrigley Field. Let us hope that all of this is now behind us, and that every building owner in the city is taking full responsibility for their buildings."
In a letter to Kaderbek dated Monday, MacPhail said that after multiple engineering teams and the city "have reviewed and inspected the Friendly Confines and found the ballpark is safe and should be open, any further doubt about our maintenance of the park to date is unjustified."
Separately, the city has ordered the Cubs to determine why chunks of concrete have fallen from Wrigley's upper deck and mezzanine areas in three incidents since June and to decide how to remedy the problem before the start of the 2005 season.