CHICAGO (AP) -- Ah, opening day at quaint, old Wrigley Field. Ivy vines clinging to the outfield walls, the hand-changed scoreboard in center field, Chicago Cubs fans swearing this is finally their year.
Dark screens hanging on the outfield fences to keep fans from getting free peeks inside.
Yes, screens. In the latest skirmish between the Cubs and their Wrigleyville neighbors over a stadium expansion plan, greenish-black netting hung on the outfield fences Friday for Chicago's home opener against Pittsburgh.
The Cubs held off on the second half of their plan, which called for helium balloons that would further obscure sight lines.
"I think that we have made a point," said Mark McGuire, the Cubs' executive vice president of business operations. "I think there is a message in what we did. And we'll leave it at that."
There's just one problem: The see-through screens don't do much.
Fans in the buildings across the street from Wrigley can still see the field, though some of the views now come with a greenish hue. And those rooftops the Cubs say are at the heart of their problem? The screens don't block the view from there at all.
"I didn't even notice them," said Larry Marshall, who watched Friday's game from a rooftop deck behind right-center that features a neon Harry Caray face.
"People block (the view) anyway when they're standing up," Marshall added, "so it's no different."
The Cubs and their neighbors have been battling since last June, when the team announced a plan to expand Wrigley Field that included a renovation of the outfield bleacher section. Built in 1914, Wrigley is the second oldest park in the majors and has the fourth-smallest seating capacity at 39,111.
Neighbors objected to the plan, saying it would be too intrusive. Cubs games were already causing problems with heavy traffic and rowdy, disruptive fans, they said. Rooftop owners also objected, claiming their views would be obstructed.
The Cubs need city approval for the expansion plan, and McGuire said they've been working with residents to resolve their issues. They've reduced the number of additional seats from 2,600 to 1,980. They've altered the design, removing some of the support columns neighbors didn't like.
The Cubs agreed to a neighborhood watch program, with team personnel helping police patrol the area streets after games.
"We have come forward with a broad set of improvements, things we want to do for the community as part of what we are asking for, and I think they have been favorably received," McGuire said.
But the rooftops? They're a different story.
Decades ago, residents of neighboring apartment buildings toted grills and coolers up to their roofs to watch the games with friends. The gatherings brought back memories of baseball of old, adding to Wrigley's charm.
Then someone decided to make money off those decks. Now corporate bigwigs, family reunions and bachelor parties shell out big bucks for the bleacher seats with a great view of the ballpark across the street.
"When they were up there with Weber grills and lawn chairs and very few dollars changed hands, it was a romantic thing that really we didn't have a whole lot of interest in," McGuire said. "The reality now is that they are paying more than $100 a person to be up there today and enjoy our product. And we are getting nothing out of it."
But Jim Murphy doubts the rooftops are the Cubs' real target. Murphy, owner of Murphy's bar at the corner of Waveland and Sheffield avenues and president of both the East Lakeview Neighbors and the Wrigley Field Roofdeck Association, said the Cubs are trying to get back at residents for their objections to the expansion plan.
"It's a symbolic fence to show they're walling themselves in from the community," Murphy said. "It's the neighborhood they're totally ignoring, just like they did with the lights. They just don't care. The quality of life doesn't mean anything to them because they don't live here."
Wrigley Field didn't get lights until 1988, and the Cubs still play almost all day games.
Regardless of who the squabble is really between, the Cubs and their neighbors will have to come to an agreement before the city approves expansion.
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