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UPDATED: Cubs May Host Street Festivals For Big Series

Wrigley Festival

Northwestern Wildcats fans party on Sheffield Avenue before the game at Wrigley Field last November. The Cubs are thinking of staging similar events for their most popular series. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 03/08/11 4:25 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – The Cubs are trying to give every fan the ultimate game experience by offering street festivals during three of its more popular series.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the proposal calls for closing Sheffield Avenue on the east side of Wrigley Field to host weekend festivals around three big series.

The idea dates back to November of last year, when Wrigley Field hosted a football game for the first time in about 40 years – between the Northwestern Wildcats and the U of I Illini.

Organizers thought ahead and shut down Sheffield Avenue, turning it into “Wildcat Way” so fans and alumni could party before and after the game.

“We’ve gotten tremendous response based on Wildcat Way and how successful it was,” Cubs Marketing VP Wally Hayward told CBS 2’s Mai Martinez. “From a local business standpoint, a lot of their numbers were opening day like numbers or better.” based on the business and the traffic they got.

The success has now sparked talk among Cubs officials to stage similar weekend festivals this summer during three particularly popular series – the New York Yankees, the Crosstown Classic with the White Sox, and the St. Louis Cardinals.

The plan, which remains only a proposal, calls for closing Sheffield Avenue between Addison Street and Waveland Avenue so fans can eat and drink, and enjoy baseball-themed entertainment.

Game tickets would not be required to enter the area.

Hayward said it’s all about expanding what the Cubs have to offer.

“We want create a fan experience, and really a fan-fest of different activities, including food and beverage, but a lot of interactive games for kids,” Hayward said.

On Tuesday morning, some people hadn’t even heard about the plan, but liked the idea nonetheless.

“You’re the first person that kind of told me about it,” Cubs fan Marie Dunkel said. “If it’s probably a kind of block party-type event, then I’d probably be interested in going. I’ve never heard of baseball taking that kind of approach.”

“I think it would improve business; help business; help employment,” said another neighbor, Bill McNamee.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who has say in whether the plan goes ahead, says he is concerned about the length of the weekend festivals and whether they might draw business away from Clark Street merchants.

Unlike Clark Street, Sheffield Avenue is lined with older brick and graystone three-flat buildings, many of them with rooftop clubs for game viewing.

The Cental Lakeview Merchants Association hopes the proposed Cubs festivals could duplicate the sales boost, but they were not entirely sold on the idea of three 3-day festivals.

The group’s executive director, Gus Isacson, said “we should try it one weekend, just to see exactly what it can do.”

Even die-hard Cubs fans who live near Wrigley have some reservations.

“Good idea, but I think they shouldn’t do all three weekends, with the Cardinals and the White Sox and the Yankees,” Wrigleyville resident Michelle Shufelt said.

The Cubs organization has yet even to apply for a permit.