Local Interests Stymie Cubs’ Wrigley Restoration Plans

Wrigley Field is falling apart. The Ricketts family, which bought the Cubs for $845 million in 2009, has a plan to spend $300 million of their money to renovate the 98-year-old ballpark. There will be structural upgrades, improved clubhouses, new underground batting cages, upgraded luxury suites and club facilities, more and better concessions and restrooms, and a new patio area in left field to serve the new upper deck. The Cubs also want to add new LED signage and billboards in the outfield. The classic Wrigley look will remain the same: the brick, the marquee outside the ballpark, the ivy and the old scoreboard. Cubs blog Bleacher Nation has conceptual drawings, which you can view here.

The Rickettses are prepared to spend an additional $200 million to develop a hotel across the street from Wrigley, an office building and an open-air plaza to be used for neighborhood and family activities. The open-air plaza will be developed in a triangular-shaped plot just west of Wrigley on Waveland and Clark avenues.

Neither the Cubs nor the Ricketts family are asking for a dime of public money. Instead, they expect the renovation plan to add significantly to public coffers. Julian Green, the Cubs’ vice president of communications, has said 800 new construction jobs will be created to complete the project and 1,300 new permanent jobs will be created with the new hotel, the office building and the open-air plaza. Green also estimates that, once completed, the new Wrigley complex will generate an additional $12 million in sales and property taxes for Chicago — plus an additional $3 million in sales tax for Cook County and an additional $4 million in sales tax for the Illinois. Overall, Green said the renovation will result in an additional $1.2 billion in economic activity and taxes during a 30-year period.

Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? A privately-funded stadium project that will benefit the city, county and state in the short and long term?

Not so fast.

The Rickettses need city approval for the project, and the approval process is gridlocked by Alderman Tom Tunney. Who’s Tunney? He’s the man who represents the neighborhood surrounding the ballpark, known as Wrigleyville. More specifically, he represents the Wrigley rooftop owners who oppose the renovation plan. In the past 10 years, the rooftop owners have given $140,000 in political contributions to Tunney.

Many of you have seen a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. You’ve experienced the neighborhood. And you know about the rooftops on Sheffield and Waveland Avenues — 17 buildings that sit so close to Wrigley Field that you can watch a Cubs game from the roof. But you may not know that the rooftops are big, big business. The 17 buildings once housed apartments but have been completely renovated into state-of-the-art, luxury clubs with names like Sheffield Baseball Club, Ivy League Baseball Club,  Wrigley View and Wrigley Field Rooftop Club. Here’s a promotional video for the Skybox on Sheffield:

In 2002, the Cubs sued the rooftop owners for copyright infringement. The Cubs argued the rooftop owners were violating the Cubs’ copyright in the game action by charging guests to watch the game. Two years later, the Cubs and the owners signed a 20-year agreement under which the owners pay the Cubs 17% of gross revenue in exchange for the Cubs’ official endorsement of the rooftops. Green, the Cubs’ spokesman, estimates the team receive between $3 million and $4 million per year from the rooftops. That puts the rooftops’ collective gross revenue between $17.6 million and $23.5 million each season. To put that in perspective, the Oakland A’s made only $28 million in ticket sales in 2011, according to Forbes.

Part of the Wrigley renovation plan includes new billboards and other signage that would obstruct the views from the rooftops. The Cubs say they need new and better advertising space inside the ballpark that TV audiences can clearly see. The Rickettses have conditioned their private financing of the Wrigley renovation on the ability to add revenue streams from the new billboards and signage.

The rooftops owners claim any new signage would violate the 20-year agreement and Wrigley’s landmark status. Instead of new signage inside ballpark, the rooftop owners propose adding new LED billboards to the rooftop clubs themselves, with all of the advertising revenue going to the Cubs. They even produced a video promoting their plan and shared it with the press back in January. You can see the video here. The Cubs responded by urging the rooftop owners to engage in direct talks with the team — and not in the press. The two sides appear to be at a stalemate.

And what of Wrigley’s landmark status? In 2004 — the same year the rooftop owners and the Cubs inked their 20-year deal —  Chicago added Wrigley to its list of city landmarks. The landmark ordinance “grants landmark protection to the ballpark’s essential contours: The exposed steel columns and beams that frame its exterior walls, its exterior roofs and roof lines, the portion of the upper-deck roof facing the playing field and the uninterrupted ‘sweep’ of the grandstand and bleachers inside.”  What exactly “uninterrupted sweep” means is anyone’s guess. The Cubs understand it’s broad enough to preclude their proposed billboards and other signage inside the ballpark. Hence the need for city approval, and the muscle-flexing by Alderman Tunney.

There’s another piece to the puzzle. The Cubs want to increase the number of night games at Wrigley to 41 per season. Under another city ordinance, the Cubs are currently limited to more than 30 night games. Night games typically generate more revenue than day games because fans arrive earlier  and spend more money on ballpark concessions. As with the proposed new billboards, the additional night games are key to the Ricketts family’s decision to privately finance the renovation.

But the addition of more night games raises the ire of the neighborhood bars: They benefit from day games because fans leave Wrigley when the game is over and head to the bars for more merriment. And Tunney claims more night games would erode the “quality of life” for neighborhood residents. It may also erode the pocketbooks of his political contributors.

The decision-maker is Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Cubs reportedly vetted details of their plan with the mayor’s top aides before releasing it to the public in January. According to a Cubs source, Emanuel favors the Cubs’ plan and is working behind the scenes to get Alderman Tunny’s agreement. When and if Tunney’s agreement can be had — and under what conditions — remains to be seen.

There’s been a great hue and cry over the shenanigans leading to the Miami Marlins’ new publicly financed ballpark. The backlash grew stronger after the team’s most recent fire sale, which left Giancarlo Stanton as the only marquee player in Miami. And yet little national attention has been paid to the Cubs and the Rickettses’ plan to use $300 million of their own money to complete a top-to-bottom modernization of Wrigley — on top of the $200 million the family will spend on the other upgrades. All the Rickettses want in exchange for the $500 million investment is to be able to use Wrigley Field in a way that maximizes revenue for the team. Like nearly every other franchise in the majors.

At this point, there doesn’t appear to be much MLB can do to help the Cubs. The local interests opposing the plan have the ear of the neighborhood politician. For now, the Ricketts family has taken the threat of leaving Wrigley off the table. But if this saga continues to drag on, the threat may be put back on the table. At that point, the rooftop owners, the alderman and the mayor will be left holding the bag.

Author Note: I’ve received information suggesting that the Cubs may seek city and federal tax credits, at least for the hotel development. I’m investigating and will report further. — 3/5/2013, 3:oo p.m. PST

Author Note: I’ve confirmed with the Cubs that the current proposal does NOT seek any tax credits. — 3/5/2013 10:15 p.m. PST




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Wendy writes about sports and the business of sports. She's been published most recently by Vice Sports, Deadspin and NewYorker.com. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.


70 Responses to “Local Interests Stymie Cubs’ Wrigley Restoration Plans”

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  1. Mr Punch says:

    Can billboards really generate enough money to offset $20 million in rooftop rights? Doesn’t sound right.

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    • hansman1982 says:

      The Cubs only need to replace $3-4M in revenue from the billboards.

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    • Wendy Thurm says:

      Wrigley has very little by way of billboards right now. Adding advertising — especially ones that can be viewed on TV — could be worth a lot more than $20 million per year. Look around most ballparks and then look around Wrigley and you’ll see the difference.

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  2. Uncle Randy says:

    Fascinating. This was a great read.

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  3. DJG says:

    Interesting read. Two questions for the author:

    1) “Wrigley Field is falling apart.” How so and according to who? Has this been determined by an independent study?

    2) “Neither the Cubs nor the Ricketts family are asking for a dime of public money.” Do you know the tax implications (if any) of the renovations and the proposed hotel? Is the public “paying” anything in foregone tax revenue?

    No agenda, just asking in earnest.

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    • BillH says:

      I believe that the Ricketts are willing to pay for everything and not tax the city as long as the city lowers its landmark regulations and allows these renovations. But don’t quote me on that, as I am not positive

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    • Dann M. says:

      1) They have installed netting to catch falling chunks of concrete. The building is 100 years old and requires major renovation. Ultimately the smart long-term move would be to keep the bleachers/outfield wall in place, but tear down the rest of the park and rebuild an aesthetically identical facade with better sight lines, fewer obstructions from steel posts holding up the roof and upper deck, less steep steps climbing up the grandstands, better food preparation/sale areas, more and better bathrooms, more accessible seating, a well-lit, spacious, inviting concourse, etc. That likely can’t happen because of landmark status and political pressure.

      2) The nightlife in Wrigleyville won’t be nearly as affected as the local politicians claim. A handful of local businesses will probably lose revenue from post-game drinking, but the largely young crowd will still be willing to stay out late. Only the suburbanites will be affected. Remember that Wrigley will still not have good parking and thus remain a public transit destination. The individual businesses will take a hit. However, the additional revenue from the amusement tax at Wrigley, the taxable hotel revenue, etc. should more than offset those losses on a grand scale. The question is, should we care about the city and neighborhood revenue, or the individual bars themselves?

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      • TNN2 says:

        You can’t improve the sightlines at the current location. Those columns are there for a reason – they support the upper deck and roof. If you wanted to remove the columns the upper deck would have to be moved farther away from the field of play and additional columns would be needed behind the lower deck grandstands. You would need to extend the exterior walls of the stadium and create a much bigger footprint and there isn’t room to do that, especially along Addison.

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        • Agrijus says:

          Transparent aluminum.

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        • jaybandit says:

          The sight-lines could be improved, but it would probably require shutting the place down for a season, or parts of the ballpark for extended periods. You can cantilever a lot more than you could 100 years ago due to improvements in steel and construction technology. The ballpark would have to get taller, and the columns would have to be much larger, or in larger quantities (but moved back farther). PNC Park actually has implemented a similar design to Wrigley, sans the obstructed views, so it definitely can be done.

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    • TNN2 says:

      The concrete in the upper deck has been crumbling for years to such an extent that the city requires them to keep netting in place to keep it from falling onto the crowds below. The team routinely spends a ton of money each off season to perform maintenance on these and other structural aspects of the park. So yeah, it is “falling apart”.

      The hotel would be built on the site of a parking lot and a McDonald’s. It would be almost impossible for the new project to generate less taxes than they are currently.

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      • DJG says:

        It’s not a question of what it’s generating now, it’s a question of what it could generate in the future. It’s the opportunity cost.

        With that said, I can’t tell what the tax implications of this deal are. The mayor apparently has put his foot down to direct use of tax payer money, but he’s not counting rent-free use of public streets as tax payer money, so I’m not isn’t considered.

        Not saying this isn’t a good deal for the public, just trying to figure out exactly what the hidden costs are.

        http://www.fieldofschemes.com/category/mlb/chicago-cubs/

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        • TNN2 says:

          It’s been a parking lot for 40 years. I think putting a 250 room hotel is about the best you’ll ever do in terms of generating tax revenue. The other alternative would be to build a few more apartments there which won’t generate the same kind of money.

          I’m not sure what you are trying to say in your 2nd paragraph.

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    • DJG says:

      @TNN2
      “I think putting a 250 room hotel is about the best you’ll ever do in terms of generating tax revenue. The other alternative would be to build a few more apartments there which won’t generate the same kind of money.”

      In order to determine this we would need to know how much taxes are generated currently, how much would be generated under the purposed hotel, and how much could potentially be generated if something else were done with this real estate. Do you have a source for these numbers? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

      My point in the second paragraph (admittedly difficult to follow, I left out a few words in my haste). Is that there are often hidden costs to the public even if no tax money is used directly. The link I posted details how the Cubs will get rent-free use of public streets surrounding Wrigley to sell concessions — that’s a hidden cost to the public. Another common hidden cost in stadium deals is foregone taxes, so I’m trying to figure out if the public will in fact be losing out on potential tax revenue if the deal gets done.

      Again, not saying it’s necessarily a bad deal. Just trying to figure out exactly what are the costs.

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      • TNN2 says:

        There has been no public mention of the Cubs receiving any tax breaks.

        As far as the street (Sheffield) goes, that is a point of contention between the alderman (who represents the bar owners) and the Cubs. The Cubs would like to use Sheffield for something, and I’m sure they’d like to make some money from that. Saying they’ll get rent free use of the street is misleading. First that street has been shut down on game days since 2001 by the city. Second the Cubs would pay taxes (12%) on monies earned from any sales out there. Therefore the city, and therefore the public would benefit from letting the Cubs host activities. Since it’s Chicago I’m certain that the Cubs will also have to rent the street in return.

        Returning to the hotel issue there is currently a McDonald’s on that property. There will be a McDonald’s on that property after the hotel is built. The net tax difference will be negligible for that portion. For the rest you are looking at the difference between a hotel which would operate year round and a parking lot that is used 80 days a year. There is no sophisticated analysis needed to see he hotel would generate more tax revenue. Is it the maximum amount that the parcel of land could generate? For political and practical reasons you’ll never be able to build a mall or shopping center on that property, nor will you be able to build anything more than 4 stories tall, nor will you be able to build housing that is as dense. There aren’t many other feasible uses for that property which would create hundreds of construction and permanent jobs. I’d be open to hearing suggestions but due to the traffic concerns, density of the neighborhood, the fact that it sits right across from a ballpark in an area that needs additional hotel rooms on the 280 non-game days anyway I’d say building a hotel there is a good idea.

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      • Oasis says:

        If you have ever actually been to Wrigley Field, you’d know that the streets are ALREADY shut down for “security reasons”. So you hidden tax is a figment of your imagination …

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    • Wendy Thurm says:

      There may be federal and city tax credits in play on the hotel development, at least. I’ve now noted that in the article. I’m investigating further.

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    • That Guy says:

      I’ll add to the anecdotes about the state of Wrigley. It’s the only stadium that I know that stations ushers to keep people from going UP to the upper deck. They don’t want un-ticketed customers up there over-weighting it.

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    • MikeS says:

      I believe the building has been condemned more than once and steps needed to be taken to allow public use of the building. Granted, this was under Daley, a White Sox fan.

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  4. Heather says:

    The billboards shouldn’t be make or break for a hundred million + dollar renovation project. Sounds like the Cubs resent the deal they signed with the rooftop owners, and are now busily trying to find back door ways to get out of it.

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    • baty says:

      Wasn’t it previous the Cubs ownership that signed the deal? I’d be trying to get out out the back door as well. They should never have gotten into bed with the rooftop owners for a 20 year agreement. It allowed these associations to become more powerful than the source that feeds them.

      It’s funny that “the neighborhood” has made quality of life arguments for several decades in regard to refusing added night games, yet they might be willing to deck the streets with huge LED billboards?

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    • Agrijus says:

      If the rooftop people are getting what amounts to a free ride on the MLB profit escalator, then the Ricketts are probably ready to make them pay. They have most likely identified some contractural, procedural, or political leverage to make them come to the table, and that process is what we’re witnessing, papal-conclave style, from the outside. When Mayor Emmanuel farts out his white smoke we will probably see a renovation plan that gives the Ricketts the approvals they’re seeking and preserves the rooftop sightlines as well, at a substantially increased rent. I’m guessing it’ll go up to 25%, or thereabouts. The night games and billboards are just bargaining positions, chips to lay down after the neighborhood concedes to the fact that the Cubs are a monstrous component of local property value.

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  5. ts says:

    Thanks for the great article, the involved parties and intricacies were explained really well.

    I don’t know how much it’ll hurt local businesses if 11 games are shifted from day to night but they seem like the only ones that could really lose out. The overall additional revenue to the city should be the priority. Just delay the shift a few years so businesses can prepare and maybe work with them on some promotions. And for those that live near the ballpark…it’s 11 more nights per year and you live near a baseball stadium. Live with it.

    There should be some way to preserve the views from the rooftops and still get the ads placed well for TV. The renovations certainly seem to be in the “spirit” of Wrigley so I can’t imagine the landmark status holding things up.

    Unless there’s some evil “move the team to FL” motive buried here it sure seems like a good deal for Chicago.

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    • AS says:

      Um, the residents have a perfect right to protest more night games. We bought in the area understanding exactly how many night game hassles we would have to put up with according to city ordinances. The Ricketts sunk $800 million knowing full well about a) how many night games are allowed b) the historic status of the park and c) the deal with the rooftop owners. The Cubs enjoy immense benefits from being in a residential neighborhood. Only 30 night games per season? Live with it.

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      • Johnny Come Lately says:

        How do the “Cubs enjoy immense benefits from being in a residential neighborhood”?

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        • cws says:

          compare it to the white sox neighbourhood.
          the white sox, despite being a more competitive team for the last twenty years, fail to pull in the same crowds the cubs do.

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      • ts says:

        I certainly didn’t mean they don’t have the right. To me, 10 nights just isn’t that big of a deal. If it was really important I wouldn’t mind a train going right by my house 10 nights a year.

        This should tell you I have no idea what it is like living near Wrigley. But even with a young child, 10 nights a year wouldn’t be a big deal to me.

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      • Me says:

        You moved into an area that is desirable because a baseball stadium has been there for a hundred years, don’t complain then when they do baseball things at the baseball stadium.

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        • Al Dimond says:

          If Wrigley wasn’t there the area would likely still be quite desirable — the north side of Chicago near Lake Michigan is pretty nice, generally.

          Within an easy walk of Wrigley you can… go to a DJ set or a jazz show, eat pizza or Ethiopian or Italian beef or vegan cake, shop at clothing boutiques or thrift shops, go to the beach, rent pornographic videos, walk around a cemetery, play tennis or golf, get your bike or watch repaired, go sailing, go to college… That’s not all there because of Wrigley. Wrigley is just one part of what’s going on on the north side.

          The relationship between Wrigley and the wider neighborhood is probably unique among remaining major American sports stadiums. Wrigley was built, like many stadiums, on cheap land on the outskirts, but the neighborhood built up around it and the L and the streetcars before mass motorization, unlike later stadiums which were surrounded by freeways and parking lots before this could happen. The neighborhood managed to avoid the worst of the late-20th century nadir of American cities and thus dodged that era’s disastrous urban renewal projects and self-destructive freeway building. I really believe that this unique situation benefits both the Cubs and Lakeview… but it benefits the Cubs more.

          FWIW I’m generally all for building a hotel in place of a parking lot and improving Wrigley’s facilities without increasing its footprint. I worry when the Cubs propose to do things that would kill the rooftops — they’re partners more than they are competitors, and the situation they have benefits everyone. I hope they realize this, and are threatening their view just to get a leg up in financial negotiations.

          (I have never lived in Wrigleyville, just a Cubs fan…)

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        • Al Dimond says:

          (… just a Cubs fan that would rather suffer another 100-loss season than watch the magic they have built turn mundane…)

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      • MikeS says:

        You bought in the area knowing that 35,000 drunks would be urinating on your front lawn 81 times a year. The Cubs have been there 100 years, have you?

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      • The Royal We? says:

        um, starting a sentence with “um” really makes you sound not at all like a whiny, entitled spoiled brat.

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  6. Grant LP says:

    This is a PR piece put out by the Cubs in the continued negotiations on this subject. The author acknowledges the piece was sourced by the Cubs. She fails to mention the massive and significant tax credits that the Cubs are seeking as part of the deal, which by any real definition 100% means future public money going to the Cubs because its money that would otherwise be coming to the public and that everyone else is paying.

    None of this is to say that this shouldn’t happen, or that the Alderman isn’t in the pocket of the rooftop bars, or that it isn’t in the public interest to help the Cubs get their way on this.

    My point is only the article is presented as an unbiased news account of what’s happening. It isn’t. It is a stenographic account of the Cubs’ view of things.

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  7. BillH says:

    Really great article. Actually looking at the concept drawing provided, they look really great. Ricketts wants to keep that class and historic look while upgrading some areas at the park that need help. I do think the billboards hanging on the rooftops looks pretty good too though. Honestly, Ricketts is willing to pocket the whole bill and he just wants to do what every other team is doing. He doesn’t want to destroy the park and instead wants to make Wrigleyville an even better area. 10 more night games wont break the bank because fans will just hit up the bars before or after the games. I hope the mayor can convince the rooftop owners and alderman, but it sounds like they are only worried about having the signs block their view. Hopefully they can get this worked out, because Wrigley could use an update.

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  8. Greg says:

    This article elevates the Cubs’ economic interests over all other interests, parroting all the benefits of their renovations. Obviously, there will be fallout from their plan, or there wouldn’t be opposition. Just like in baseball, there will be winners and losers. Welcome to the game called politics.

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    • Johnny Come Lately says:

      Why shouldn’t the Cubs’ economic interests take precedence? Without the Cubs, the other interests wouldn’t exist.

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    • Wendy Thurm says:

      Of course there will be fallout. I explain that in the story. Some of the rooftop owners may find their seats outside of Wrigley partially or fully obstructed by additional billboards/advertising. It’s not a mystery why they are opposing the deal. The question is what is in the best interests of the City as a whole.

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      • Al Dimond says:

        I actually think what’s in the interest of the Cubs is in question. I believe that to whatever extent the Cubs are serious about killing the rooftops for the sake of advertising billboards they need to be saved from themselves.

        Business people (and, perhaps, the econometrics and computer people that tend to get into baseball stats) have a tendency to distrust what they can’t buy and sell, what doesn’t have a clear owner, what lives in the public realm, and often fall prey to short-term, reductionist thinking (as a computer guy that’s into baseball stats I implicate myself here). The Cubs aren’t like most teams, the only activity in their part of town, the sole originating source of all economic activity around them. The irony is that you don’t have to step out of the business world for an analog to what the Cubs have. Look at Microsoft, Apple, and Google. The center of a strong ecosystem is a position of great power. In this position you’ll come to benefit from others’ ideas you never thought of, or things you wouldn’t do yourself. The Cubs are unique among American sports teams in the strength they draw from their local ecosystem, and their interdependence with it, and that includes the rooftops. People say Wrigley is a shrine to baseball, but it isn’t built on a hill; it’s part of a neighborhood that’s a shrine to urbanism and capitalism, perhaps to the dialectic of competition and cooperation if you’re into that kind of thing.

        A few weeks ago I was in Portland (I’m a Cubs fan far from home) and happened to be in the Lan Su Chinese Garden. It’s a city block built into a garden like that you’d find on a Chinese estate. But it’s right there in the middle of Portland; it draws from its environment and it gives to it — from the right angle you can get a photo of a skyscraper in its central pool, so it even reflects its environment, but that’s a little much, even for a wanker like me. Anyway, Wrigley is like that. It’s become, unwittingly but inevitably, a field in the city. How do you know when the field is right? When it sprouts things like the rooftops, the local street life, that draw from it and give back to it, too.

        So when some business person sees that and says, “It has to go, we need to put up billboards,” that makes me sad. If the Cubs moved to Schaumberg I’d route for the Mariners or something. If they turned Wrigleyville into Schaumberg I’d route for the Cardinals.

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    • MikeS says:

      The fallout is that half a dozen guys who own buildings that overlook the field lose money. Those guys donate money to the Alderman. They want to revamp the stadium and the city/county/state make nearly $20M/year just for saying ok. By the way, those governments represent nearly 13 million people and have varying degrees of trouble paying there bills – varying from “how do we do this?” To “nananananana I can’t hear you, there’s an election coming!” So god forbid six guys lose their meal ticket and have to work for a living while the State cuts pensions and pays Medicaid bills in 270 days.

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  9. Slacker George says:

    How much of the 12M+3M+4M sales and tax revenue is due to the changes to the stadium proper and how much is due to the office building and hotel?

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  10. MikeS says:

    Is there any other municipality in the world where a private business man could come to the government and say “I want to spend $300M of my own money and as a result you and your financially strapped city will get $12M/year, the broke county will get $3M/year and the fiscally irresponsible, horribly bankrupt state that can’t get out of it’s own way to save a dime gets $4M/year” and the government came back with “no thanks, the local politician says we can’t do it so a half dozen businessmen can maintain their revenue off the back of your product.”

    Or does that only happen In the City of Chicago, County of Cook and State of Illinois?

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  11. JustinSmoakedCheese says:

    My favorite part of this is that the stadium is falling apart. Better win a World Series quick boys! It is also funny that you can buy a “landmark”. But at least Mark Cuban didn’t get to buy it.

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  12. paperlions says:

    How long before the Ricketts decide to build a park somewhere else and play there?

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    • BJsWorld says:

      Seriously – this was my thought as well.

      There are plenty of places to build a new park with communities that would do anything they could to host a new Wrigley field.

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    • Me says:

      Quietly encourage some inspector to condemn Wrigley as unfit for public use, then they tell Chicago let us do this or we move to the suburbs?

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    • MikeS says:

      That is the usual argument. But then you have to stop to wonder, how many “Cub fans” are really Wrigley fans?

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  13. Joe says:

    I seem to remember reading or hearing something about how the Cubs would have to play in another park for a year while renovations are being done. First of all, is this true? And, second of all, has this been part of the consideration for Wrigleyville merchants? It seems to me that having a summer of no baseball would be a bigger deal for a business than any other reason (like more night games, for example).

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  14. Bab says:

    Wendy, what percentage is the $140,000 to Tunney’s average election year war chest? If the $140,000 represents a substantial portion of Tunney’s accepted contributions, than we can abide the argument that Tunney opposes the redevelopment project for the sake of the small property owners. But the whole Wrigleyville neighborhood is packed with commercial establishments, of which the rooftop owners may or may not be that big of a force.

    Also, if you presented the details in a different light, could you not say that the Ricketts’ are bullying local interests? They did, as you reported, go over Tunney’s head to the mayor, a position in Chicago which is laden with strong executive power and a decidedly pro-growth orientation.

    There’s more to this story. Something’s not right.

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    • Wendy Thurm says:

      I don’t know the answer to your question. But read any story in the local Chicago press and you will see that Tunney is completely aligned with the rooftop owners.

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    • Oasis says:

      Bab, shut the hell up. You know nothing about Chicago politics. We have 50 aldermen, one dumber than the next. The over/under on politicians indicted each year is around 10. They are dumb and greedy. That’s all you need to know.

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  15. cubfanincardinalland says:

    This was a really great article Wendy. Ricketts need to start playing hard ball. Simply absurd what the city is putting them through.

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  16. Scott says:

    This is a very biased view of things and not at all objective. Any business owner can come in a buy something, and if they’re at all smart, which I’m assuming the Ricketts are, they know what they’re getting themselves into.

    Most businesses in America are subject to approvals, zoning regulations and myriad other things when they go to expand their business. To paint this as one corrupt Alderman holding up progress is simply an unsubstantiated smear. Alderman Tunney represents the neighborhood residents and businesses…note that again, residents.

    The residents are not clamoring for more night games, drunken idiots, concerts, hotels and many of the other things the Cubs are pushing for. Here’s a quote from Crain’s business:

    …the alderman also suggested he has problems with adding more night games and concerts, as Mr. Ricketts also proposed. Many area residents have problems with that, too, he suggested. “Neighbors, a lot of them are concerned about their quality of life.”

    Journalism is dying a slow death in this country due to poorly trained “reporters” who can’t keep their own view of things out of the news.

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    • cubfanincardinalland says:

      This is the kind of BS the Cubs are having to deal with. People buy a house next to a major league baseball stadium, and complain that the crowds are hurting their quality of life. Bizzaro world. Wrigley is the only stadium in America that has any kind of signage restrictions. Tunney and Rahm deserve each other. Great legacy they will have, the Cubs left the city over their obstructions.
      Cubs should just get on with it and find a new place to play, their revenues will go off the charts. Meanwhile, the neighborhood property values will crash like 1929.

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    • Oasis says:

      Hello Tom Tunney, taking a break from counting your kickbacks and bribes to post here? Calling you a corrupt politician is redundant. Go back to rolling those execrable, sugary cinnamon rolls and stop pretending you’re a Cub fan.

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  17. Frank Baron says:

    Gangsters with badges is what the Rickett’s family and Cubs are dealing with. I think the Cubs should not threaten to leave but actually start to buy property where they could replicate the park and neighborhood, build hotels, parking etc. I’d say its time to get out historic Wrigleyville. By the way they would have no problem selling tickets either… they could put a dome on it and everything. Just like Milwaukee.

    The Cubs have the Kane County Cougars… who knows maybe there was more to that then what appears to meet the eye.

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  18. ChiFeds says:

    Isn’t Wrigley 99 years old? Charles Weeghman built it in a hurry during the late winter/early spring of 1914, and it was completed in time for the 1914 Chicago Federal League club to play their inaugural season (as a major league) there.

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  19. zipperz says:

    This Tunney is sure doing the ole’ “Chicago-Toughguy” thing. There is a vocal minority of fans in Chicago that advocate the Cub actually abandoning Wrigley for a suburb like Arlington Heights or Schaumburg. Maybe that would be preferable than dealing with this garbage.
    —————————————–

    By Hal Dardick
    Clout Street

    7:22 p.m. CST, March 7, 2013

    “With progress stalled in the effort to seal a deal for the $300 million rehab of Wrigley Field, the alderman who represents the area is talking tough about his terms of agreement.

    Ald. Thomas Tunney, 44th, said Thursday that he would not sign off on a deal unless it included more parking, better police protection and “aesthetic” assurances sought by Wrigleyville residents and businesses — all issues that have yet to be settled.

    Reminded that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing for an agreement, in part because the Ricketts family that owns the Cubs is not asking for any government funding, Tunney replied,

    “Yeah, but it’s not going to be on the backs of my community, sorry.”

    The Rickettses have maintained that a deal needs to get done by Opening Day in early April so they can line up the contractors and materials needed to fix up their aging ballpark, but Tunney dismissed that concern.

    “You’re talking about one of the wealthiest families in America,” the alderman told a throng of City Hall reporters pressing him on the issue. “End of statement.”

    Family patriarch Joe Ricketts founded TD Ameritrade, one of the country’s biggest online discount brokerages. His son, Tom Ricketts, runs the team, which was purchased for $800 million through a family trust. Dennis Culloton, a family spokesman, declined comment.

    At stake is a $500 million investment: $300 million to fix up Wrigley and another $200 million for nearby development, including a plaza and hotel. The Rickettses say all of that will create nearly 1,200 new permanent jobs and generate $19 million in new yearly tax revenue for the city, county and state.

    In late January, Emanuel urged the Ricketts and owners of buildings across the street who sell rooftop seating on game days to reach an agreement on signage that is key to paying for the rehab.

    The rooftop owners, who give 17 percent of their annual revenue to the Cubs under a 20-year deal brokered by Tunney, fear their lucrative birds-eye views will be blocked if the Cubs put up signs in the outfield. They also say it would violate their deal with the Cubs.

    Owners of the 16 rooftop clubs proposed a plan to place signs on their buildings and give all the resulting revenue to the Cubs. In exchange, they asked for a nine-year extension on their contract.

    The Cubs, however, say revenue from signs on the building would not be as great as the amount of money they could make on advertising inside the ballpark. No deal has been reached, despite ongoing talks that include Tunney, who over the years has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the rooftop owners.

    Hopes to reach an agreement by early last month, in time to propose additional night games for the upcoming season, never materialized. Both Emanuel and Tunney said they wanted a comprehensive deal that addressed signage, night games, additional concerts, parking, security, aesthetics and closing off nearby streets for game-day street festivals.

    With none of that done, the Ricketts appeared to step up the pressure this week when they announced that they had an agreement for a 40,000-square-foot athletic club inside a planned Sheraton hotel across the street from Wrigley.

    “My family is prepared to invest $500 million into Wrigley Field and the Wrigleyville neighborhood,” Tom Ricketts said in a statement. “All of this can happen if we can reach a common sense solution that allows us to run our business.”

    Although Tunney, as alderman, traditionally would have to green light the needed zoning change, the mayor does have the political power to override him.

    Tunney said that point hasn’t escaped him. “Of course, I worry about everything,” Tunney said when asked about the mayor. “But you know what? I sleep well every night. You know why? (Because) I commit a hundred percent to my community.”

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  20. Lakeview Guy says:

    Billionaire owner, whose 101-loss franchise made $32 million in operating income last season, runs into minor inconviences in latest cash grab.

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