Too Many Hands in Wrigley Field Renovation Pot
Earlier this week our very own Andrew highlighted the renovation plans announced by the Ricketts family for Wrigley Field. At the time Theo Epstein first arrived to work for the Cubs, there was some effort focused on obtaining assistance in the form of public funding from the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois. The latest plans feature a shift in approach, with the Cubs ownership willing to fully fund the renovations with their own dime. Many, many, many dimes in this case. $300 million worth. In exchange, the Ricketts are asking the city to loosen up on some of the restrictions regarding Wrigley Field’s landmark status, so that some of the planned upgrades and changes can take place.
However, the relationship between team and local government are not the only hands in the pot. Today, the union of rooftop owners across from Wrigley held a press conference to unveil their proposal place digital advertising signs on their buildings. According to the Chicago Tribune report, the revenue from the signage would be passed along to the Cubs. Local fans may recall that just a few years ago the team and rooftop owners had gotten into a duel over the revenue the complex owners were milking off of Cubs games and events at Wrigley with no share of the proceeds. At one point the team put up green tarp along the then chain link fence that provided the back stop behind the bleachers in both left and right field. It was a not so subliminal attempt by the North Siders to block the view from the rooftops.
While the rooftop owners are spinning the ad revenue offer as a bit of a peace offering, the proposal seems to have been met with contempt by the Cubs. A representative from the team’s marketing department, Kevin Saghy, was asked to leave during the presentation of the plan at the press conference. The spokesman for the Ricketts family, Dennis Culloton, seemed to take a shot at the collective building owners, stating that they should have came to the team to discuss the plan rather than holding a press conference. There is also the valid point that the team would make more revenue from advertising within the confines of Wrigley, as signage on site would be more easily visible to both fans in attendance and the television viewing audience at home.
In what is looking more like a not so much in love triangle, local alderman Thomas Tunney appears to be on the side of the building owners instead of the ballclub, according to the Mulley and Hanley Show hosts on radio 670 The Score. However, a figure that may be in the Cubs corner now that the team is willing to pay out of pocket is Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It remains to be seen whether the Mayor can twist the hand of Ald. Tunney, but it is hard to deny the Cubs most recent proposal considering no public funds will be required, especially in an economy where both city and state have some serious debt to address.
July 13, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view as fans wait through a rain delay before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
At the very least, Cubs fans should be thankful that there is now team ownership in place that is backing up the implication that the Ricketts care about positive results on the field just as much as the teams financial bottom line, something that was not seen under the rule of corporate owner Tribune and temporary owner Sam Zell. While the renovations are about generating more revenue for a big market team that is the Cubs, the Ricketts have shown so far the willingness to spend on the product displayed on the baseball diamond as well. These improvements can only help the team be on par with the likes of a Los Angeles Dodgers, a LA Angels, or a New York Yankees.