Oct 25, 2011; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs new president of baseball operations Theo Epstein (left) speaks during a press conference beside chairman Tom Ricketts (right) at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Giglio-USA TODAY Sports
Last week, Rosemont mayor Brad Stevens shocked Cubs fans across the nation when he proposed what is taboo to most Northsiders – move the team out of Wrigley Field. Negotiations between the City of Chicago and the Ricketts family have hit a wall, and with only one week left before the self-imposed April 2 deadline of Tom Ricketts to reach an agreement, all the cards should be on the table.
The Cubs have called Wrigley Field home since April 23, 1914 and it’s become the stomping ground for generations of fans, from a young Ron Santo who used to sneak into games as a kid to the ever-present Bleacher Bums. There’s a great deal of sentimental value that Cubs fans place on this hallowed ground, but one fact is repeatedly overlooked – the team has never won a World Series there.
Everyone knows the last World Series title came in 1908, when the Cubs called West Side Park home. Since then, Chicago has appeared in seven Fall Classics, with the last taking place over a half-century ago, in 1945.
So, back to the present day. Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney has been the single largest obstacle to the Ricketts family renovation package going through. Initially, the organization sought to obtain public funding for the project, with the logic that the team pays a staggering 12% entertainment tax already, and some of those funds could be diverted into renovating the aging ballpark.
This plan fell through, leaving the Cubs to go back to the drawing board. Ricketts came back with another offer, one that many thought would be enough to get the city onboard with the renovation plan: Chicago would not pay a dime towards the project, and the family would cover all expenses in the renovation. In return, the Cubs asked that the city relax signage restrictions to increase advertising revenues and increase the number of allowed night games and non-baseball events hosted at Wrigley Field.
July 18, 2011; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view as the sun sets behind the Wrigley Field grandstands and bleachers during the sixth inning of a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Tunney and Cubs representatives reportedly discussed the installation of a roughly 6,000 square foot video board in left field, something that the iconic structure currently does not have, in hopes of further increasing revenue. Tunney adamantly opposed the plan, citing concerns over the rooftop owners who have an agreement with the team for seating on tops of buildings surrounding Wrigley.
Furthermore, the 44th Ward Alderman has stated that he will not sign off on any deal that does not include “more parking, better policy protection and “aesthetic” assurances sought by Wrigleyville residents and businesses”, according to the Chicago Tribune.
None of these issues have yet been resolved by the two sides, and with just a week before Opening Day, a deal does not seem likely. Stay Tuned to Cubbies Crib for Part II in this ongoing coverage of the Wrigley Renovation Deal, including the breakdown of a potential Rosemont move, in the coming days.