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With state and local budgets tightening to near unprecedented levels, it ain’t exactly a good time to be asking for a handout. But ask the Chicago Cubs will, as new owner Tom Ricketts wrote in a letter to season ticket holders yesterday. In sum, he plans to ask the state to return a portion of the 12% tax tacked on each Cubs ticket to the team to use on Wrigley Field renovations.

As the third largest tourist attraction in Illinois, the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field account for more than $600 million annually in impact to the local economy, including almost $400 million in annual new spending — spending which would not take place but for the team and the ballpark. This spending supports more than 7,000 jobs and generates more than $230 million in annual personal earnings. The Cubs and Wrigley Field also generate nearly $60 million in tax collections each year. From Ricketts’ letter:

For many years, Wrigley Field has required millions of dollars in annual maintenance and, partly as a result, the team-owned campus around the ballpark has remained largely undeveloped. The Wrigley Field campus development, the centerpiece of our future, has been on hold for nearly a decade.

In the next few weeks the Illinois General Assembly will consider a bill to preserve Wrigley Field. Simply put, the plan allows a portion of future City and County amusement taxes, the 12% currently added to each ticket price, to be invested directly in the preservation of the Friendly Confines.

The plan is fair, simple and focused. Most importantly, it will not increase taxes you currently pay and will not create any new taxes.

This plan will preserve the historic character and tradition of the Friendly Confines for the next generation and will enhance the Lakeview community. If approved, the Cubs will undertake more than $200 million in renovations during the next five years and, in addition, the Ricketts family will invest a comparable amount in neighborhood development. The team will commit to play in Wrigley Field over the long run and to remain in the field during construction so, in this difficult economy, local businesses will continue to enjoy revenues the Cubs help attract.

While the “investment” may not be a bad one for the state, I’m not sure I’m crazy about the state helping foot the bill for a privately-owned enterprise – but that said, if I’m paying a 12% surtax anyway, I’d just as soon have it go to Wrigley if I had my druthers.

The Ricketts family has spent $10 million in upgrades at Wrigley since taking the team over last year; it will be interesting to see what happens if the plan isn’t approved. The Ricketts have now essentially told the world that Wrigley needs $200 million in renovations and preservation – if the state won’t pay for it, will they?

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