Wrigley Field and the facilities therein are in serious need of renovation. This is not news.

The Chicago Cubs’ owners, the Ricketts Family, have promised to finance at least half of that renovation – as well as the construction of the long-awaited “Triangle Building” project – if the city of Chicago and/or the State of Illinois step up the plate and contribute to the improvement of the landmark, and home to local treasure, the Chicago Cubs. (Have I laid that on thickly enough?) This, too, is not news.

When Chairman Tom Ricketts proposed that the city and state contribute to the project in the form of forfeited amusement tax growth, which otherwise would have gone to the public coiffers. The amusement tax from which the city and state would be contributing? Yes, that would be the tax on Chicago Cubs tickets.



Naturally, this perfectly reasonable and fair plan was met with the only logical response by then-mayor Daley and Governor Quinn: GTFO. To put it more politely, and non-acronymmally, the former mayor and governor declined to take Ricketts up on his plan.

But there’s a new mayor in charge, and he’s a Cubs fan. Not that that’s the reason for this:

Sources close to the matter say that team chief Tom Ricketts in recent weeks has met with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other government officials about a funding scheme that could be put before state lawmakers as soon as the Legislature’s fall veto session.

According to sources, the plan envisions as much as $200 million in public help for a $400-million rebuild of Wrigley, with officials given a menu of potential funding options to get the needed cash.



“Rahm’s people have been much more interested than Daley’s were,” said one inside source, referring to the current mayor and former one, Richard M. Daley, who blocked an earlier plan that would have allowed the team to pocket increased tax receipts from an expanded Wrigley complex.

Now this is news.

The article suggests that the new financing could come from a variety of sources, including the amusement tax, a state historic tax credit, and/or subsidies from the tax revenue generated by the construction, itself. The chances of a plan being approved and in place in the near term, the sources said, is 50/50.

I’ve made no secret of my opinion that a refusal to use public funds – funds that are collected from ticket sales to games at Wrigley Field – to pay for a portion of the Wrigley Field reconstruction is the height of hypocrisy. The Cubs, unlike most of their major sports brethren, are in the unfortunate position of not being able to credibly threaten a move in order to get the stadium financing that other cities hand out like candy when their local team says, “yeah, Cincinnati is nice, but have you seen the grass in Indianapolis? It’s greener than Kermit the Frog!” So, it’s fair to say that I would support this kind of plan.



And, as Cubs fans, you should support it, too. Wrigley Field is in need of serious redevelopment that will not only improve the facilities in which Cubs players train, but would also likely increase revenue – which Ricketts has repeatedly stated will go right back into the organization. Further, if the city contributes $200 million to the project, that’s another $200 million that doesn’t go on the expense line for the Cubs.

I know, I know: grr, rich people bought Cubs for $1 billion and now they want public money to fix something they knew was a problem, grr grr grr! To be clear, if the money were coming from somewhere other than taxes on Cubs tickets or from taxes on the construction project, itself, I could be persuaded that it isn’t the right move. I’m not an animal.

A final thought: could this be the big “announcement” coming from Ricketts? Bruce Levine says he’s heard the Cubs’ Chairman will give press conference soon about the “future of the Cubs’ organization, and this could fall under that umbrella.

An announcement that plans are in place to renovate Wrigley Field with public support would certainly be big enough news to justify a big time press conference, but, right now, I doubt this would be the “announcement” for a couple reasons. First, because a stadium project would require legislative action – however strongly Mayor Emanuel might feel about it – I’m not sure what exactly Ricketts would “announce.” That the mayor is on board? That he’s agreed to a plan that will still have significant political hurdles? I don’t see it.

The other reason I tend to doubt this is the “announcement” is because Levine, the source of the “announcement” rumor, has discussed it as though the press conference will be about the future direction of the Cubs organization – which, to me, suggests things like the front office, the farm system, team personnel, and the Major League roster. It’s possible that future Wrigley plans could be discussed, but I’m not sure I see it as the likely main subject of a much-anticipated “announcement.”

 




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