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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.”

 

  • EQ

    Maybe it’s all part of the announcement.. the draft, the future team direction, the triangle building.. all of it.. maybe he just wants to remind and reassure everyone that they’re moving in the right direction for the future and want us all to be patient or at ease..

  • philoe beddoe

    Daley’s distaste for the Cubs has killed us for the last twenty years….Ricketts should do this…..I get so tired of the neighborhood and the city imposing their will on the Cubs…now granted I live out in the Suburbs, but I have a Chicago buddy who always says “the Cubs need the neighborhood, just as much as the neighborhood needs the Cubs”….I say bullshit…

    like I said in a previous post…go to Petco and see a game, then tell me how much you love Wrigley…

    • EQ

      I went to the Royals/Cubs this year at Kauffman stadium.. the upgrades and redesign they did their and to the football stadium are really nice. Wrigley is a great ball park but they do need to find ways to do major upgrades, like 400 million worth sounds about right.. and personally, I don’t care what everyone thinks, a jumbo tron would be huge for Wrigley and I’d put one in in a heartbeat.. I agree, the neighborhood needs the Cubs way more than the Cubs need them.

    • chris margetis

      I live in SoCal and am a Cubs season ticket holder. I’ve been to Petco many times, including to see the Cubs there. There is no comparison between the two. I think I can safely say, I have hosted many first time visitors at Wrigley, none of them have ever said to me, “this place is awesome, but it’s no Petco.”

  • Toosh

    Agreed. The neighborhood needs the Cubs more than the other way around. It’s nice to see a dialogue between City Hall and the Cubs. Supposedly the Mayor’s a Cub fan. And, though personally I prefer day games, I believe more night games would help the Cubs in the future. The neighborhood wouldn’t like it, though.

    • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

      You’re right, Toosh, about the neighborhood not being too keen on it, but I imagine that the development of significant additional stadium parking might sweeten their willingness to accept another dozen or so night games. I think the Triangle Bldg (in its current formation adds ~400 spaces). Having lived in that neighborhood for a time (Roscoe & Southport), I can appreciate what an influx of 40k folks can do to the neighborhood.

      Of course, if the rest of the TriBldg is developed with bowling alleys, ice skating rinks, shops, and the like (as proposed), the whole area would likely have more folks milling about *all the time*, pissing off the Kenmore Street yuppie condo owners, so whaddyagonnado? I imagine that if they found a way to cram 1000 parking spaces somewhere they’d find a whole lot more takers on their plans.

      • Toosh

        A dozen or so more night games sounds about right.

  • TSB

    If the NIMBYs don’t like it, they can move close to US Cellular Field

  • rocky8263

    Comparing Petco and Wrigley is apples and oranges. In the 60′s and 70′s, before there was a “Wrigleyville” East Lake View was a dump. Gang violence, lots of Hill Billies drunk in the street , I know because my drunken Uncle Larry owned “Shirley’s Angels” an Old Style dump at Waveland and Halsted. Many an early morning my dad would take me for company to bail Larry out of Town Hall Police station for public drunkenness , usually pitching quarters for ten dollars a throw. When the Tribune took over and attendance crept first to two million then three million fans a year the neighborhood blossomed . The city owes Wrigley Field and the Cubs huge and Rahm is smart enough to know it. Daley just didn’t care about the Cub’s or the north-side for that matter.

    • philoe beddoe

      Thank you!…I remember going there as a kid and around the ball park was a dump….the Cubby Bear was just a little rathole, and there was nothing else there….this was in the late 70′s……1984, WGN, and Harry made that place….shit, my dad used to drive us in and we could park for free on the street 3 blocks away…

      • CubFan Paul

        grrr, i paid $20 bucks to park 4 blocks away!

        • TSB

          At least when you walked back those 4 blocks, you still have a car. Not like at the old Comiskey Park.

  • Ron Swanson

    I’m honestly not big on public funds for stadiums but I’m sick of seeing everyone else’s favorite team get one so its time for the Cubs to benefit too. If the whole thing about Cub specific taxes paying for it is even half true then all the better. Let’s start moving dirt.

  • JulioZuleta

    At least now we wont have to deface our stadium by renaming it after some shitty cell phone company…

  • Waveland Ave

    I want the money to go to inner city schools, teachers r getting laid off and schools r losing funding bc of recession I love Wrigley field but I would wait for better times to do this project even though I think wrigley needs fixing

    • Jeff

      The thing is, Wrigley Field is a boost to the Chicago economy and putting money into it is a way to ensure it keeps making money for the city. Those taxes they charge us on tickets, beer,food, and parking all go to the city, and all the city does is give the Cubs grief. It’s time they quit complaining about the Cubs and Wrigley like they are a big problem for the neighborhood and city, and start treating it like the asset that it is and can be. As a baseball fan who pays to watch the Cubs, I want my money to go back into the team. If you need money for schools and teachers, look to the city and state officials who have been pocketing this money for as long as it’s been there. The longer it takes to fix Wrigley, the more costly and time consuming it’s going to be. We finally have an owner who is willing to foot a good portion of the bill, the city owes it to the Cubs to at least listen.

  • Dan0mite

    (I posted this on a forum but would like multiple perspectives)

    I don’t live in Chicago so correct me if I’m wrong. Isn’t the proposed funding going to come from the “amusement tax” on tickets sales? Isn’t the plan to just have the government funnel that tax back to Ricketts instead of other tax funded ventures? Won’t the only people paying for it be the people that buy Cubs tickets?

    I’m actually asking. This is what I have heard.

    • TWC

      As I understand it, you are correct.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Isn’t that what I wrote?

        • TWC

          Well… yeah. I was just trying to sound smrt.

          I mean smart.

          • Fishin Phil

            I thought you sounded real smrt.

  • Anon

    The idea of generating the funds required to pay off the loan through the increase in amusement taxes sounds great. However, it reality it will never create the needed funds. The amount generated can only increase if the park stays full (and we’ve seen this year that is guaranteed to happen) and ticket prices are raised.

    Now, the question becomes how much do ticket prices have to be raised to generate 200 million, and let’s be honest it’s going to be closer to 300 million, over thirty years? I’m going to use the 300 million figure because it makes the math easier – keep in mind though that I am not including the interest payments on the bonds so basically the numbers work out closer to the 200 million figure anyways.

    300 million, 30, years – so 10 million a year. 10 million a year, 3 million tickets = $3.33 per ticket. That doesn’t sound so bad.

    Oh, wait. The amusement tax is only 12% of the ticket price. So to raise the amusement tax $3.33 the ticket price needs to be raised by $26.64 base price plus of course the $3.33 that goes to the state. Do you really want to add $29.99 to the average ticket??

    This is the worst idea possible. It actually means Ricketts would be required to raise prices that much. I’m sure he llikes the idea though. While the state is recouping their $200 million over the next 30 years, Ricketts is pulling in an additional 1.6 billion as a result of needing to pay back the state.

    No thanks.

    • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

      Your math isn’t making sense. What do you mean by “add $29.99 to the average ticket”?

      The Cubs currently have an average ticket price of $46.90. Each ticket is subject to a 12% Chicago amusement tax (CAT). I’m not sure if that average price includes the CAT — I don’t think it does, but let’s assume it does for the sake of your argument. That makes the average face value cost of a ticket $~41.90 with a $5 CAT. Three million tickets x $5 CAT per = $15m. That’s a 20 year payback to hit your $300m target ($200m direct costs + add’l $100m bond payments/interest).

      But each ticket you buy at Wrigley *already has the CAT included*. It’s not a new fee, the Cubs just want to redirect the *existing* CAT into a fund for their renovations. And unless I’m mistaken, there is no proposal to increase the CAT rate. The city has been balking because they don’t want to see their coffers lightened. But if you go to a game you’re paying the CAT already. Do you want it to go back to the team, or to the City of Chicago?

  • Anon

    I think you should re-read the old proposal. It called for using increases in the amusement tax, not the proceeds as they existed at the time.

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