The addition of a “Dream Team” front office to the Chicago Cubs is primarily about bringing a consistently competitive team to the North Side. An ancillary purpose – one that is also ultimately about improving the competitiveness of the Cubs – is to continue efforts to obtain public funding for some much-needed renovations to Wrigley Field.

In his introductory press conference, new President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein made pointed remarks about his experience in Boston renovating Fenway Park – with the assistance of the city – into something beneficial not only to the team, but also the city of Boston. While the Cubs’ farm system and Major League roster may be the most pressing concern, I assure you, the Wrigley Field renovations are on everyone’s mind at Clark and Addison.

But the plans may have just hit a slight hiccup, courtesy of the team on the other side of town. It seems the White Sox are not scoring popularity points for Chicago baseball teams who want access to public funds:

The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the government agency that built and owns The Cell, paid $3.2 million for construction of the [Bacardi at the Park] restaurant plus just about everything inside the place, from walk-in refrigerators to bar stools, the Tribune and WGN-TV found in a joint investigation.

Another $3.7 million from the agency went for infrastructure upgrades for water and sewers at the Gate 5 plaza that made the restaurant possible.

A 2010 agreement between the Sox, who selected Gibsons Restaurant Group to run the business, and the agency shows that at the project’s completion, the team was exempt from owing the agency any money. That arrangement contrasts with the management agreement for operating the stadium, which stipulates the team pay rent and make payments based on attendance.

The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority agreed with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf that the agency should not share in any restaurant profits ….

“Here we now have a restaurant for the fans of the White Sox, and we own it and we got what we’ve been asking for for several years,” said [Former Governor Bill] Thompson, who as governor signed the legislation creating the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. “I’m satisfied. White Sox fans are satisfied.”

The Sox did not make Reinsdorf available for an interview and declined to comment on its relationship with the agency, “feeling that our (management) agreement is public knowledge and that any public comment should come from ISFA.”

An agency statement said “the final proposal that included no revenue for the state of Illinois was what was voted on and agreed upon by Chairman Thompson and his board.”

The investigative report, which is substantial, goes on from there. It’s a small amount of money (in the grand scheme of things), and the White Sox believe they’ve done everything above board. Still, the story is being received by more than one cocked eyebrow.

Now, as far as the Cubs’ efforts to get public funding for a Wrigley Field renovation, I could see this story cutting two ways (if it cuts at all). On the one hand, some folks might say, “geez, the White Sox got free money to build a restaurant and they don’t even have to share the profits with the taxpayers who gave them that money? If the Sox get that sweetheart deal, can’t the Cubs at least get money for something that does generate money for the city/state?” After all, this restaurant project sounds like a pure gift from the people of Illinois to the White Sox, with almost no upside for the State. With Wrigley Field, the upside could take any number of forms (repayable bond financing, increased amusement tax, etc.), to say nothing of the value reaped by virtue of Wrigley Field as a tourist attraction.

On the other, more likely, hand, some folks might say simply, “see, this is what happens when you give public dollars to private businesses.” This is, of course, a simplistic and incomplete view, but one that has a great deal of broad appeal, particularly in these financial times. Recognizing that, I’m not going to say much beyond, “thanks, White Sox.”

  • funkster

    This may be minor in the grand scheme of things, but building them a brand new ballpark in the 90s was not. Why shouldn’t the Cubs also get public funds?

    • Brett

      That’s among the many, many reasons I think the Cubs are getting a bum rap in this whole discussion. But I sense we’re in the minority.

    • Jeff

      Because the White Sox could legitimately threaten to move to Tampa in the late 90’s and the Cubs can’t threaten to move anywhere.  Then there’s the whole neighborhood association that thinks that they are entitled to part of every dollar the Cubs make, and still are opposed to any kind of renovation of Wrigley and the surrounding area.

      • 1060Ivy

        So the White Sox were threatening to move in the late 2000’s after they already built the Cell?

        Believe the restaurant was opened to commence the 2011 season so it was created well after the Cell opened.

        • Jeff

          I was talking about the public funding that helped build the Cell, not the restaurant.  The Cubs need a lot more money than what the guys that built the restaurant did, and the funds for the restaurant and the remodeling were set up when they built the stadium.  My point was that the Cubs don’t have any kind of leverage like the White Sox did.  They can’t exactly threaten to move the team if the city doesn’t give them public funding.

  • Jim

    It’s a wonder Jim Thompson is not in jail. Far more crooked than Ryan & Blago.

    • Jeff

      You wake up one morning and find yourself in a room with four former Illinois governors.  Any guesses where you are at?    That’s right, prison.

      • oso


  • Dave

    I read an article yesterday about how the state actually owns The Cell and Jerry rents it, although he keeps all profits from ticket sales, consessions and all. He is paying considerably less than any other sports team in the country who rents their stadium. So it would seem that while us Cubs fans buy tickets and from those tickets the Ricketts family pays taxes to the enterprise that owns The Cell, we are actually supporting both teams….right?

  • Dave
    • Brett

      You nailed it, Dave (that issue is discussed a little in the article in the post, but yours obviously strikes right at the heart). It seems like the Cubs could be doing a slightly better PR job on this thing, but it’s possible that they feel they can just work the public official angle (with Rahm now in office, for example).

  • die hard

    Must’ve dozed off and dreamed that I was on Mars because I thought I detected sentiment for public money to fix all that ails Wrigley. Anyone thinking tax or public bond revenue to be used for Wrigley during these hard times is not from this planet.

    • funkster

      We’ll see. I think you’re going to be surprised. I’d be shocked if Ricketts doesn’t get at least a piece of what he’s looking for.

  • MichiganGoat

    Cub Nation we need everyone to join tonight’s game thread

    As a Nation we must not allow the Cardinals to win, we need all the negativity and disgust to be spewed on this tread tonight.  They must not win!

    • die hard

      Well, if Cards win then LaRussa will be more likely to retire. He has been our nemesis for much too long. So, be careful what you wish for.

      • Shawn

        Living in Central Illinois where Card fans are everywhere I will take my chances and root for the Rangers.

  • MichiganGoat

    Time to go join the live game 7 thread over on the message board

  • Dave

    I was wondering if anyone could clarify the request the Ricketts family actually has in to the state. I understood (and am probably wrong) that they were not asking for money now but instead were asking to not make tax payments in the future, or at least make shorted payments. Are they asking to have actual tax payers cash right now?

    • Brett

      Your understanding is correct, though some say asking for a tax abatement and asking for cash are the same thing. (To which I say, “not when the tax you’re asking to be abated comes from the sale of YOUR tickets.)

      • Pat

        Actually, the request was for funds right now. They would pay the money back by earmarking any increases in the amusement tax totals as repayment rather than taxes.

        Do the math though, that is not a plan anyone should be supporting unless you want to be paying 150 a ticket in a few years.

        • Brett

          There are several versions of the request. One version, to which I alluded, was an abatement of a portion of the 12% amusement tax for the next 30 years. Another, involves a bond financing right now, which would be repaid over 30 years from a portion of the amusement tax. And I’m with you – I far prefer the former option.

          • Pat

            I had not heard the tax break version. I would be fine with that, although I’m not sure it would be enough to do the job. Even a 50 percent break would only equal about 7.5 million a year currently. Granted that would total a little over two hundred million over thirty years. Even if ticket increases cancel out debt service costs, which is debatable, I just can’t see 200 million being enough to do the job the right way.

            • Brett

              You’re correct – the total cost is estimated at $300 million, with a healthy chunk to be paid by the Ricketts, assuming public funds are made available. I don’t believe they want the city/state to front the entire amount.

  • die hard

    Take public with an IPO to raise money may be only option. By the way, Pujols looks old and slow tonight. Wouldnt want him on Cubs.

  • curt

    fuck the cardinals nice call by emperor selig 2 give the cards a break on the day off kills texas momentum and lets carpenter pitch game 7 but texas choked game 6 away, omg cards fans will be even more dousche than ever , makes me ill, those insufferable fans will be even worse, only 1 gtood thing about the cardinals winning the series my late wife would def be smiling a big cards fan.

  • cubby-blue

    I don’t get it. How does one franchise do that good with a smaller payroll than the cubs? It’s like they never miss on players. They always seem to hit their prime/streaks when they go to stl. I mean, I don’t want to dump on the cubs but maybe TR should take a look at what they are doing in stl.

    • MichiganGoat

      Steroids and Voodoo, mixed in with a couple of virgin sacrifices… which are difficult to find in St. Louis

  • MrCub73

    Whether you hate the Cardinals or not, if you are a true fan of baseball, you had to enjoy this World Series!  Us Cub fans can bash the Cardinals, but I know if my case it really comes down to a jealousy, I want for the Cubs what they have in St Louis.  This is absurd, the larger market with higher payroll cannot compete.  I am glad Theo and company are in town, I am ready to go crazy watching the Cubs win the final game of the World Series.  I don’t want to wait until next year any more!!!