Well this kind of came out of nowhere, though I’m sure it would be nice to announce around Opening Day.
The Chicago Cubs have, for the better part of a year and a half, actively been seeking out financial assistance from the city of Chicago (as well as the state of Illinois) to help fund a badly-needed renovation of Wrigley Field. Various plans have been shot down, primarily as politically infeasible (it ain’t a great time to ask for public money, no matter how you phrase it or how you tie it to the betterment of the community), but it now sounds like the Cubs might be getting somewhere with the city.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today said that the city was in the “final stages” of negotiating a deal with the Cubs, which would theoretically open the door for the franchise to begin renovating Wrigley Field, according to quotes in the Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. “We’ve had good conversations,” Emanuel said.
At issue is not only where the funds for the renovation will come from – amusement tax growth, tax abatements, some kind of public bond, etc. – but also what limitations will be placed on the public money. Specifically, if the Cubs accept public money to renovate Wrigley Field, will they be permitted to use $200 million of their own money to finally get to work on the Triangle Building project (which would add office space for the team, additional workout facilities, merchandise areas, and more)?
Emanuel wouldn’t comment on specifics, but it doesn’t sound like the two projects going hand-in-hand is a sure thing.
“I’ll represent the taxpayers in whatever we do to enhance the value at Wrigley Field,” Emanuel said. “I will not put my money in their field so they can take their money and invest around the field.”
It’s hard to know for sure whether Emanuel was saying a project like the Triangle Building is a no-go. After all, I would argue that the facilities installed there would make it more like a part of the Wrigley Renovation than an entirely separate project (indeed, there could even be a skywalk physically connecting the building to Wrigley Field).
Perhaps if the Ricketts Family is willing to kick in some of the money for the Wrigley renovation, itself, they will be permitted to get to work on the Triangle Building, as well.
As is often the case with politically-engineered solutions, the final answer here could be both imperfect and distant. Emanuel’s comments came at an unrelated event today, and the Cubs declined to elaborate or confirm that anything was close. So, it’s possible that we’ll once again go for a healthy stretch without hearing much.
But at least signs are pointing in a positive direction.