Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel can’t stop talking about the funding for a renovation of Wrigley Field. Granted, it’s because he keeps being asked about it, but it certainly feels like something is close. Perhaps that’s because Emanuel opened this can of worms a couple weeks ago by saying that the Cubs and the city were in the “final stages” of a funding deal. That’ll lead to some follow-up questions.

Although it does seem like “final stages” was probably a bit optimistic, it’s clear that the discussions are both serious and ongoing. But Emanuel now wants to make sure that his political constituency knows he’s not looking to give the Cubs a sweetheart deal just for the sake of a sweetheart deal. From the Sun-Times:

“Wrigley Field is a great field. The Ricketts [family] purchased it. They have a responsibility that comes with it. We may make changes so they can enhance it. But we’re not gonna do that without consciously knowing who I sit there representing — and that is the taxpayers,” the mayor said at an unrelated event.

The Ricketts family “have a great venue and they thought it was a great venue when they made the buy in 2009. The package that comes together will come together when it’s ready to come together. But I’m there to be a steward for the taxpayers not one for the Ricketts family — and I know the difference.”

At last check, the Mayor’s Office was considering helping the Cubs to add new advertising and to use some of the surrounding streets for signage and special events. That help would come in the form of relaxed restrictions on Wrigley Field’s landmark status, and political wrangling to get the Cubs a deal on using those surrounding streets.

On that latter part, the Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal says the city should be careful, and references a lease between the city of Boston and the Red Sox, which allowed the team to add premium seating above the Green Monster, and to close Yawkey Way for street events.

The Red Sox got the air rights above Lansdowne Street to make room for fans atop the Green Monster, its outsize left-field wall. It also was allowed on game days to close off Yawkey Way, creating a street fair of sorts for paying fans serviced exclusively by official team concessionaires.

Per terms of the lease, Boston and the Boston Redevelopment Authority have been paid an average of $186,000 per year during the last nine years. And the Red Sox, according to a Boston Globe report by Northeastern University’s Initiative for Investigative Reporting, have parlayed the use of those streets to up revenue by about $45 million, give or take a Fenway Frank.

Let’s not be Boston.

If Chicago is going to help the Chicago Cubs and the effort to rehab Wrigley Field, let’s not negotiate a deal that creates a better than 25 times return for the other guys.

Fair point. But, keep in mind: if the city of Chicago is trying to help the Cubs fund the renovation of Wrigley Field without directly dipping into the public coffers, this is a way to do it. I’m not saying the Cubs should get a ridiculous deal, but if it’s designed to help the team, it should be a bit advantageous, no?

  • OkieCub

    As a Cub fan from afar, my knowledge of Chicago politics is limited to reruns of “The Untouchables.” Still, this seems to make a lot of sense and there should be a way to make it happen without sending some goons around to intimidate and coerce. The club definitely needs a way to expand it’s revenue streams. How good/bad is the relationship between the club and the neighborhood?

  • Edwin
  • Cerambam

    Why exactly wouldn’t we want the cubs to have an additional 45 million dollars?

    • Edwin

      It depends where/how the Cubs are getting the additional 45 million dollars, and how they spend the 45 million dollars.

  • Wilbur

    “The Red Sox got the air rights above Lansdowne Street … It also was allowed on game days to close off Yawkey Way … for paying fans serviced exclusively by official team concessionaires.”

    Went to Fenway last year and both additions are great. The Monster seats are on a superstructure built over the sidewalk (much like the recent outfield additions at Wrigley) and don’t affect traffic or commerce on Lansdowne Street at all. The closing of Yawkey Way on game days not only helps with pedestrian traffic, it promotes fans staying and paying and as the Red Sox own about everything on that block, both sides, there’s a lot of property and sales tax revenue.

    So, for the cost of nothing Boston gets $186,000 per year, plus tax revenues. Chicago could get something more, but why excessively charge the Sox or Cubs for having a product people want, a willingness to invest in capital improvements, and ownership (which pays taxes) and create a great attraction (on the field for the Sox, not so much for the Cubs) for the City?

    I get incensed when government wants to get a cut of someone else’s hard work/capital or some percentage of someone else’s revenue, when government doesn’t have any costs or contribute to the success of this new venture in any manner? Remember, the Sox and Cubs pay all their property and business taxes before this charge is added. It’s a tax on a tax.

    If the Chicago charges the Cubs for the use of any public right away at the same rate they charge someone in the Loop for a corporate event or a neighborhood association block party great. Add a percentage because its for 81 days/nights, fine. Arbitrarily set a huge charge for the Cubs because the Cubs make a lot of money, BS.

    • Cubbie Blues

      This is exactly what I was thinking while reading the post. As not to invoke a political debate, I will let your post stand as it and won’t add to it.

    • aCubsFan

      The difference is that the Sox aren’t investing in US Cellular Field its the state of Illinois because the stadium is owned by the state. Furthermore, Reinsdorf has been getting by on almost free rent because they don’t draw enough fans to have a higher per person rate to kick in. And, Reinsdorf has been given land by the state for free which was supposed to be redeveloped and hasn’t.

      If the state helped one individual like Reinsdorf, then the state and the City of Chicago should find a way to help the Cubs. I believe the landmark status of Wrigley was pure grandstanding by the City and the ward alderman to hold the Cubs hostage and to appease the neighborhood residents when most of the residents moved in knowing the Cubs played games there and part of the reason why they moved in to begin with.

  • Kevin

    The Cubs are a cash cow for the city of Chicago, as such, the city should be doing everything possible to keep it going.

    • Amz

      This comment has been brought to you by — your source for exasperating argument-enders!

      • Myles

        Just wanted you to know your :iceburn: was much appreciated. Keep up the good work

        • Amz

          Happy to help.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Cubs should open negotiations with Arlington Heights and Naperville on sites for a new ball park and TIF zones. Rahm would be over at the Ricketts house the next morning wanting to wash and wax their cars. The Cubs should not be the city’s cash cow.

    • Sandberg

      This. The Cubs are already fucked over by the city every which way. Ricketts family is still trying to do it the nice way, but if this falls through it’ll be time to play some hard ball. Fuck the city of Chicago.

    • Noah

      A park in Arlington Heights or Naperville would be disastrous long term for the Cubs. I’m from Arlington Heights. Do you know the two ways to get to Arlington Heights from the city? (1) One Metra line. (2) I-90, which is already a traffic hell hole. Do you know how you can get to Arlington Heights from the North Shore? Dundee Road or Willow Road. The only people a park in Arlington Heights or Naperville would be convenient for are people in the western and northwest suburbs. And then you’d see the Cubs have the exact same attendance problems everyone else has. Would they still draw when they were good? Probably. But they’d only have paid attendance of 15,000-20,000 when they weren’t. The Ricketts know that Wrigley is a huge cash cow for them, moreso than the Cubs are a cash cow for the city. They’re going to make sure they retain the stadium and the stadium site.

      • Sandberg

        There’s a difference between actually moving and getting the ball rolling on negotiations. If Ricketts admits he will not explore moving, he has absolutely no leverage against the city. It doesn’t have to be that way, Chicago needs the Cubs much more than the Cubs need Chicago.

  • Jim L.

    But I’m there to be a steward for the taxpayers not one for the Ricketts family — and I know the difference.”

    Not to turn this into a political soapbox, but it would have been nice if Little Richie Daley felt this way before cheating the City of Chicago on the parking meter deal.

    • aCubsFan

      Don’t forget the Daley has cheated the residents of Chicago on numerous other projects: White Sox, United Center, McCormick Place, Millennium Park to name a few.

  • jstraw

    Why shouldn’t the Cubs get 25 times ROI, if it’s in lieu of taxpayer cash?

    Also, relocating the club is of the table. It’s just not a useful negotiation tactic. The approach should be that the club can’t be counted on as a revenue source forever if it can’t, at long last, put a winning product on the field. And it can’t do that without catching up with the rest of the industry it competes within. And it can’t do *that* without significant new revenue…and truth be told, though I’m sure Ricketts doesn’t want to bring this up at the same time, it probably can’t be done without getting the city to agree to significantly fewer day games.

    • JustSwain

      Well put.

  • SouthernCub

    If I was a tax payer in Chicago there’s no way I’d be happy about this…….of course if I was a tax I wouldn’t have elected Emanuel either

  • Rich G

    Makes no sense for the city to both deny government funding & force the Cubs to curtail advertising signage. They can’t have it both ways – local Wrigleyville residents be damned.

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