Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: The Triangle Building Project is Probably Part of the Deal

You’ve undoubtedly heard about “the Triangle Building” a number of times, without ever fully having an appreciation for just what it is. Well, for starters, it doesn’t exist. Yet. It is a proposed multi-use structure, to be placed on a triangular space adjacent to Wrigley Field (West, as you can see in the picture there), which would house Cubs offices, medical facilities, and workout facilities, together with private commercial operations, and possibly parking (and, if the Cubs were smart, a small hotel – just sayin’). The Cubs have been working on a plan for the Triangle Building for years.

The estimated cost on the project is about $200 million – that’s in addition to the estimated $300 million required to renovate Wrigley, itself – and, because of the funding brouhaha, there has been some doubt about whether it would ever happen. Well, it sounds like it’s going to happen when the Wrigley renovation happens. From Crain’s Chicago:

Someone who would know has given me the details. Though things are still moving around, the public is being asked to put in both less and more than you might suspect.

On the table is a $500 million or so plan — $300 million to reconstruct the nearly century-old Wrigley and $200 million for the “Triangle” parking, entertainment and multiuse structure off the west wall of the ballpark.

The family and/or team would pay for the Triangle building. That means $300 million is needed for the ballpark proper.

Half would come from the team, presumably in increased revenue from more signage inside Wrigley and retail and other entertainment in what amounts to a game-day carnival on Waveland Avenue on Wrigley’s north side and Sheffield Avenue to the east.

And half would come from $150 million or so in bonds to be retired with increased revenue from the existing city and Cook County amusement taxes on ticket sales. Specifically, debt service would get the first 6 percent in growth above a base level of around $15 million a year now.

The article goes on from there to discuss the $150 million in public funding, and how it could actually set up a system by which the Cubs could continue to receive an effective public subsidy long after the Wrigley Field renovations are paid for (in sum, the Cubs would get a cut of the growth on amusement taxes once they go past a certain threshold – seems fair to me, but I’d imagine that part of the plan is bound to be controversial). It’s a good read on the subject, if you’re into the x’s and o’s of public financing.

For me, the most interesting part was the certitude with which the Triangle Building project is being discussed. You don’t need me to tell you that the Cubs’ player facilities, office facilities, medical facilities, etc., are woefully behind the times. It’s hard to quantify the competitive disadvantage at which it puts the Cubs, but the disadvantage is real. And, candidly, I think the commercial aspect of the building – Cubs shops, maybe a Cubs Hall of Fame, maybe a terrace level with a view – sound like enjoyable additions to the Wrigleyville area.

I look forward the Wrigley Field renovations for obvious reasons, but I’m almost as excited about the prospect of the Triangle Building.

(A final, random tidbit: when you search for “Cubs Triangle Building” on Google, here’s the first result. That’s a blank page on Cubs.com, which appears to be a placeholder titled “Ballpark Improvements.” It’s also a redirected link from Google, which was originally titled Wrigley Field Improvement Illustrations (for which the permalink had the extension “ballpark/expansion”). Maybe that page has existed for a long time, and I just hadn’t seen it. Or maybe, preparations are underway.)

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

67 responses to “Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: The Triangle Building Project is Probably Part of the Deal”

  1. PeteG

    I’m having doubts all this will go through. Just saying but Quinn and Emanuel suck!

    1. North Side Irish

      At least Emanuel is willing to work with the team to try and figure something out. But yeah, Quinn sucks.

      1. Alou and Vinegar

        Quinn does suck, but in no way shape or form should the Cubs receive money from a state that is $6 billion behind on paying its bills.

  2. TWC

    “Brouhaha”, Ace.  “Brew-ha-ha”s happen in bars. In Milwaukee.

  3. Bruce

    excellent analysis. Thanks!

  4. cubs1967

    If the $500M plan goes through; and that is a big IF; that’s awesome news for Cubs fans! We deserve a new renovated park and the associated Triange bldg which will provide so many “options” for fans; I’ve been to 10 new parks; they all have so much going on besides the game; and yes I know most baseball diehards don’t care about the frills; but when you have kids under 10; 3 hours watching a baseball game is a LONG time compared to 3 hours of video games so it’s needed before they lose a generation of fans.
    Here’s hoping Cubby fan Rahm gets this done and great to hear the Ricketts pony up some money too……………Wrigley Field is the 3rd largest attraction in the state……..and to you alderman Tunney……most people call the area Wrigleyville; not LakeView for a reason.
    Go Cubs Go!!

    1. hardtop

      funny, my daughter, at age 3, couldn’t make it through 7 innings at one of those media saturated new ball parks (in about 6 attempts), yet sat quietly through 9 innings during a 2-1 game at Wrigley. all those distractions, are just that, distractions. she knew there was no point in whining about going t the playground, because there was none. she was focused on the game, she asked questions when people cheered, counted seagulls, and tried to learn the players names. i taught her to cheer “ichi-ban” when fukudome made a catch, and we guessed where the ball would end up at the end of the inning (stands, grass, mound). its called engaging your children: it works, they like it. when i was a kid, and started getting antsy at ball games, my father taught me how to keep score. I learned to appreciate the details of the game and cherish the time with my dad…. i was 7. I wonder how, in almost a hundred years at Wrigley, all those poor parents managed to survive the games without some giant mascot dancing jigs for their kids, or without “back in black” blaring over the PA system?

      this is about fixing wrigley, not turning it into a bestbuy showroom. the cubs sell a lot of tickets to the ball games, parking a toyota shit box on the concourse and playing “stand by your man” when ian stewart comes up to bat is not going to increase revenue. look at the marlins, they have more bells and whistles in that place than mitt romneys mercedes benz, but they can’t sell more than 20,000 seats. people aren’t staying away from Wrigley because it lacks a big screen or college girls shooting shit out of air cannons, they arent coming because the cubs suck. this initiative should be solely about fixing the known issues with the park, maybe adding a toilet or two, and improving the player facilities so the cubs can stop sucking.
      You know what’s entertaining at Wrigley? Discussing baseball with other baseball fans, try it.

      wrigleyville is part of lake view, a large neighborhood on chicagos north side. no one calls all of lake view wrigleyville.

      1. ty

        Hardtop–Hats off to you sir!

      2. TWC

        Holy CRAP!  Hartop’s speakin’ TRUTH!  Well, except for the college girls shooting shit outta air cannons.  I don’t mind that…

        “You know what’s entertaining at Wrigley? Discussing baseball with other baseball fans, try it.”

        Heh.  Kickass.

      3. Cubbie Blues

        I don’t know about the toilet bit. We were there for the game last Saturday and my boys (6 & 7) really got a kick out of the troughs. They walked in and looked at me and said “what? How do we use this?” I just told them to go anywhere they wanted and that they couldn’t miss. They thought it was great. Also, a little off topic we went with my sister-in-law and her husband who are Reds fans and they love going to Wrigley. They couldn’t stop talking about how friendly everyone is.

        1. hardtop

          the troughs are cool, ’till the john gets busy, and then, at kid height, you get piss on your face…. but i consider it a rite of passage… so yeah, im fine with the troughs too.

          1. ty

            Yeah, but the ladies have about had it with the troughs in their restrooms.

      4. cubs1967

        Hmmmm…….I thought this was a site about the Cubs; instead I get some guy giving me parenting tips about “engaging my children”…..how interesting ‘cuz I don’t know Hardtop personally. or did I know he has sat by me to discuss my “baseball” discussions or lack thereof.
        The beauty of Wrigley is it’s charm; retro charm; no one said that should go away; but I’m not a farm animal so do I really need to pee in a trough.
        Maybe LakeView residents call it Lakeview; but most outside the city who visit the area call it Wrigleyville.
        Thanks for the parenting tips; but no thanks. Keep it to the biz of the Cubs; I’m quite sure my straight A’s sons have been engaged by me on baseball, schoolwork, and not to talk to strangers like you just did.

        1. TWC

          “Hmmmm…….I thought this was a site about the Cubs; instead I get some guy giving me parenting tips about “engaging my children”

          Well, it does take a (Bleacher)Nation to raise a child…

  5. guy

    Man, I cannot believe what a terrible deal this is for the city.

    To be fair, the Cubs pay for the Triangle building themselves, which is fine. I can’t imagine anyone having a problem with this.

    But every other aspect of this deal stinks. Essentially what the Ricketts family is saying is that if Wrigley is renovated, they can charge higher prices, which will result in more tax revenue. Therefore, even if the first 6% of that increase in revenue is dedicated to debt repayment, and 50% of all increases above that first 6% increase goes to the Ricketts family, it’s a net winner for the city because there would be NO increase in tax revenue without renovation.

    This is a ludicrous and offensive argument. If a profitable (and the Cubs are very profitable) business needs to expand, it dips into its reserves or borrows to purchase capital, land, buildings. It then expects the increase in revenue that results from this capital expansion to pay for the costs (including debt service) while also returning a profit above and beyond that.

    So why are the Cubs any different? If John Deer wants to renovate a major production facility it borrows money, pays for the renovations, and waits for the returns from its investment to make money. If the Cubs want to renovate their facility in the belief that it will generate improved revenue streams, than the Ricketts should pay for these renovations themselves and over time appreciate the extra revenue.

    There has been no assertion whatsoever that the Cubs are a special case requiring not only a giant government subsidy (in the form of the initial money raised from bond issuances) but also a permanent tax break in the form of 50% of the increase in ticket tax revenue that isn’t dedicated to debt retirement. Wrigley Field does not exist in a blighted area, a enterprise zone, or a location (like valuable but underused land) that the city believes would provide extra value (such as in tourism or reputation) through development. In fact, the area around Wrigley is highly developed and constantly packed with relatively wealthy patrons. Furthermore, the Cubs have never insisted or proven that they cannot afford to renovate Wrigley without government handouts. Instead, they just say they won’t do anything in an attempt to extort money from the city. Man, how much would I like to be able to hold my breath and refuse to get a better job with higher pay until the city agrees to buy me a new apartment!

    I’ve barely even touched on the awful forever tax break (just a horrible, unforgivable idea) or the relaxation of Wrigley’s historical status and being allowed to hold day-of-game festivals in the street (debatable whether or not this is a good thing).

    I’m a Cubs fan but the only money of mine a rich team owned by billionaires should get is from tickets, merchandise, and MLB.tv. Anything else is just another case of the rich stealing money from the rest of us plebes.

    1. MightyBear

      This is the stupidest argument ever. How many people take vacation time/time off work to go to see John Deere? How much sales tax/hot tax etc revenue does that generate? The state/city has been benefitting from the Cubs for years. Its time for payback just like they’ve done for all other baseball teams in cities around the country.

      1. Luke

        “How many people take vacation time/time off work to go to see John Deere?”

        More than you would possibly imagine, but that’s a whole different topic of conversation.

        1. MightyBear

          While you’re probably right because I can’t imagine anyone taking vacation to go see John Deere, I’m sure there are people who do. However, I’ll bet you a cold beer more people have gone to see the Cubs for recreation than John Deere over the last 100 years. That’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

          1. Luke

            I sincerely hope you’re right… but no bet.  I grew up in farm country.  People can get fanatical about their tractors.  Especially the color of their tractors.  And there are a lot of farmers in the world.


            1. Cubbie Blues

              Red or green is always the question in farm country.

              1. hansman1982

                You better be answering green there, city boy!

                1. Cubbie Blues

                  Hey now I grew up with all kinds of red all around this neck. I always was a contraion and went red baby!

                  1. hansman1982

                    well then, you sir are not my friend, at all, you might as well be a fan of the Cardinals for all I care…

      2. guy

        I don’t know. How many people work at a John Deere factory? How much corporate tax revenue does the city/state collect from the factory? How much personal income tax revenue does the city/state collect from people who work at the factory?

        A business is a business. The city benefits from each and every one of them. The government should not be gifting money to businesses just because you happen to like them, or because other cities have been conned into doing it.

        I think if the government is going to spend the people’s money on something, the burden lies on those who would argue that the money should be spent. And “Go Cubs Go” is not a valid argument.

    2. Luke

      “If a profitable (and the Cubs are very profitable) business needs to expand, it dips into its reserves or borrows to purchase capital, land, buildings. It then expects the increase in revenue that results from this capital expansion to pay for the costs (including debt service) while also returning a profit above and beyond that.”

      That’s not the whole story.  The company funds their own growth, but states and cities actively compete with tax incentives and other financial packages to lure those companies in the first place.  John Deere (or Motorola, or Apple, or Boeing, to name some other real world examples) approaches various locations where they might like to locate new or expanded facilities and waits to see which city/state will offer the best tax/financial incentive package.  This does not take place in a few exceptional cases, it takes place when any employer of significant economic benefit to a community ponders relocation or growth.  In some cases the bidding wars have gotten ludicrous.  Smaller towns will compete for smaller businesses.  There are cases of 7 Eleven’s and Walmarts getting tax incentives to relocate stores in certain areas.  It happens all the time and is completely normal for any company that has an choice of where to relocate.

      The Cubs can’t benefit from that sort of bidding process because they are all but trapped in Chicago.  Their ability to market the economic gain from Wrigley Field and the team to other cities (even within the Chicago area) is effectively zero.  No one seriously believes the Cubs will ever leave Wrigley (no matter how much sense it makes).  That’s the difference between the city being reluctant to work with the Cubs as opposed to the White Sox or Bears.  The Bears can threaten, realistically, to move across the border to Gary, Indiana and Chicago opens the wallet to keep them.  The White Sox can threaten to move to Tampa, Portland, Vegas, Sacramento, or wherever else their owner has been on vacation lately and the city is in a much weaker negotiating position.  If the Cubs did threaten to move, no one would pay them any attention.  Wrigley ties the Cubs to the city, and the city knows it.

      In that sense, the Cubs are actually being treated very differently than John Deere or any other large and profitable corporation would be in a similar situation.  There is no competition for the Cubs.  Chicago doesn’t have to worry about any other city or state luring them away.  Chicago has absolutely no incentive to do anything, and they know it.  They could throw a $10,000 tax per Cubs ticket and a $1 billion special property tax bill on the stadium and run the team into bankruptcy if the city really wanted to, and the Cubs would effectively have no means to stop it.  If Illinois tried that with Motorola, or any other profitable enterprise, that company would pack up and be across the state line before you could say “tax hike”.

      I think the Cubs would do anything to be treated on a level playing field with other large employers and profitable business.  Motorola just got a sweetheart tax deal from the state a year or so ago, and more such deals will be coming down the pike.  If the Cubs were in a position to threaten relocation like other major companies, such a deal would have been cut for the Cubs already.

      That’s not to defend this proposed deal, or any other deal, but it simply isn’t accurate to say the Cubs are getting treatment that is better than that of any other large company.  The Cubs are being treated worse than any other large company because they have no market leverage.  Motorola is the norm, not the Cubs.

      1. MaxM1908

        Thanks for saving me the time of writing the exact same thing, Luke. Well said. I’m amazed at how many people don’t understand the outright bribery that cities and states engage in to keep corporations within their borders.

      2. guy

        This is a fair point, and the discussion is threatening to move into giant topics about municipal competition and corporate welfare that I don’t particularly feel like discussing. I’ll just say that, yes, this is true, and also it doesn’t really apply to the Cubs because they are stuck with Wrigley.

    3. Sandberg

      I thought I read somewhere (probably here) that the Cubs are the only team in mlb that owns their own stadium *and* pays amusement tax. If this is true, then who cares how much of the amusement tax they get, they are already being robbed by the deadbeat state.

  6. Nate Corbitt

    I did find this artist rendering of the Triangle Building.


  7. Crockett

    I agree. I always thought 9-11 floors would be great because that would allow the addition of a hotel for a floor or two. That seems like it’d be an enormous money making possibility for the Cubs. If they went to double digit floors, they could handle parking somewhere between 100-300 cars, which would make a huge difference around that place.

    Would the triangle building, if built high enough, be at the correct location to block the sun from being in the 1B/RF eyes during late afternoon games? My physics isn’t really up to snuff.

  8. ty

    Here in Mesa we just floated 99 million dollars for new Cubs Riverview Complex. Spring training six weeks long. And everybody seems quite happy about the deal.

  9. ibcnu2222 (John)

    I worked are Wrigley in 2008 in the Player’s parking lot and let me tell you, they need more space. So hopefully that is part of the plan for the triangle building.

  10. ty

    John–guys that work that parking lot are the best drivers in the world–hats off!

    1. Luke

      Parking lot driver for a sports team… that’s a scary job.  Not only would I be driving vehicles worth more than me, I’d be driving expensive vehicles owned by giant dudes who could break me like a toothpick.

      I’d be a nervous wreck in a job like that.

  11. ty

    Luke–A couple yrs ago Zambrano gives the keys to his Lamborghini to a clubhouse kid and tells him to gas it up a couple blocks from Fitch. The kid stalls it in the parking lot and gives up blocking other players cars. The 30 or so fans hanging around for autographs are treated with Z coming out wrapped in a towel and pulling it back into the parking space. We were splitting our guts laughing. Had to be there!