During the whole Joe Ricketts/President Obama/Mayor Emanuel/Wrigley Field flap, Chicago Cubs Owner and Chairman Tom Ricketts offered some non-political comments (as well as a number of comments that go a bit more to the political flap than the funding flap) to the Sun-Times on the status of the renovation project. Given the incendiary nature of that issue, I thought it best to give it a few days before writing about those comments.
Among Ricketts’ thoughts, in an exclusive interview with the Sun-Times:
- The Cubs hope to break ground on the renovations by this Fall, and would thus like to have a vote on funding plans in the Spring session of the Illinois General Assembly. That session adjourns in eight days, on May 31. Again: the timing of this flap was really, really bad.
- If the Cubs can’t get funding approved in time to break ground in the Fall, the renovation would have to be pushed back an entire year. That’s because the Cubs plan to conduct the renovation over three or four off-seasons. My thought: 2016 is the 100 year anniversary of the Cubs playing at Wrigley Field, so you better believe that’s when the Cubs want to be done with the renovation.
- Ricketts told the Sun-Times that he hasn’t made a final decision on a Jumbotron, but said that new outfield signs would be done “in a tasteful way maintaining that delicate balance” and that’s he’s willing to work with the Wrigleyville rooftops on “ways to work together to generate revenue” that might include “advertising on their buildings.” That’s a mighty creative solution right there, and one I’m surprised the Cubs and rooftop owners haven’t already developed together.
- The timing of the controversy was particularly bad given the NATO visit over the weekend, and Mayor Emanuel’s necessary preoccupation with that. It was understandably hard to get through to the Mayor – who had been working with the Cubs on a funding plan – to explain that the Cubs, and Tom Ricketts, have absolutely nothing to do with Joe Ricketts’ politics. At the time of the interview this weekend, Tom wasn’t worried about not having received return phone calls from the Mayor, given how busy his weekend was. We haven’t yet heard if the two have since spoken.
- On his father’s politics and the problems they can cause for the Cubs: “I’m not really involved in what my father does on the political side, and he’s not involved in anything we do as a team. We talked. I didn’t yell. He was already in the process of putting out a statement that made it clear he rejected the proposal. He knows it’s very important for us to maintain the image of the Cubs at the highest level. He understands that would complicate some of our efforts on the funding side. But we didn’t spend time talking about it. It was more like, `These are the cards we’ve been dealt. Let’s address the issue.’”
- On working together with Mayor Emanuel to continue progress on a funding plan for Wrigley: “We look forward to setting aside some of the emotion and focusing on the fact that this is a great project and a great deal for the city and state that creates 2,100 jobs, generates more tax revenue and saves Wrigley Field. Events of the last 36 hours have been a big distraction that has gotten us off course. But hopefully we can have it back on track soon.”
- Ricketts isn’t ready to entertain a back-up plan if these conversations with the city and State fall apart: “Right now, we’re just optimistic we can get this back on track, get it done and move forward. If it’s not gonna happen, we’ll have to think of something else. It’s a lot of work to get to this point with one idea, much less develop a Plan B.”
The article also has some more political controversy type stuff in it, if you’re still into that angle.
All in all, I remain hopeful that a deal can be struck, which would allow the Cubs to proceed this Fall. There’s just too much for everyone to lose if this thing falls apart. If the Cubs now have to pony up a little more to get the deal done, that’s the way the cookie crumbles, and the price of controversy. I don’t like it, but I’d like it even less if the Cubs had to push back the renovation plan another year (or worse, go back to the drawing board entirely).