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Chicago Cubs Owner and Chairman Tom Ricketts is quietly scrambling to rebuild support for a funding plan for a renovation of Wrigley Field, which would require some $150 million to come from public funds, according to the Sun-Times. Recall, the Illinois General Assembly’s Spring Session ends May 31, which leaves very little time for Ricketts to get things approved, so the ball can be rolling the day the season ends. If the Cubs miss this window, the renovation could be delayed by an entire year. Without Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s active support, getting that ball rolling could be a serious problem.

Sounds pretty scary, no?

Well, if it is, Ricketts is playing it cool.

“I’m not too worried about that right now,” Ricketts said Wednesday on “Roe & Roeper” on WLS-AM 890 of the possibility that his work with the Mayor could be scuttled by his father’s political flap. “The key for us is to make sure that people that know us and know the Ricketts family know that we weren’t trying to do anything that was insensitive in any way and that the people that don’t know us don’t jump to any conclusions.

“The mayor has got a lot on his plate. Whenever we get around to talking about that, that’s fine with me. I’m cool with whatever timing works. It’s just a matter of we’ve just got to kind of get through this and get it behind us.”

It’s impossible to tell if this is a situation where Ricketts is playing it cool because he knows things we don’t (and he isn’t worried), or if he’s trying to offer the appearance of playing it cool, so folks don’t freak out. The Sun-Times article suggests the Mayor and Ricketts still haven’t spoken, and that Ricketts doesn’t plan to reach out to the Mayor again.

For his part, Ricketts tried one more time on Roe & Roeper to distance himself and the Cubs from the (rejected) proposed attack ad on President Obama.

“The team is owned by myself and my siblings, and the Super PAC is kind of managed and funded by my dad,” Ricketts said. “First of all, my dad is a great guy. I love him a ton. In this case, kind of what happened was they took some presentations from a handful of consultants for a campaign that he was going to consider doing in the fall. One of them was very, very controversial and maybe that particular consultant thought that was what the PAC was looking for. It was never one of the options for them, but that presentation got leaked and that’s when all the speculation started flying.”

The problem for the Cubs and for Ricketts, however, is, at that point, even if Mayor Emanuel believes everything Ricketts says, Emanuel has to weigh his own political fallout in supporting the Wrigley funding plan in the midst of this heat. It’s unfortunate, it’s lame, it’s politics, but it’s real. The Cubs may have been screwed by circumstances entirely out of their control, and Mayor Emanuel’s hands may now be tied.

Let’s hope that’s not the case.

  • CubFan Paul

    I hate these renovation watches (no offense). People just pop up with the ‘Joe owns the team blah blah blah’

    I hate uneducated, half ass fans

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You may hate them – and some of the reactions (I don’t like them either) – but this might be the most important thing happening in the Cubs’ world right now, and it’s woefully under-covered elsewhere in the Cubs media.

      • CubFan Paul

        Agree 100% that it’s the most important thing going on and I do thank you for assembling the info for us. Keep it up & hopefully your site will pay off for you one day

      • Webb

        The obsessive Jorge Soler watch is way more interesting to read about. Just sayin’.

        Any prop bet odds on him missing his July deadline yet to make $20MM instead of three?

      • aCubsFan

        Most Important? I think not. The Cubs have bigger issues than the stadium. And if Ricketts things he’s going to fleece the general public into helping with $150 million he had better think again. There is absolutely no way RahmFather is ever going to say yes, or the county or the state. And, really he is talking to the wrong person. The only way this is ever going to come to a vote is through Michael Madigan. There’s no way he is going to bring this up over the next 7 days.

        Ricketts should have known better than asking for public financing.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I think you underestimate the long-term importance of a properly renovated and monetized Wrigley Field. In the long-term, it’s more important than this season, this Draft, or any trade the Cubs might make in the next couple months.

          • hansman1982

            agree – if the Cubs are able to increase revenue by say 5% a year through the rennovation and the Cubs revenue is $400M that is $20M a year that we would be getting. After 15 years the rennovation is paid off and paying dividends handsomely.

            • Dante Hicks

              While that makes excellent sense economically, how often does that happen on the ground. I wrote a paper on this for grad school (I know, who cares) and it is very rare that these are done on time, on budget, and paid off on-time. This isn’t GM paying back a loan. Any city that spent a ton on stadiums has not made back the money–one key difference was that the ballparks (cleveland, denver, SD, etc) were designed to makeover an entire of a city. Wrigleyville is primed already. But, I can’t imagine this getting through the state assembly for a long time (the governor won’t even give Chicago a casino) or once it is in, working out on plan. If you build it, they will come…they already do, but will the taxpayers win? I doubt it.

              • hansman1982

                I agree that things rarely go the way they are planned and I won’t get into how an accountant can shift the money to make it look the way that it is needed to look.

                It would be interesting to go to the Cubs home games and poll 100 people at each game to gather Zip Codes to see how many out of towners there are. I don’t think I would be too far off in saying that the Cubs have one of the highest percentage of non-home town fans in all of MLB. As such, there is a lot of money flowing into Chicago and Wrigelyville from outside sources.

          • aCubsFan

            And i think you over estimate the importance of a renovated stadium on the citizens’ of IL or Chicago dime. If the stadium is so important to the Cubs why didn’t the Tribune Company renovate it? Why didn’t Wrigley renovate it? Why hasn’t Tom started the renovations already.

            The Phil Rosenthal article said it all. The Rickettses are looking for a handout so they can line their pockets with even more money. They have the money do the renovation of the Cubs dime and leave the public money where it belongs.

        • coal

          I think it is a little unfair to say Ricketts is planning to “fleece the general public.” Ultimately, the general public won’t vote on this. 3-4 politicians will agree that it’s either in the collective best interest of themselves and their fiefdoms (Ward, City, County, State) or not vs. the alternatives.

          What Ricketts IS attempting to is renegotiate the terms that he inherited. If you bought a rundown house that you wanted to fix, live in and ultimately sell after improving the neighborhood and there were people living in your back yard (roofdecks) neighbors siphoning off your WiFi signal (bars, restaurants, vendor tents, trailers and storefronts) and you had an inflated tax bill might you take some action? It’s no different than what Rahm is trying to do with the City he inherited from Daley. It just feels better for Rahm when he’s challenging unions or teachers than when people are asking the same question(s) of him regarding the amusement tax and other issues.

          • aCubsfan

            Unfair? Absolutely not. There are numerous studies floating around the Internet about how publicly-funded stadiums don’t bring the value back to the city, county and state that funded them. As Phil Rosenthal pointed out in his piece yesterday, the Cubs renovation won’t bring back to the city, county or state coffers what they give to the Cubs.

            Furthermore, Jerry Reinsdorf and the McCaskeys for decades have been fleecing the citizens of Chicago and the state out of money only to line their own pockets. I agree that is it unfair for them to get special treatment and the Cubs not, but those special deals that Reinsdorf and McCaskey got are part of the reason the city, county and state are in such dire straits at the moment.

            Ricketts claims it’s going to create 2,100 jobs. How does he know this? It’s all pie in the sky crud like all the other job creation estimates because they truly can’t estimate job creation. Also, Ricketts doesn’t say if these are temporary jobs or permanent jobs.

            Additionally, your analogy is off base. When you buy a house just like buying a business, it is up to the buyer to properly conduct their due diligence to know exactly what they are getting into. Tommie boy claims to be a lifelong, deep-seated Cubs fan. If that is truly the case than Tommie boy knew exactly what the situation was with the rooftop owners, and the neighborhood. The sale of the Cubs took nearly 2 years to complete. He had plenty of time to be able to dig deep into the financials, the stadium, the roof tops and know what he was getting into.

            With respect to Rahm. it’s about time we had a politician who said no and who was looking out for the financial well-being of their constituents.

            • coal

              I’m not saying Tom Ricketts didn’t know what he was getting into. Clearly he did is due diligence. He likely (just like the fix-er-upper homeowner in my exampl) thought he could do “better” with the team than prior ownership did – not just performance wise but revenue wise, business wise.

              This is clearly one angle he thought he could work. I’m not saying that he should get the money – I just don’t blame him for trying. And he seems to be going about it in a lot more professional way than Reinsdorf and others did in their time of negotiating with the City.

              I’m just saying you can’t have it both ways – owner pays for all of the improvements, big player salaries that the fans want, and neighborhood free-riders and City clearly benefit, then everyone crys fowl when the Cubs raise ticket prices, or put up advertisments or want to close off some streets on game day to improve the experience and/or revenue streams.

              All I’m saying is that Wrigley is a project that is clearly in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and somebody has to pay for that. The right solution is probably that Ricketts, fans, neighborhood business owners, the City should all share somehow. The devil is in the details of who pays how much and under what circumstances. It seems fair to me that the party that pays the most should receive the most benefit. If Ricketts pays it all, everyone else free rides off the success he/the Cubs may have without having to put anything at risk.

              • aCubsFan

                You’re absolutely correct that their can’t be two sets of rules. I agree that Tunney and the historical people having been and are overstepping their bounds and authority with respect to what can and can’t be done.

                I also agree that there have been a lot of Wrigleyville freeloaders, starting with all the rooftop owners. Those buildings and businesses were built long after Wrigley was put up. And for years the rooftops have stolen the Cubs intellectual property.

                I don’t begrudge the Cubs making money, but be honest about it and so far they haven’t been very honest. They clearly purchased the McDonald’s property to make more money, and they know that they are going to make much more money when the stadium, the triangle building all of the other stuff is completed.

                And whether it is Wrigley field or the home example every one knows that when you make improvements property values go up and so do taxes. So that is a given.

                Risk…isn’t that what we all do everyday of the week. We all risk something some more than others and these sports enterprises hardly risk anything because they have governments fund their businesses, and the buy insurance on just about every large contract. So it is about time sports enterprises start risking their own money.

                • coal

                  Good debate here. And I think we both coming at it similar. I would argue that the prospects of making more money – including the McDonald’s like property, the triangle building, the right field party deck/scoreboard/advertising, etc. AND the prospects (not 100% but at least the possibility) of getting *some* relief (either from the city for construction, or from caps on the amusement tax, etc.) were factored into the purchase price for the team.

                  The thing that bothers me is that somehow if the Cubs raised ticket prices, or put more Toyota-like signs up to disrupt rooftop views and make sitting at Wrigley preferable – everyone would cry foul. That’s crazy. It’s their product – why should everyone in the neighborhood get to benefit from it without contributing somehow to keeping the team competitive and in the neighborhood.

                  • aCubsfan

                    Well Wrigleyville needs the Cubs more than the Cubs need Wrigleyville. There wouldn’t be the Rooftops without the Cubs. No Cubbie Bear lounge. No shops nothing.

                    It’s interesting to note that on the evening news it was report the Rahm had soften his position and doesn’t want the deal to blow up. Saying he got his point across.

                    • coal

                      Interesting. I actually think Tunney is the bigger problem than Rahm here. Rahm “gets it” and is willing to negotiate – he may be a tough negotiator but he’s somebody who would be willing to think outside the box a bit into a “win/win” type of structure if that’s what it took.

                      Tunney, on the other hand, is in deep with the rooftop owners and is going to be much more irrational in terms of his position. You need to look no further than the absurdity of the rooftop seating capacity explosion and the farcical “permitting” that was approved by Tunney’s office to see what an irrational stance he’s going to take. His constituents have a lot to lose here. Ironically, if they hadn’t done what they’ve done with the rooftops in the last 5 years (they have really flaunted the free riding in the Cubs’ face) it might have still been “quaint.”

  • djriz

    Could it just be time to make Wrigley a museum and build a new ballpark? We’ve never won anything there. Maybe that’s why Tom Ricketts is playing it cool. He gets a shiny new park and can blame others for not saving Wrigley.

    • coal

      Pretty expensive “museum.” That is prime real estate. Ricketts could probably sell it to developers and get pretty close to the cost of a new stadium in the burbs right there. So the “museum” concept ends up in the same place – who pays for the museum (i.e., who buys the park and land from the Cubs – which is worth tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars) and “donates” it to baseball fans? Unlikely that any politician takes that one on!

      • Brian

        Is it prime real estate with no people, team, there or is it then just worn out property with a decreased value?

        • aCubsfan

          For a developer the land that Wrigley sits on is prime real estate, but here’s the rub with Wrigley being landmarked there is no way to tear the stadium completely down and put in a highrise building(s) in its place.

          • coal

            Given the upkeep that would be required for this “museum” – which would presumably be funded by the City – I’m sure the City/State would back off the landmark thing (or agree to a development plan which included the bleachers and scoreboard as part of a development project – like that corner of the lot becomes a small playground or green space, etc.

            That might actually be the best solution – privately funded stadium in the burbs, paid with by Ricketts’ money – which was helped by developers who bought 90% of the land but preserved Ivy walls and bleachers, city gets a park. The only people who lose there are rooftops – and bars, restaurants.

  • BD

    I still say their best tactic is to start planning a new stadium outside of the city. Just to show the city that they aren’t solely dependent on public funding. (and to get the city thinking about what it would be like for the Cubs to be outside of city limits)

    • Brian

      Modern, yet old feel. Transplant the ivy, transport the score board, stay away from the circus of the Miami park, start new tradition, that doesn’t include 103 years of losing.

      • BD

        Exactly

    • Deer

      and who is going to pay for a new stadium?

      • Brian

        In the end the same people who are going to pay to have Wrigley spruced up!

  • http://bleachernation.com lou brock lives

    Purchase the Iowa Cubs or Peoria Chiefs & move them into Wrigley. It will still be a revenue producer & fans will get to see their ” future ” players before they play in the new stadium at Arlington Park Racetrack.
    Lots of Major League teams have been buying minor league teams & locating them near their own stadiums. Teams like the Yankees, Mets, & Red Sox have done this without a problem & aren’t the Cubs modeling themselves after the Red Sox blueprint ?

  • Dante Hicks

    Brett is right about a number of things. First of all, I’m surprised (well with NATO) at the local of local coverage. We need to realistic Rahm has a very long memory and the stories about his grudges are legend–wait for it-dary. He also knows that if the Cubs left Wrigleyville it wouldn’t be the smartest move–job losses etc. He will find some balance. Personally, I’d be all for a new place on the same site or elsewhere in the city–not outside. But, that will cost WAY more than the money to fix Wrigley, close to double, especially if it is a dome. The city should have built the Bears a domed stadium for the bears years ago, but that’s another blog. The point is…this is very important stuff, without even touching the politics. Ricketts is reaching out to black politicians in the city and even Jesse Jackson seemed to believe him (Michael Sneed Chicago Sun-Times yesterday). In the end, the economy will be key–can the city afford this? Electoral concerns less so. So I won’t get a place, but I just want the jumbotron.

    And draft day is soon. And Bob Brenly and Len are more enjoyable than ever. Small things.

  • buckner

    “One of them was very, very controversial and maybe that particular consultant thought that was what the PAC was looking for. ” Just wondering – is that consultant from St. Louis? Thanks for the great site Brett!

  • crazyhorse

    Interesting article,.I thought the Cubs was owned by the Ricketts family to include Joe Ricketts. I can understand the Chicago Cubs or The Ricketts family distancing themselves from Joe, but is Joe Ricketts a part of ownership?( NOT to be confused with the day to day operations of the CUBS) The problem I have with the Cubs is : If the Chicago Cubs asks for Illinois revenue to help fund the renovation of Wrigley Field then then I suppose WHAT Joe Ricketts contributes to a Super Pac might play into Illinois Voter minds. As a taxpayer In Illinois I find it disturbing that Joe Ricketts would contribute Millions upon Millions of dollars into a super pac . I feel if the Chicago Cubs are asking the State for 150 million dollars then the Cubs need to answers some Questions that state might have . for example how mush money is Joe Ricketts contributing to the super pac. I also feel Joe does not need to answer those questions and the state does not need to provide funding if he chooses not to answers. As an Illinois resident I would ask my representatives and Governor not to fund the Cubs if Joe Ricketts or the Cubs can not answer those questions.

    • Cubbie Blues

      My understanding is that Joe helped the siblings out with the down payment but is not part of the ownership. It would be the same as the siblings going to a bank and borrowing the money and then that bank going out and contributing to a super pac.

  • Dave

    It appears the mayor holds the most leverage when it should have been the other way around when you consider the fact the Cubs bring in more tax revenue then any team in the city.
    The Sox got a sweetheart deal from the city but the Cubs seem to be in a weaker position because in realty any threat to move the team would not be taken seriously.

  • Drew

    A Deal Will Get Done.

    The City cannot afford to have the Cubs move any where. I have been an advocate all along to teardown everything but the Outfield wall/Bleachers and start over. The bleachers have had extensive work in the past few years and the Outfield Wall/Ivy is what makes Wrigley what it is. This would preserve the sight lines the Rooftops currently have.

    The new structure could/would incorporate the Triangle Lot they have been talking about developing for years.

    The only question is, how do you appease the Vendors and Wrigleyville businesses while the team plays a season in the Cell. (NOT going to be Milwaukee. The city would not allow the revenue to go outside the city for even a season)

    • coal

      I don’t think the lot is big enough to do what you propose – and my fear of this solution (the keep the bleachers only and tear everything else down) is that it ends up like Soldier Field – which is an ok place to watch a game but ends up being smaller than it should have been to accommodate the ridiculous concept that they were somehow just “renovating” the landmark. Imagine the stadium they could have built for the Bears if allowed to tear down the existing structure. It would certainly seat more than 68,000 – and might even have a dome.

      The problem with Wrigley is that there is much more room on the Waveland and Sheffield side of the park. I don’t know how you build it on the same lot without tearing down the entire deal (save bricks and scoreboard,etc.) It will still have no parking, issues with neighbors, night games, yadda yadda yadda.

      Too have the amenities that everyone wants – bigger seats, no poles, skyboxes, better restrooms, locker rooms, etc. requires a MUCH bigger footprint. Just look at how big the United Center is vs. Chicago Stadium, or The Cell vs. Old Comiskey. The new, modern parks — even the retro ones — are really really big. And the lot at Clark and Addison gives an architect very little room with which to work.

  • Leo L

    i hate to say this but maybe rickets should consider moving. atleast really threaten to move if the city does not change thier stance. ofcourse this is mostly politics and the bears and the sox got deals even though they were not goign to really move. but if there is not a threat then the cubs are at the mercy of the mayor and the city. I think Rickets should use more of the we need to save wrigley talk, giving the impression that they will be forced to move if changes dont happen. Say things like they wont have a choice but to move with an aging ballpark. if the sourounding community (bars and restaurants) start to panic then they will pressure the city to help out.

  • Nick Pipitone

    Not sure if anyone saw this, but there is a great article in the Wall Street Journal that makes an interesting case for tearing down Wrigley:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304192704577404424241146562.html

    I definitely think it’s time to say goodbye to Wrigley. Stop the band-aids and just start over. “If your house is haunted, you get the hell out.”

    • JulioZuleta

      That guy has re-published the same article 3 times. Incredibly lazy, unresponsible “reporter”. How about, “If your house is a landmark and sells out when you suck for 103 years, you hang onto it.”

  • rcleven

    You may hate them – and some of the reactions (I don’t like them either) – but this might be the most important thing happening in the Cubs’ world right now, and it’s woefully under-covered elsewhere in the Cubs media.

    Lets move on. Too much Politics.

    Play ball.

  • Paul

    someone will help build a new park for the cubs and will make big bucks cubs=love

  • coal

    I figure the people with sufficient connections to get the Joe Rickett’s plan and leak it to the NYTimes might actually be well connected with Obama and/or Rahm. Thus, it is not inconceivable that the timing of the NYTimes leak was not an accident. While it seems like the worst possible timing from the Cubs standpoint it seems at least plausible that that timing was intentional. It certainly helped Rahm’s negotiating position and to think it was purely an accident seems a little far fetched.

  • Matt

    FYI: Tom Ricketts will be on 670 The Score tomorrow at 8 a.m., I’m pretty sure. That should be interesting. I fully expect those guys to throw the kitchen sink (whatever that means, right?) at Ricketts regarding the team and the potential Wrigley renovations. I’ll be listening.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks for that, Matt.

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