Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Tom Ricketts is “Cool With Whatever Timing” for Conversation with Rahm Emanuel

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.

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

43 responses to “Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Tom Ricketts is “Cool With Whatever Timing” for Conversation with Rahm Emanuel”

  1. 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

  2. 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.

    1. 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!

      1. Brian

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

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

  3. 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)

    1. 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.

      1. BD


    2. Deer

      and who is going to pay for a new stadium?

      1. Brian

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

  4. 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 ?

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

    1. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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)

    1. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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:


    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.”

    1. 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.”

  12. 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.

  13. Paul

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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.