Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Tom Ricketts and Rahm Emanuel Seem to Believe a Deal Will Still Get Done

With a not-quite deadline approaching next Friday to get a Wrigley Field renovation deal approved in the General Assembly, you can understand why news on the public financing piece of a Wrigley renovation is hitting the front page every day.

First, from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who finally said something positive about the process since last week’s Joe Ricketts/President Obama/Proposed Attack Ad flap. The Mayor indicated to the Sun-Times that the controversy will not sabotage the funding process, and he feels like “the point has been made.” He said the two sides haven’t yet spoken, but that they will at “the appropriate time.”

Second, Chicago Cubs Owner and Chairman Tom Ricketts stopped by the Score this morning, and offered a long interview on the Mully and Hanley Show. Among the very interesting highlights (all paraphrased – so, although there are no quotation marks, where I said things like “we” and “I,” that’s Ricketts talking, not me, Brett):

  • On the political flap, we have had good discussions going over past few months, but nothing was finalized. We need to get something in place that works for everyone and get it behind us. Joe Ricketts is not involved in the Cubs at all, is not on the Board, and comes to maybe one game every other year. The funds to buy the team were, in part, from a family trust for the benefit of the siblings.
  • I’m focused on the team and on Wrigley and on the city of Chicago. I want as many people as possible to understand the truth that the Cubs had nothing to do with the SuperPAC plan, that Joe is not involved with the Cubs, and that the Ricketts family would never support such a racially-insensitive proposal. The proposal was one of many, and it was not about to implemented. It was, in fact, rejected.
  • The hosts felt like this was a point that was worth really emphasizing: the Cubs have unique problem when it comes to their stadium. Usually, either (1) the city owns the park and you pay a small fee to play there, plus taxes, plus there are regulations, or (2) the team owns the stadium, but doesn’t pay taxes, and doesn’t have a ton of regulations. The Cubs have it both ways: it’s a private place they have to pay to keep up, plus they’re taxed, plus they are regulated like crazy.
  • “Why did you never threaten to have the Cubs leave Chicago?” We have good, thoughtful elected officials, who are willing to work through the issue, and I don’t know that a threat about leaving would have had any impact. We like to think that, as a team, and as a city, we’re above that kind of thing.
  • As for deadline on getting this deal done, you keep working until you get something done. We’d like to get on it sooner rather than later, but these things take a long time, and require a whole lot of agreement. In other words, Ricketts wasn’t willing to say that having approval by next Friday was a real deadline.
  • We’re more focused on working things out with the city than the State of Illinois. Eventually, we’ll have to talk to the State, but most of the issues we have to work through are with the city, and to some extent the county.
  • Every time we pay a large tax or $5 to $10 million for stadium upkeep, that’s money that comes directly out of the baseball budget (Brett: I keep emphasizing this part, and this is why the Wrigley renovation issue and the public financing piece are so critical – they *directly* impact the product on the field). Every year, the Cubs start in the hole compared to other large market teams.
  • Ricketts was asked a GREAT question about whether this political flap hurt the Cubs’ team on the field (on the theory that it delayed the renovation deal or cost the Cubs money), and Tom, in a round about way, said that it won’t hurt the Cubs as long as a good deal gets done where everyone wins. The obvious implication is, if the deal did get screwed up in some way – delayed or more expensive for the Cubs – then, yes, it could have hurt the actual product on the field in future seasons.
  • (As an overall impression: it didn’t sound to me like he thinks there’s a real chance that things fall apart, or that there will be a substantial delay.)

All in all, it was an excellent interview, even if it was entirely spin control (not always a bad thing).

One interesting thing that occurred to me as I was listening: Ricketts previously said, after issuing a short statement denouncing the Obama attack ad proposal, he was going to have no more comments on this issue. Since then, he’s actually had LOTS of comments. Why? To me, it seems pretty obvious: he was pushed to get out there and clear things up by the politicians he needs to help him get this deal done. Those politicians don’t want to support a Wrigley renovation plan if their constituents and the media are going to crucify them for it (“how could you support giving the Cubs money when they’re just a bunch of anti-government, anti-handout, Obama-hating racists?”).

So, Ricketts is playing his part by trying to reiterate that the Cubs had nothing to do with the proposal, the Cubs are in a uniquely bad/unfair spot when it comes to stadium financing, and that getting a deal done still makes sense for both the Cubs and the city.

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

32 responses to “Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Tom Ricketts and Rahm Emanuel Seem to Believe a Deal Will Still Get Done”

  1. Patrick

    I haven’t been following this that much, what was the superPAC plan and why was it racially insensitive?

  2. Mike

    I still think the silliest piece of spin in this is that Joe Ricketts didn’t buy the Cubs. Maybe in the most absolutely technical sense of the words, sure, it was the trust. But come on…


    You can say he’s not involved in running the team. Fine. But let’s not be silly here.

    1. CubFan Paul

      Joe Ricketts didnt buy the Cubs as your link proves.

      Joe is a rich blow hard that likes to brag about spending money or giving money to his kids to be successfull (like all rich assholes)

      My grandmother gave me $5,000 to buy my first car after high school. I bought a ’87 Nissan 300 with that money (sweet machine). point is: I bought the car, my grandmother didn’t.

  3. notcubbiewubbie

    once again this is the onlty team in professional sports that has to cowtow to a bunch of yuppy politicians any time it wants to better itself. what a complete disadvantage. too bad our city state and county has been run by corrupt politicians for such a long time. now the cubs and the cubsfans will get the short end of the stick again.

    1. CubFan Paul

      the corrupt politicians would feel stupid if Ricketts built a stadium elsewhere. Something the Ricketts’ will probably consider threatening the state with if the funding doesn’t get voted on or is declined.

      better late than never Tom

      1. rcleven

        And where is the Cub organization going to get the scratch to build a stadium on their their own? Ricketts is stuck between a rock and a hard place and he knows it.

        1. CubFan Paul

          “And where is the Cub organization going to get the scratch to build a stadium on their their own?”

          From their rich Billionaire owners, that’s where. The Ricketts’ are stuck between a rock (city/state officials) and their own deep wallets

          1. Deer

            Pappa Ricketts is not going to give the kids another $700M-1B for a new stadium.

            1. CubFan Paul

              how shortsighted of you

    2. RoughRiider

      Don’t forget. Remind all your dead relatives and friends and yourself to vote early and vote often.

  4. Cubs Dude

    Starlins batting 2nd tonight. I like it..

  5. Luke

    This is purely hypothetical and in no way based in any kind of reality.  A deal will almost certainly get reached and the Cubs will remain in Wrigley.

    But if it doesn’t… can the Cubs really build in the Chicago area?  As soon as word leaks they might move out of Wrigleyville, the city, the county, and the state could throw every conceivable road block in the books at any efforts to build a new stadium anywhere in Illinois.  Wrigley is practically an ATM for the state of Illinois; why would they want to risk that?  Environmental impact studies of for the new stadium could easily delayed indefinitely.  Permit filings could be delayed for vanish out right, etc.  If the city and the state wanted to block a move, it’d be blocked.

    Should that happen, If the Cubs do have to leave Wrigley, they may have to move out of state.  But where?

    According to the (/sarcasm on) infallible fount of all knowledge and wisdom (/sarcasm off) known as Wikipedia, here are the top metropolitan areas in the US by population.


    The largest city I see without a team in the region is Portland, OR, at 2.3 million in the metro area.  There are a handful of teams in smaller cities, including the Red, Indians, and Royals.  There are several other teams in cities of comparable size.

    Of course, there is more to a successful team than a population base.  That population has to have some cash.  From the same source ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highest-income_metropolitan_statistical_areas_in_the_United_States ), Portand ranks 41st in the US in Metro areas by per capita income.  Again, that is higher than a handful of current major league cities and comparable with several others.

    There’s one more ingredient that would be needed before a major league team could move to Portland: corporate backing.  Luxury suites tend to be sold to large businesses, and so forth.  Does Portland have enough?  That’s iffy.  There are some big companies in the area (Nike, Adidas), but there aren’t very many of them.  There may be enough to back a major league team; I really don’t know.  For the sake of argument, we’ll say yes.  After all, thanks to Wrigley, the Cubs are hardly rolling in corporate luxury suite and advertising revenue anyway.

    So if Chicago and Illinois stonewall on Wrigley and block the Cubs from moving in state, Portland could be a viable destination.  Likely?  No.  Possible?  Probably not.  But not impossible, either.

    If I were on the committee that has been trying to lure a baseball team to Portland, I’d be quietly working to ensure that some feasibility studies and economic projections land on Tom Ricketts’ desk.  He’ll likely chuck them straight into the trash can, but it might be worth the effort anyway.

    1. Ralph

      Brooklyn wants a club and would be willing to build a new stadium,

    2. Hansman1982

      I dunno. I think if the Ricketts threaten to leave Chicago and they realize what you do I think Gary IN or the Quad Cities IA would be discussed. While neither are large enough to support a franchise the Ricketts would say its close enough to Chicago to draw those fans. Quad Cities would also draw on the multitude of Iowans that are fans.

      At the end of the day I doubt Ricketts goes public with relocation and the deal gets done.

  6. Go cubs

    What do you call a democrat with a job … A 1% er

    1. Eric

      What do you call a republicon with a brain? A democrat. Eye for an eye, sling out stupid insult get one back. You want to talk like a grown up, I can too.

  7. die hard

    Parse and split hairs all you want….If this was the Bush family would there be any disagreement they are all controlled by Daddy and Mommy Bush?

    1. DocPeterWimsey

      How is what the Bush’s do relevant?  Last I observed, different people (and thus different families) operate differently.

      Moreover, I would not assume that Joe Rickett’s politics are those of his children.  We know that his daughter is quite the “champagne socialist,” after all.  Speaking from personal experience, it is quite possible for parents and offspring to be on very different ends of the sociopolitical spectrum.

      1. die hard

        Money has a way of overcoming any doubts as to who runs the show….only their accountant knows how much control Daddy has over the kids’ money…but you can assume there are more strings attached than holding the basket of lies to the baloon of hot air coming from the kids trying to explain away Daddy’s mischief

        1. BeyondFukudome

          Come on, die hard. You should know by now that if you are going to post a comment at BN, you can only make assumptions that are favorable to the Ricketts family…

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