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Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Mayor Still on Board with Some Public Assistance

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It’s been a long, long time since we’ve heard anything of substance regarding the planned renovation of Wrigley Field. Your 10,000 foot overview is as follows: Wrigley Field desperately needs upwards of $300 million in renovations and upgrades (plus $200 million for “the Triangle Building”), the Cubs would like some public assistance to get to that figure, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is generally amenable to helping secure that assistance, and an aborted attack ad on President Obama planned, in part, by Ricketts family patriarch Joe Ricketts slowed everything to a crawl a couple months ago.

Up to speed?

Ok. From there, we heard pretty much nothing. A new report, however, indicates that talks are actually ongoing behind the scenes, and things are looking good. From NBC Chicago:

The plan to not only rebuild the Cubs’ historical ballpark but an entertainment complex across the street has hit huge roadblocks. Still, there are quiet negotiations going on behind the scenes, NBC Chicago has learned.


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“We’re in at least weekly communication with the Cubs and the Ricketts family,” Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said Wednesday.

Tunney, who was originally lukewarm to the $500 million project, has turned more supportive.

“Most stadiums have some component of public financing,” he explained. “Whether they’ve been good investments, you’d have to look at them individually.”

He added that mayor Rahm Emanuel “has pretty much put a lid” on what any public financing numbers would be: roughly $125 million in increment financing on amusement tax.

The Ricketts family is reportedly willing to invest $200 million, and there is a possibility the state could throw in $150 million in bonds.


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The state possibility seems a stretch, given the strident comments by Governor Pat Quinn (let’s just say, he’s not supportive), but the Cubs could also try to raise some of the funding by way of relaxed restrictions on their activities and advertising in the Wrigleyville area.

All in all, this is great news for the Cubs. It sounds like the Joe Ricketts flap may have cost them $25 million (originally, the Cubs were hoping the city would kick in $150 million by way of a portion of the amusement tax on Cubs tickets, but that number appears now to be down to $125 million).

At present, the Cubs have the worst of all worlds, when it comes to stadium financing: they own the ballpark, so they have to pay for all upkeep. At the same time, they are restricted in the ways they can use that ballpark to generate revenue. On top of that, their tickets are subject to an onerous 12% amusement tax. No one will spill tears for the Cubs’ owners, mind you, but the ability of those owners to maximize the revenue that they can put back into the Cubs should be of tremendous import to all of us.


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Tunney adds in the article that he thinks the renovation could be done in a year or 18 months, if the Cubs relocated baseball for one season. Moreover, he might even support that approach. Obviously a relocated season has been described by almost everyone as an extraordinarily unlikely possibility, but I do find it interesting that Tunney – whose largest supporters are the rooftop owners (who would be strongly negatively impacted by a relocated season) – now supports it. Is that telling? Does he know something he’s not sharing?

I have no idea. But it’s interesting.


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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor of Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.

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