The space between these updates is growing uncomfortably long. The renovation of Wrigley Field remains among the most serious issues facing the Chicago Cubs – directly impacting their future competitiveness – and I’d like to feel like there was a greater sense of urgency.
At last check, back on August 2, the Cubs and the city of Chicago were still negotiating, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel was still generally on board with providing some financial assistance for the renovation, despite the whole Joe Ricketts political flap thing. And then we heard more nothing. Le sigh.
Today’s update is, at best, tangentially related to the renovation plans, but it’s what we got.
The Ricketts family, led by Tom and Laura, are building a couple high school baseball fields in Chicago so that, for example, the kids who would otherwise be playing there don’t have to head all the way out to the suburbs to host playoff games. It’s part of the Cubs’ greater philanthropic effort, which, because of what it is, necessarily relates to the organization’s efforts to get money from the city to help renovate Wrigley Field.
The projects, at Lane Tech College Prep High School on the North Side and at Harrison Park in the Pilsen neighborhood, are part of the Rickettses’ growing philanthropic efforts under the Cubs Charities umbrella.
Since buying the Cubs three years ago, the family has put nearly $4 million into the program, which touches nearly every ward in the city, Ms. Ricketts says ….
“We want to win a World Series, preserve Wrigley Field for another 100 years and be a good neighbor,” she says, noting that achieving all three will take time but that they’re a patient family. “Obviously, you want the team to be doing well, but we all know what the future holds. There’s an atmosphere here of not ‘if’ but ‘when’ we get there.”
They’re banking on the slow and steady approach to lead to an agreement that has the city helping preserve Wrigley Field, considered one of Chicago’s biggest tourist destinations.
“Whatever we do, it’s going to be fair,” Ms. Ricketts says. “It’s going to be good for the city, the county, the state and Cubs fans.”
Tom Ricketts spoke further about the donations on a radio appearance earlier this week, essentially saying that it’s about being a good member of the community, and also about helping the long-term MLB pipeline (if you don’t have the most talented kids playing your sport because they don’t have the facilities, they don’t play it in high school or college, and they don’t join your league). I think there are genuinely altruistic reasons for doing what the Ricketts family is doing, but it can’t hurt to continue to get the community on your side, as well as MLB.
Bruce Levine mentioned in his chat yesterday that the disconnect between the Ricketts family and the Mayor’s Office earlier this year has already pushed the renovation back a year. Now, Levine could have just been speaking off-the-cuff (it was a chat, after all), but I don’t doubt him. We heard some time ago that if the plans weren’t put in place by the end of the last legislative session (which was months ago), serious construction could not begin after the end of this season, which was the timeline that could have had construction done (during the offseason and during road trips) before the 2015 season, at the optimistic end. Now, it looks like the 2016 season is a best case scenario, which coincidentally marks the 100 year anniversary of the Cubs playing at Wrigley Field (then Weeghman Park).