Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Governor and Mayor Fighting About Funding – Or Something Else

Back in the pre-Joe-Ricketts-wants-to-fund-efforts-to-get-his-former-boss-bounced-from-office-which-somehow-has-something-to-do-with-the-Cubs days, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel was as much a driving force behind the push for partially publicly-funded renovations at Wrigley Field as was Cubs owner and chairman Tom Ricketts. A theoretical Cubs fan who saw the public value that Wrigley Field’s mere sustained existence brings to the city, Emanuel was working closely with the Cubs on a variety of plans to provide financial assistance to the Cubs, which, together with a substantial investment in the ballpark and the surrounding area by the Ricketts family, would see Wrigley Field brought back to respectability.

But then that ugly hyphenated thing happened five months ago, and talks went in the tank. Whether it was Emanuel leveraging an advantageous situation, whether it was genuine anger by Emanuel that suddenly made an unrelated public project unpalatable, or whether it was a push from other political spheres to punish the Ricketts family, the anticipated start date for a renovation went from “October 2012″ to “Dear God Please Someday.”

Against that backdrop, we have the latest political incursion into a story we’d love to believe isn’t entirely about politics (I sure know I’d love to believe that). The Cubs, once again, are stuck in the middle.

Earlier this week, the Sun-Times reported that Governor Pat Quinn was accusing Mayor Emanuel of blocking the Governor’s preferred appointment to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. Emanuel was doing so, alleged Quinn, because the Mayor sought to install someone at the ISFA who would be willing to use that entity to help publicly fund the Wrigley renovation (which would reduce the burden on the city). You’ll recall, the ISFA built U.S. Cellular Field for the White Sox, and helped fund the rebuilding of Soldier Field. But now that Wrigley Field and the Cubs are at issue, Quinn, who has been adamantly opposed to any public assistance for a Wrigley renovation, wants no involvement from the ISFA.

From the Sun-Times:

[T]he governor charged that Emanuel is blocking [former state assistant budget director Kelly] Kraft’s appointment to pave the way to use the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority to help the Cubs — either to by issuing tax-exempt bonds to renovate Wrigley or by reviving a failed plan to have the stadium authority acquire and renovate the landmark ballpark.

“We’re not gonna have any backroom deals involving the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority and Wrigley Field. I want to make sure there is someone there — the executive director — who is a goalie for the taxpayers and prevents any cooked-up deals behind closed doors on Wrigley Field,” the governor said in an exclusive interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

Quinn then referred to Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell’s failed plan to have the state acquire and renovate Wrigley under now-convicted-and-jailed former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

“We’re already had a preamble here — a couple of efforts to use public money to invest in Wrigley Field. We don’t want another one of these deals that comes down that involves a private sports stadium, Wrigley Field, wanting public money with the cooperation of City Hall,” Quinn said.

“I’ve said over and over again I don’t think public money should be abused with respect to private stadiums. Kelly Kraft is a strong woman who knows how to say `no’ to proposals that are not in the public interest. That’s what the position entails: A person who knows the financials, knows the bond world and is able to prevent backroom deals.”

The two have been at odds over the appointment for some time, and the Wrigley issue would seem a logical reason for such a protracted, public battle about a single, low-ish profile appointment. But Mayor Emanuel says one has nothing to do with the other. In a followup from the Sun-Times:

One day after Quinn accused the mayor of trying to pull a fast one on Wrigley, Emanuel fired back that he was doing no such thing.

“Not true. … That’s never been discussed. It’s ridiculous. … It’s not even on the table, “ the mayor said, noting that there have been no conversations about renovating Wrigley in five months.

The opposition, according to Emanuel’s camp, is solely about Kraft’s financial acumen and ability to protect the taxpayers.

So, is Mayor Emanuel really doing his part to ensure the renovation happens with the help of the city and/or the state? Is Governor Quinn just grinding an ax and using the Wrigley renovation as a convenient vehicle? I think we’d be fools to believe we could answer either of those questions clearly and simply. These things are complex. (The Sun-Times’ Mark Brown has an interesting take on what’s really going on here. To him, the struggle is a good ole’ fashion case of “who’s really in charge,” combined with the Wrigley Field thing.)

We’ll never know the full story, but if anything is as certain as death and taxes, it’s the fact that nothing gets done during election season. And election season keeps getting longer and longer.

With that in mind, I choose to believe that nothing is going to happen on this front until long after the election. No, neither of the men here are up for re-election this season, but you can’t underestimate the impact elsewhere of sensitive issues like public funding for a ballpark. I won’t pretend to be an expert in these matters, and I certainly won’t pretend that I’m interested in discussing them here.

The point – the only relevant point from my perspective – is that political machinery moves slowly, and is subject to a great many unanticipatable externalities. If the Cubs want public assistance in their efforts to renovate Wrigley Field, these kinds of hiccups are a part of the equation.

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

116 responses to “Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Governor and Mayor Fighting About Funding – Or Something Else”

  1. MightyBear

    They should have let the Sox move to Sarasota and used the money on US Cellular on Wrigley Field. Absolutely ridiculous how stupid and short sighted the politicians in Illinois are.

  2. Spencer

    Illinois politicians suck. Seriously.

  3. FFP

    As to the Mayor’s syle

    Mr Emanuel is famous for being the president’s most pugnacious panjandrum and congressional and media manipulator, and proud of it to boot. Just as Britain’s affable Tony Blair took care to keep a foul-mouthed master of dark arts, Alastair Campbell, at his side, so is it the calling of Mr Emanuel to bludgeon underlings at the White House and former colleagues in Congress into obeying his master’s commandments.

    –from The Economist back in 2010
    I think the Mayor will hold out at least until after national elections; and then some. He plans on keeping a hold of power in Chicago for along time, I think, and to him that means kicking the asses of those who wrong him and his (or are perceived by others as wronging him and his).

    1. JB88

      “He plans on keeping a hold of power in Chicago for along time, I think, and to him that means kicking the asses of those who wrong him and his (or are perceived by others as wronging him and his).”

      I think you nailed it with this comment. His response both before, during, and after the CPL teachers’ strike certainly supports that opinion.

  4. Toby

    I saw that the mayor said he saw value in helping to build a new basketball arena for DePaul around McCormick Place, and this for just 16 games a year.

    I think this bs about not helping to bring Wrigley into the 21st century is just that – bs. Either help the Cubs rehab Wrigley or get rid of the landmark status so the Cubs can do it themselves or with some private partners. I for one would love to see them move to Arlington Hgts if neither of these things can be accomplished.

  5. cubs1967

    blaming the politicians is silly; no one will fix your house if it needs repair so why should we worry about a billionaire like papa joe needing to fix wrigley. they had 3 yrs before the sale went thru to understand what they were getting themselves into. don’t make the 2.8M plus fans that show up every year wait to remove the troughs; time for the ricketts to understand it is 2012; fix the damn place your self or sell it to someone who can.

    the GM/President cannot fix JH’s mess supposedly and ricketts can’t fix his stadium house w/o public handout. does anyone at clark & addison being held accountable for anything or is everything someone else’s fault??

    WOW–try this shit in the real world and you’ll be part of the 7.8%(LMAO-really-please) unemployment line real quick.

    time for the boys in suits at the beloved park by the lake to man up!!

    1. JB88

      Do you understand that every other professional sports team in the city, including the Bulls & Blackhawks, received public assistance in building the ballparks? What the Cubs are asking for is miniscule compared to that which the Bears, Sox, Bulls & Blackhawks received in their stadium projects. I can’t believe we are rehashing this again …

      1. cubs1967

        how many were done since the recession started?
        the state is bankrupt.
        the city is bankrupt.

        were any of these true back then?

        1. Boogens

          Yet the city and state are still digging into the Cubs’ pockets with their entertainment taxes. So, it’s OK for the Cubs and their fans to pay these taxes that greatly benefit the city & state yet receive nothing in return?

          1. Pat

            The city and state take no money out of the Cubs pockets. That’s like saying the tax on cigarettes comes out of the gas station owners pockets. It is a tax added on to the cost of the product. That money never, ever belonged to the Cubs. Do the fans who buy tickets have to pay it? Only if they choose to go to the game. And even then, most of the time it’s equivalent to the markup on a single beer.

            1. scorecardpaul

              Pat, are you really trying to say that the tax on tabacco doesn’t have any effect on the tabacco companies bottom line

          2. Cubs1967


            how stupid are you. ??

            the entertainment tax is ADDED to the price of a ticket; we/you pay the damn tax you fool!

            ricketts doesn;t pay a damn cent; he just collects it. don’t get in an argument that is WAYYYYYYYYY over your head. leave that to the smarter cubs fan.

            trust me; we/us the FAN is getting screwed; we pay the tax, we’ll pay the bill if public money is used; we’ll pay the bill in higher ticket prices if private money is used.

            now go tell your neighbor you need new windows; so you’ll be expecting a stipend each month (and see how that goes over)!

        2. Mick

          Well, state and city legislature approved for the Minnesota Vikings to get a new stadium using $500 million in public funds so, that’s one in the last 3 months.

          1. Pat

            You do realize that Minnesota is a different state, right? One that isn’t on the verge of bankruptcy.

            1. Cubs1967

              or that the vikings were a potential team for the new football stadium being builit in LA????????

              you think the cubs are gonna move??………..where else could they get 2.8M fans plus the 2nd highest road attendance watch a 101 loss team!!

              geez……….some of these comments are beyond ignorant.

              1. MichiganGoat

                “Beyond ignorant” yeah I’ve never seen comments on here that match that description…. Ding, ding, ding ^^^^here’s one^^^^

            2. King Jeff

              Miami paid for a new stadium entirely with taxpayer dollars, and the city and county are in a similar budget state to Chicago.

    2. Mick

      That would be pretty generous of the Ricketts to refurbish a public landmark but they might need to raise ticket prices to help cover the costs of materials and construction. Considering all of the other public money being divvied up, don’t you think it’s fair that the Cubs be entitled to a portion of public funds especially considering the entertainment tax Cubs tickets help generate?

      1. cubs1967

        public landmark?
        last time i checked the cubs were a private company.
        last time i checked the cubs have upped tix prices since the tommyboy regime took over and payroll has been dropped;alot.

        the state is bankrupt.
        so is the city of chicago.
        it’s 2012.
        why should the taxpayers pay for it; we already pay for them to give us the fans a 101 loss team……..when does it stop and whose fault is this; ricketts was not FORCED to buy the cubs.

        1. Tommy

          cubs1967 – when you say ‘us’, the fans, I sure hope you’re not putting you and me in the same category. The only thing you seem to be a fan of is bitching.

          1. Cubs1967

            want a tissue?

            i’ve watched the cubs since the early 1970′s………you? exactly.

            1. DarthHater

              want a tissue?

              Good to know that you’re one of those cool old farts who keeps up with the latest sayings of today’s six-year-olds

            2. Tommy

              Hey cubs1967 – I was born in 1968, so your point is lost (again).

              You really need to leave this site. You serve no purpose and are just an unhappy person that is looking for negative attention, because clearly, any attention is better than none at all.

              1. Tommy

                and yes, I’ve been going to games since the early 70′s, as well. I don’t know what that has to do with your constant bitching and moaning.

                1. King Jeff

                  Damn It. I wasn’t born until the 80′s. I must be less of a fan than the rest of you. I’ll just quit commenting since I have no ground to stand on.

                  1. hansman1982

                    I didn’t become a fan until the late 90′s and only a dedicated fan recently (thank you Cubs blogs) I must not be a fan at all then…

  6. Dustin S

    Locally, it’s amazing how many pet projects in the last month that have been stalled for years have miraculously been approved and are now moving forward with elections right around the corner. However, those have mostly been in the jobs/construction/roadwork type area.

    The Wrigley situation, although it would be construction and jobs, is different because it’s the kind of project some political opposition would pounce on politically as just helping the rich. So it’s a lot less likely to go through right before election time compared to say a road improvement or bridge project. So I don’t see any movement on the Wrigley renovation topic until after November at least.

  7. BluBlud

    Good for Gov. Quin. Rahm shouldn’t be funding a privately owned stadium either, but if he’s willing, then he needs to do it on his own. Don’t try to bring the state down with you. It’s time for our owner to get his ass out of the welfare line and handle his own business. Show some “conservative value’s” Mr Anti Obama.

    BTW, I’m a Cubs fan, not a Chicago fan. I could care less if they had to moved to SE China, I pull for the Logo, not the City.

    1. Luke

      If Chicago would drop absolutely all restrictions on how the Cubs can update and use their privately owned stadium, I would have no problem with this. And I suspect the Cubs’ wouldn’t either.

      1. BluBlud

        I agree 100 %. The Government should have no right to tell Ricketts what to do with his stadium. It his, he bought, he can change it however he chooses. Remove the landmark status and let Ricketts drop a bomb in if he chooses to.

      2. Pat

        Then why haven’t the Ricketts made that offer? They want a handout.

        1. hansman1982

          Do you know they haven’t made that offer?

          Also, it’s not a handout – it is a loan using the future growth in amusement tax rates to pay it back.

  8. Kevin

    Well said Luke!

  9. lou brock lives

    If Mayor Daley can rip apart Meigs Field overnight with a couple of bulldozers what do you think Rahm could accomplish with a wrecking ball & some dynamite ?

    1. Diesel

      That was a tragedy and one of the worst things ever. I am saddened every time I look down where Meigs use to be and think of what he did.

  10. Dave H

    Nothing is going to happen until we see in the papers that TR is driving around the suburbs of chicago (outside of Cook County also) with a bunch of rolled up plans sizing up his next step. Happened to reinsdork. Happened to the ricketts in getting their ST facility. Time to push back a little.

  11. Fastball

    Wow … maybe we could get the president to call in another off target drone strike. Blow the place up and let Ricketts build a new stadium with the insurance money. God I hope its insured. I think the Cubs should move to Tennessee just about 50 miles Southeast of Knoxville where I own land for my retirement. I will work a deal with him. You can build your stadium on my land on a free 100 year lease. I get to go to all the games I want and sit wherever I want for the rest of my life. You can build the stadium with non union labor in Tennessee for about 1/3 the cost of the Wrigley rehab project. I know the folks in Chicago will miss the Cubs but things change. It’s 2012 … Hell I have enough space down there to build a small town around a new stadium so all the Wrigleyvillers can just move on down to that area. One of the perks is it’s one of the nicest places from a scenery perspective you will ever visit.

    1. cjdubbya

      That sounds beautiful, man…

    2. scorecardpaul

      save me a spot I’m all in. I hear your taxes work out better for my retirement too.

  12. Fastball

    Sorry for the infusion of non serious Wrigley debate.

  13. Fastball

    After reading those last few posts I think my Tennessee land grant idea has merit. If Ricketts want to bluff them hard then the wife and I will do a deal with him. I just need to get it rezoned from agriculture to something else.

  14. die hard

    Impeach any politician who puts sports ahead of education as to use of tax dollars..when class sizes in public schools decrease to 20 max permanently then will be time to consider sports

  15. Mike F

    You’d have to see the appropriate ordinances and the Landmark status documentation. Local Landmarks, National Register etc all carry different statuses and restrictions or lack there of. I’m making an educated guess that this is relating to a fairly cut and dry ordinance on Local Landmarks. While there ate likely methods for variance or appeal I’m guessing again the Emmanuel administration and the City of Chicago Council as Home Rule can do whatever the hell they want.

    And this is where both the state and the local funding which have a wide variety of tools available to help the Cubs get dicey. First. its a bad economic time in politics to do it. Second, Joe’s position for his son and the organization was spectacularly idiotic. Illinois politics is slow to forgive, especially when you are in the wrong party. Finally, if the Cubs want help, they have to commit to winning. Writing off years in clumps with falling attendance in the offing, doesn’t embolden politicians to take action like this in a situation like this. I don’t know who is advising them, but he probably ought to be fired. Then again if its Clintons guy, maybe they aren’t listening and that’s the problem….

  16. Carne Harris

    Ick. Just… ick. Next they’ll be putting on the glow in the dark condoms and sword fighting.

    1. TWC

      “I see your schwartz is as big as mine…”

      1. cubchymyst

        I hate a fair fight

      2. Carew

        get out

        1. Carew

          i posted this as a response to Gorge. Ignore it

      3. MichiganGoat

        Ah another great comment by my father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate

        1. Stinky Pete

          So what does that make us?

          1. MichiganGoat

            Absolutely nothing ;)

  17. Fastball

    Yep. And the AA Cubs will be really close by. They could even move the Kane County Cubs to Chattanooga and have the low A minor league team close by as well. I am convinced Cubs Fans will go anywhere to watch the Cubs play.

    1. scorecardpaul

      don’t ask Pat, he thinks all Cub fans live in Chicago. I’m there, I will travel. There is a lot of empty land if you go a little further south of Chicago

      1. Pat

        Not at all. What I will argue is that the overall financial effect of people who come to Chicago only to see the Cubs and would not come otherwise is so small that to even consider it when discussing a city budget is laughable.

  18. MichiganGoat

    Oh Gorge nice to know that some people still now how to add class to the site, such great wit, such great rhetoric, you my man are a wordsmith.

  19. daveyrosello

    I wish they’d blow up Wrigley and build a new Wrigley-esque, yet modern stadium somewhere on the lakefront. Anywhere from Waukegan south to Navy Pier, just pick a spot, any spot. Wrigley Field itself sucks, just take the bricks, ivy and scoreboard and put it in a new stadium, what’s so hard about that?

    I mean, at some point, the old stadium becomes just that, an old stadium. Are people going to want the Cubs to keep playing in an out-dated stadium in 2025? 2050? So why should we accept it in 2012? I know it won’t happen, but I wish they’d move on.

  20. cavemencubbie

    Let’s face it, Wrigley is old, lacks parking and a neighborhood that puts restrictions on Cub activities, night games. I like the idea of the Cubs building a new facility in a NE suburb close to an highway interchange. It may even be possible to work a deal with the Bears and a REIT to build a baseball/football complex with a hotel, restaurants and training facilities. Tell the city politicians to take a hike of a short pier.

  21. Kevin

    I love Wrigley Field but it’s not exactly the best choice to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to renovate. Think about this, they would still have a high amusement tax, no parking, limited advertising, controlled by Wrigleyville residents limiting the number of night games. Hell, the list can go on, these are just a few BIG items that come to mind. I guess if you live in Chicago and have access to the Blueline, it’s not a problem, otherwise you’ll need to deal with inferior access to the games.

  22. DarthHater

    How about establishing a separate blog for people who want to endlessly prattle about their views on public funding of stadiums as a pretext for airing their personal politics. I suggest it be called: “Douchebag Nation.”

    1. Pat

      If y buy the domain, I will totally run it for you.

      1. Pat


      2. Pat

        Or better yet, we could get the taxpayers to pay for it.

        1. DarthHater


  23. Toby

    I honestly think it would be a lot better for the Cubs to simply abandon Wrigley and move to Arlington Hgts. Every other team has received money from the entertainment tax. Hell, the Sox even got a restaurant out of it. With the 1500 or so fans who attend Sox games each game that tax will shrivel up to a few bucks a year.

    Why do business in an area where the neighbors tell you when you can run your business? The only reason that neighborhood thrives is because of the Cubs. It’s like moving to Rosemont and complaining about the noise from Ohare. The residents knew that a major league team played there before they moved in. Lots of ball players prefer to play at night like the rest of the league, so they don’t come in as free agents. Move to a huge site with plenty of parking and build some restaurants and bars and a mall and a hotel and have all the revenue go to the club and the investors. Put some seats atop those other businesses so people can watch from outside the park. It’ll bring so much revenue to the area that the town would help you build it. The hell with Wrigleyville and Chicago. Stick the city with its upkeep if they want it to remain a landmark. With the amount of Sox fans that actually go to games even with a contending team, it’ll be like there is no major league presence at all.

    The new Wrigley can look just like the old one, but with wide concourses, indoor batting cages, and a jumbotron. The Cubs can also opt out of their contract with WGN after the 2014 season. With millions in new revenue, the team could probably foot most of the bill themselves.I say let the countdown begin and have the city look at the ultimate sporting cash cow pack its bags.

    1. MichiganGoat

      As i said previously moving Wrigley out of Wrigleyville (regardless if it would be the best fiscal option or include modern amenities) would be like the Yankee moving out of the Bronx. There is only one option either remodel or rebuild Wrigley where it is and because of that all stakeholders have zero leverage.

      1. Toby

        Everything comes to an end. They’ll have to fight city hall to tear it down, then fight city hall to get more night games. Who’s going to pay for all that? The city doesn’t want to pay a nickle, even tho they’re considering putting up a stadium for DePaul for 16 fricken games. The Cubs can leave it as it is and turn it into a Chicago hall of fame.

        Screw tradition, screw Wrigleyville, and screw Chicago, because they’re all screwing the Cubs and their fans. Name another team in professional sports that have to put up with all these restrictions? Let’s build a new ball park elsewhere and build a winning team.

        Screw tradition, let’s win. (How’s that for a t shirt?) And you can bet if the Yankees were giving the choice between having all the Cubs restrictions placed on them or leaving the Bronx, they would have fled to New Jersey decades ago.

  24. ssckelley

    I say bulldoze it down except the outfield wall, and then rebuild it.

    1. Toby

      You need to cut thru all the red tape because its a landmark. Then comes the problem of financing.

      Better to just sell it to the city to use as a HOF and use that money to begin building in Arlington Hgts.

  25. Curt

    The sox get us cellular paid for , where was the outrage of the taxpayers helping then. And the cubs generate more of an economic impact than the sox , the bears get help renovating soldier field again no outrage , why not. but the cubs ask for help and it’s like omg blah blah blah, the taxpayers need a goalie , really a goalie, I understand with the times being what they are money being tight that a stadium renovation with public money isn’t popular but the cubs are not asking for anywhere near what the sox got, I’d give the city and state a timeline when’s the latest something just has to be done, I know this will be unpopular but if no one wants to help and want to keep getting the money the cubs generate. pack up and move if the state and city actually thought the cubs were serious about leaving I’m guessing they’d change their hard line stance. Just sayin.

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