Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: A Top Storyline for 2013

respect wrigleyIn case you’ve forgotten where things stand when it comes to Wrigley Field: the Chicago Cubs hope to secure a portion of the financing needed to renovate Wrigley by way of relaxed restrictions on what they can do to generate revenue at the ballpark, as well as cut from the amusement tax the city receives from the sale of Cubs tickets. Presently, there is very little movement in renovation financing talks between the Cubs and the Mayor’s Office, and the process has presumably been pushed back a year at this point, with a hoped-for project start date of next offseason. You’re caught up. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of gaps to fill in right now.

This weekend, the Chicago Tribune took a look at some of the executives in the business community to watch in 2013, and first on the list was Chicago Cubs owner and chairman Tom Ricketts, and his efforts to secure funding for the renovation of Wrigley Field. And it sounds like 2013 is when everyone wants to get the financial side of things done.

“Our teams talk to each other,” Ricketts told the Tribune, generally, of communication between the Cubs and the Mayor’s Office, but noting that he had not spoken directly to Mayor Rahm Emanuel in six months. “And that’s not necessarily unusual. It’s not like we can just not talk to the city. But no matter when or what a final deal looks like, everyone has got incentives to get that done in 2013.”

With a financing plan in place in the first half of 2013, the Cubs could break ground on the significant portion of the renovations next Fall. From there, it’s a two or three year project, with the Cubs presumably hoping to have the renovation completed by the 2016 season – the 100th anniversary of the Cubs playing at Wrigley Field.

And it’s not just about getting money from the city – it’s about having the opportunity to generate more money in the first place.

“We have to compete against rooftops every day that … undercut us on price,” Ricketts said, per the Tribune. “We have limits on what we can do to our stadium and inside our stadium. We have limits on what time we can hold games and when we can host events. Our position is: Let us run our business. And if we can do that, we can unlock a lot of economic potential.”

The Cubs do get a revenue share from those rooftops,* so it’s not exactly a strict competition, but the overal point remains: when it comes to generating revenue from their product, the Cubs don’t have it quite as easy as most MLB teams. With relaxed restrictions, they could not only be in a better position to renovate Wrigley Field in a way that improves the competitiveness of the Cubs, but also in a way that generates additional revenue for the organization to use on the product. That would be a kind of happy double-dipping: more revenue generated through relaxed restrictions, and then more revenue generated by the improved park, itself.

I’ve gotta agree with the Tribune, and it’s something I’ve said for over a year now: the Wrigley renovation story will be among the most important stories in the Cubs’ world in 2013.

(*Full disclosure: some of those rooftops advertise here on BN.)

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

31 responses to “Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: A Top Storyline for 2013”

  1. MichiganGoat

    So BN is the holdup? Shame on you Brett!

  2. hansman1982

    Wait, the Cubs have an incredibly difficult time running their business as they see fit to maximize revenue (and therefore payroll)? I thought it was just Ricketts greed that limited payroll.

    1. MichiganGoat

      And Thed ineptitude

      1. Cubbie Blues

        No, no, no. It has always been known to be fact that Ricketts is cheap and Theo wanted a vacation.

  3. TonyP

    F the rooftops

  4. Dan W

    This story aggrevates me every time I read about it. The city makes a ton of tax revenue that is generated by the ammusment tax from Cubs tickets. The local business make a ton of money from the visitors coming to cubs games. The people who live in the neighborhoods profit from the cubs, because their property values are higher. The ecomony of Chicago is better because of the Cubs. I believe that the only tatic left for the Ricketts family is to play HARDBALL. Give us what we want, (which is not alot, at least from other city deals with MLB teams), or we are packing our Sh*t and heading for the hills. Release it to the media that the game plan is, if nothing gets done by (set-date) than plan B starts to get implemented. What plan B is, I’m not sure. But it would not be remodeling Wrigley field. The public outcry would fix the situation in less than 1 month.

    1. blublud

      The City of Chicago should not give the Cubs a dime to renovate the stadium. Its not the Governments job to do such. It is also not the Governments job to keep Ricketts from running his business how he’s sees fit. In other words, release the damn restriction on what they can do to the stadium, allow them to play however many night games they wish, let them advertise any way they feel they can make money. Our government has lost site of what their job is.

      Also, I know Ricketts is in a screwed up situation, but I don’t feel sorry for him. He knew he was going to have to fight this battle when he purchased the team. It’s not like he was blindsided by it. I hope the restrictions are lifted.

      1. Ryan

        The government you are talking about gets a considerable amount of tax revenue from Wrigley, so it would be in their interest to help with the funding of the Wrigley. Also, the “damn restriction” has more to do with Wrigley being designated eligible as a national historic landmark. Considering, also, that Wrigley is literally in the middle of a neighborhood, I’m sure there are zoning laws/restrictions that state they can’t play “as many night games as they wish”. I’m not 100% on that, but as a fan I love the day games, so I’d be bummed if they started playing a ton of night games. Please remember that this is a baseball site, not a platform for political opinion. I don’t post on here a lot, but I read the comments and forums daily and love this site because it is an oasis of non-political discussion on the interwebs.

        1. itzscott

          Ryan…

          Agree on your plea to make this blog politics-free, but this is a subject that crosses the line into both politics and the Cubs.

          It’s unavoidable.

          1. DarthHater

            It is unavoidable that any reporting on the stadium issue will involve reporting on political matters and discussion of the issue also will unavoidably touch on politics. But it is not unavoidable that people treat their comments on this subject as a platform for endlessly spouting their views on big government, private enterprise, etc. That is a choice, not a necessity, and is just as much an inappropriate intrusion of politics to this blog as any other.

        2. blublud

          I didn’t state a political opinion, I stated that I agree that the city shouldn’t pay a dime. If you don’t like my “political” opinion or my post then proceed to another post and comment. I never mention politics ot one time. I will state again, the City or state shouldn’t pay a dime, but they should release the restrictions. That means they should release the landmark restriction. If you are not smart enough to understand what that meant, then my apologies. Also, I like day games more then night games, but the Cubs should have the say so when they play, not the City. I’m sure that the stadium was there before most of those residents, so they should understand the consequences of moving near a stadium. It like the stupid people that buy houses near the airport, then complain about the noise created by airplanes flying over their houses.

          Oh, this is a baseball form, not a form for you to discuss rather my post was political post or not.

  5. ISU Birds

    You know what would be better…………..a new stadium.

    1. Al Spangler

      Agreed

  6. Christian

    That’s What I have always said. Me and my brother talk about it all the time. There would for sure be a big public outcry, a lot of people would suffer economically.

  7. Ryan W

    Why have the cubs not seriously considered a kickstarter-like fundraiser to generate the money needed for renovations? Allow people to make donations of ANY amount, and provide “kickbacks” to those who donate a certain amount (say a free “I helped rebuild Wrigley Field” t-shirt to the first 2,000 to donate $50). Seems like a no-brainier to me. This would also serve as to rally support and interest from fans.

    1. Adam

      Your plan raised 100k. Whats your kickback plan to raise the other 499,900 million+?

      1. scorecardpaul

        I think this is a great idea. I want one of those shirts. I would also buy bricks, seats, etc…
        I think they could make a lot of money selling Wrigley Field. The original old stuff is worth more money than the new stuff?? The money spent each year by Cub fans on junk memorabilia is astronomical. The real stuff would bring hundreds of millions of dollars. Look at all of us, Cub fans are insane. I also think they could make millions each year selling game used authenticated baseballs, gloves, uniforms, etc. The Chicago Cubs are a very unique organization. I am not saying that they could make enough money to build a stadium, but they could make a lot more than any of us realize. I am just a stupid poor fireman, and I probably have ten thousand dollars worth of (as my wife calls it) Cubs crap in my basement. I am quite sure that none of it is as cool as what I could buy from the Wrigley Field garage sale.

    2. JB88

      $100,000 (minus the cost of the T-shirts) isn’t going to do a whole lot of anything, though. The renovation costs are estimated to cost north of $500 million (when you factor in the Triangle Building, etc.).

      1. Adam

        Better off running the scam the Packers run where they give fans the opportunity to buy common stock, so that those fans can get an invite to the shareholders meeting (fan convention) and the opportunity to buy exclusive membership.

    3. itzscott

      Better than Kickstarter since the Cubs are a multi-million dollar business already, the best idea would be for the Cubs to do what Green Bay did…. but a bit more creatively.

      Ricketts might consider relinquishing a percentage of ownership and raise the money by selling shares of the Cubs as stock and making it a publicly traded company.

      When the renovations are complete and paid for and the revenues have increased, he can begin buying back the shares at a premium to the investors and return it to his family’s private ownership.

      1. hansman1982

        The Cubs (or any other sports team ever) will NEVER go public. NEVER EVER NEVER EVER NEVER EVER EVER.

        This means you have to open the books, which means the Cardinals get to see those books and they’d constantly be facing lawsuits from some investors claiming the front office isn’t doing what is in the best interest of the shareholders.

  8. Curt

    and I don’t want to hear omg no wrigley is a shrine we can’t tear it down or move, I give yu exhibit a, Yankee stadium lots more winning tradition tore it down built a brand new one if they can the cubs can, ennnnnnnough of the city’s bs, pony up and help the cubs like you did the sox or were leaving watch how fast the city trips over itself to help cubs, get it done and quit being nice about it.

    1. Jack Weiland

      I’m not entirely sure I agree. Whereas the Yankees do indeed have way more winning tradition, that’s something they can focus on other than the stadium they held so dearly. Cubs fans have Wrigley, and not much else. It’s easier to forgoe the stadium when you have so much else to think of fondly.

    2. Hee Seop Chode

      The new Yankee Stadium was built at a cost of $1.3B with 450M paid by the club, 450M paid by the city, and the remainder of the bill covered by money from diverted revenue sharing payments that would have been paid to other MLB baseball teams. While the old park was owned by the city, the new stadium is owned by the Yankees.

      That’s a far more lucrative deal that what Mr. Rickets is requesting:

      http://www.nyc.com/arts__attractions/yankee_stadium.1002975/editorial_review.aspx

  9. Dan W

    BluBlud, I agree the state should not pay a dime, as long as the city takes of the handcuffs they have placed on the Cubs. If they dont remove the handcuffs, than the city owns them. Take them off, or pay for the well being of your prisioner.

    1. blublud

      well stated

  10. Dan W

    Now if we could just take the public outcry from this forum to the streets, Bretts next article will be about the final details of the project.

  11. MichCubFan

    They should build a new stadium to the east of Chicago…it would be much easier for a Michigander like me to make it to some games.

    I just wonder how much revenue the team gets because of the traditional aspects of the team. Wrigley, Wrigleyville, WGN… Those are definitely things that have added to the fanbase. Does that larger fanbase add to the revenue, being that it includes a lot of out-of-towners? If we were to sign a TV deal away from WGN and move away from Wrigley, would that fan base not shrink significantly over the next couple of decades?

  12. itzscott

    Ricketts is smart enough to know the mood of taxpayers and the dire straits the city is in. The request for tax breaks for a very wealthy man at the expense of tax payers (yes, the shortfall has to be made up somewhere… guess who?) won’t fly. It’d be political suicide for Emanuel, etc.

    As much as most Cub fans are in favor of giving Ricketts what he wants, it’s myopic on their part to think the entire city/state are as avid, supportive Cub fans as themselves.

    The Ricketts strategy is to shoot for the moon with BOTH tax breaks and additional revenue stream approvals. Business and politics is a game of compromise.

    My guess is that the city/state decline the tax breaks but okay the approvals for new revenue streams to fund the renovations.

  13. Curt

    Yeah but itcscott the city can’t have it both ways, enjoy the tax revenue and vendor sales the economic impact the cubs give to the neighborhood and tourism sites and then turn around and deny releasing restrictions on the cubs or drag their feet on the funding , I will agree on the point of helping the cubs being taxpayer unfriendly so get both sides tgether and work out a solution to ease restrictions on the cubs, in the end the city will get everything back eventually. But I believe if you make the threat of leaving a more believable reality I’m betting things move along much more quickly.

  14. cubzforlife

    I have always advocated Wrigley Field renovation but as I age and it gets harder to get to the ballpark I would gladly support a new ballpark in the northwest burbs. They could of built it in Rosemont where the village built the largest inflated indoor ballfield in north america. The ladies play there. 565′x250′ 75′ tall. I agree that Ricketts make a demand with a backup plan in place and to hell with Chicago. I live and work in the city and pay too much for everything as it is.