In 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.)