Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Cubs to Reveal Possible Renovations and Upgrades on January 19

respect wrigleyFinally, there’s a little something happening in the way of Wrigley Field renovations, and it could be something big. And we could find out about it as soon as the Cubs Convention next week.

But I’m getting ahead of myself …

Tuesday night, the Chicago Cubs presented the possible upgrades they’re considering for Wrigley Field, together with the nearby Triangle Property, to a community group in the Wrigleyville area. In short, the Cubs are looking to improve everything – dugouts, restrooms, concessions, locker rooms, batting cages (added below the grandstands), luxury suites, and the press box. Additionally, the Cubs are looking to turn the Triangle Property into a community area for all kinds of events, and the McDonald’s property into a hotel.

The information comes from a report on DNAinfo Chicago, a media enterprise owned and operated by Ricketts family patriarch Joe Ricketts. Although he doesn’t have any direct involvement with the Cubs, he obviously would be certain to make sure the information about the renovations were supremely accurate in his own publication. Some details, from DNAinfo:

A short video showed a rendering of what the Cubs have in mind for the ballpark. The changes would be phased in over four years if approved, [Cubs manager of community outreach Jennifer] Dedes Nowak said.

“This is a heads-up,” she said, emphasizing she sought community input before final decisions. “This is what we’re thinking.”

The plan also featured more practice space for players and a replacement for the existing roof.

Development of the field’s adjacent triangle property — the area west of the ballpark now occupied by a temporary ice rink and parking lots — aims to transform the spot into a neighborhood entertainment and community hub.

Renderings featured an open space for farmers markets, outdoor movie screenings and a better ice rink. It would be surrounded by more Cubs office space and a one- to two-story retail plaza.

That all sounds in line with the things we’ve heard over the last couple years. Essentially, the Cubs are holding out the possibility of a great community area and hotel (with parking) as a carrot to incentivize the neighborhood to get on board with easing restrictions on the things the Cubs can do to generate revenue. And, if the neighborhood likes the improvements enough, maybe they even get on board with the idea of the Cubs receiving some public money to work on the renovations, in the form of tax breaks on the amusement tax collected on Cubs tickets. The community obviously isn’t “the decider” in that regard, but surely the Cubs recognize it can’t hurt to have a big group of taxpayers on your side.

Here’s the real kicker: the article indicates Cubs’ VP of Communications Julian Green said official photos of the renderings of the possible upgrades are going to be presented January 19th.

What’s January 19th? That’s the Saturday of the Cubs Convention.

Now, I ask you: why would the Cubs present the renderings of the future of Wrigley Field and the surrounding area unless they had a pretty good sense that *something* was going to happen, and soon? Last year at the Convention, we saw renderings of the new Dominican facility, which was already green lit. Further, the Cubs announced the new patio section in right field and the new LED board, which had not yet been finalized, but everyone understood were going to happen.

The wheels in my head are turning. Would the Cubs reveal renderings and plans for the Wrigley renovations at the annual fan convention, only to add the caveat that, “we don’t know if any of this is actually going to happen, though, because we don’t know if we can get the funding to make it happen”? I really don’t think they would.

I won’t go so far as to predict that we’re going to have an announcement at the Convention, but it now suddenly seems plausible. Short of an announcement, a statement of confidence that things are going to proceed soon seems … likely. It feels crazy to say that, but how else can you interpret this information?

The Convention just got a whole lot more interesting.

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

67 responses to “Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Cubs to Reveal Possible Renovations and Upgrades on January 19”

  1. @cubsfantroy

    I really need to try to get to Wrigley this year.

  2. JB88

    If your dot connecting is correct, Brett, it certainly seems like some wheeling and dealing has been occurring behind the scenes.

    And, there’s a part of me, that is hitting myself in the head and saying “it makes so much sense.” Theo and Jed are clearly the master of obfuscation on the baseball side, it never would have dawned on me that, perhaps, Ricketts wishes to foster that sort of atmosphere within the entire organization. It is a lot easier to control all messages if you are negotiating in private versus using the media to try to get Emmaul to the table.

  3. justinjabs

    Let’s see… Wrigley Field renovations … unveil at Cubs Convention … are we getting a recently re-signed animatronic Kerry Wood in left??

  4. Ryan W

    Another possible scenario: they think the renovations are so awesome that they think using the approval of neighborhood members and their most rabid fan base (Cubs convention) to assist in pitching the idea to politicians. Meaning, they actually don’t have any approvals, no back room deals have been done, they are showing the renderings as a way to rile up support on their side. If they pitch their idea well they can leverage the support from the neighbors and fans against the city to get the deal they want….

  5. MightyBear

    Very smart. Seems like there’s a big announcement regarding facilities at the convention every year now and a teaser to get folks to come to see what it is.

  6. Cubbie Blues

    I just saw that the SABR Analytics Conference was announced. Jed Hoyer will be one of the featured speakers.

  7. Crazyhorse

    “The team also wants a 50 percent cut of any increase in amusement tax revenue growth above 6 percent. And unlike the bonds, which would be retired in 30 or 35 years, that would be forever…..

    I hope every registered voter in Chicago and Illinois nix this proposal. IF the Cubs and The Ricketts trust is asking Chicago for 300 million dollars to upgrade Wrigley Field thru bonds that can work . BUT if Ricketts is asking for 50% of taxes to put into his personal bank account after any tax rate above 6 percent is robbery. and the people of Chicago have a right to know.


    1. JB88

      What the Cubs seek isn’t really that much difference than what the Bulls/Blackhawks sought back in the early 90′s. Then, they negotiated, IIRC, a 2% amusement tax on luxury boxes for, I believe 20 or 25 years. I recognize there is an end to what they received, but they also had a tax that was 3X less what the Cubs are seeking.

      1. Crazyhorse

        Like i stated – If the Ricketts trust is asking for 300 million dollars too be backed by bonds and offset by an amusement tax that is buisness. But to demand that any tax rate over 6 percent be split 50/50 and those tax dollars go to Ricketts -FORever. Time to ignore the Cubs.

        1. hansman1982


        2. JB88

          You should reread that article, if for no other reason that it says that the Cubs are seeking $150 MM in amusement tax concessions from the city.

          Moreover, I’m trying to understand why you claim that negotiating for an offset is business, but negotiating for a split of a tax above a certain threshold where the money is solely generated based on people entering into a private business is somehow not.

  8. Dante Hicks

    WHile I tried to think oh, wait…it could be a way to put pressure on the city, that would be suicide. Given the way things were going until the fiasco last spring with Joe Ricketts, the Cubs are not stupid. This isn’t Ed Lynch. These guy are savvy. And no, don’t make a lame joke about Crane Kenney. The Cubs have been meeting (was recently acknowledged by Ricketts) as well as others that staffs have been meeting. Ricketts and the Mayor supposedly (according to Ricketts) have not spoken, but have no doubt the Cubs people have been working closely with the city, the alderman (has the backbone of a jelly fish), and as Brett reports, the neighbors. They have been waiting and planning. I’m sure these plans have been changed many times. The conversations were going well as of August although off the public radar. Someone very wise here (I apologize for not recalling who) said you don’t release this stuff until you are close to a deal. That is true. And, there will be a scoreboard, not a Dallas size one, but a scoreboard. Ricketts himself will tell you that the people across the street are stealing product–well, he implies it. And he has to deal with that. I’m a life long fan and find that they only sure 17% of revenues to be a joke. I also find the tax situation for the Cubs a bigger joke. I was a Wrigleyville resident for 18 years and truly? Neighbor groups should get with the program. Their home values have skyrocketed, even if there has been some sliding since ’07. Extra people? Move to the suburbs. I’m getting too far afield. My general point? The Ricketts have been good neighbors and deserve a better deal. And they seem to be doing well and quietly. And knowing the Mayor, that’s how he does things.

    There is one major caveat though before fans get too excited. Living in such a big city, tons of new buildings and plans are unveiled each year. The vast majority don’t get built because of alderman or money issues or the economy. Projects get changed. The “original vision” as we may see next weekend? Quite possibly won’t be the same as what happened. Fans need to be patient. And more patient. If the hotel is dropped or something, don’t fear it won’t happen.

    Finally, Will the Cubs be forced to play a season or part of season elsewhere? The only person I ever spoke to with actual knowledge of these situations said one plan was do a three renovation and play April and May in Milwaukee of that last season. They would home open to the new place in June. The other construction would be off season. The Cubs would help season ticket holders with transport etc. Apparently, and this was told to me in August of 2012, no US Cellular deal was being discussed.

    Finally, what the Dodgers are doing and doing in ONE offseason? Makes me jealous. I’m jealous of many Dodger things now, but wow, that was fast. Done by March? Unreal.

  9. The Brian Roberts Trade

    Families plan vacations around going to Wrigley Field. It is one of the top tourist attractions the great city of Chicago has to offer. Add to the fact that the Cubs have more restrictions than any other club and they own the facility out right. I do not see how some public funding does not make sense. The entire city benefits from a better Wrigley Field and neighborhood.
    The mayor knows this and I am sure they are just finding the right way to sell it to the public.

    *rant over*

  10. 2much2say

    Johan Santana for Soriano straight up…
    Santana 1 yr 25 mil 5 mil buy out Soriano 2 yr 38 mil

  11. Crazyhorse

    150 million dollars is correct. the 300 million blurred my vision- yet and as a taxpayer in Illinois i understand how the tax system works in this state. And under no circumstance should this state and the City of Chicago forfeit any type of tax revenue and be disguised as a payout that future generations will have to pay Ricketts for a loan. kinda sound disturbing.

    1. JB88

      I appreciate what you are saying (also as a taxpayer of IL), but that is the price of doing business in any state when you are talking about large businesses. It happened last year with Sears.

      Now, obviously, the situation between Sears and the state and the Cubs and Chicago is not completely analogous because Sears’ business is not tied as directly to its location as the Cubs’ business is. All that being said, all that article provides is a snapshot of the negotiations as they existed on April 25, 2012. Nothing more. And, to be frank, while I’d love the Cubs to gain whatever competitive financial edge they can get if it improves the team, I would be fairly shocked if they received that concession from the City.

      I suspect that the demand was made not to actually win that concession but to have that as a bargaining chip to take off the table in exchange for the City agreeing to relax other items, more likely the advertisements and historic landmark restrictions

      1. Crazyhorse

        It may be the price that you are willing to pay. I, in good faith can not . I cannot support giving The Ricketts Family Trust any portion of a tax revenue .I do not need my grandchildren paying the Cubs anything that the City and State gave them 47 years from now over a 150 million government Subsidiary . I only pick the 47 years is because I am that age and my grandchild is due with in the month.


        1. JB88

          I don’t think you and I are on the same page.

          The Cubs and the City of Chicago are (or were) in the midst of a negotiation. Amongst the terms that the Cubs were seeking was a concession in future amusement taxes charged against people buying Cubs’ tickets. If the Cubs received that, any amusement tax charged above 6% would be split between the Cubs and the City. In other words, let’s say the tax was 7%, the City would receive 6.5% of that revenue and the Cubs would receive .5%; 8% and the City would receive 7% of that revenue and the Cubs would receive 1%, you get the picture. The Cubs have already indicated that all funds made on the team would be reinvested in the team. So, in theory, you as a Cubs’ fan would be seeing those funds which would otherwise be going to the City of Chicago reinvested in a team you claim to love.

          Now, all that is frankly academic, anyway, as the City of Chicago is capable of saying either (1) yes or (2) no to the Cubs’ request that the amusement tax revenue above 6% be split 50/50 between the Cubs and the City. If they say no, your angst is completely unfounded. If they say “yes”, your angst is completely misdirected. Because the only “person” who you should be mad at is the City of Chicago. Rather than be pissy toward Ricketts, you should be grateful to have an owner that (a) is trying to improve the onfield product and fan experience (when did the Tribune or Wrigley family last do that) and (b) is a savvy enough negotiator to try to extract such a concession in order to continue to try to improve that team.

          Separate question, do you actually live in Chicago? Because, candidly, these are funds that the City of Chicago—if it agreed to the Cubs’ request—would be willingly foregoing, not something that is at all tied to the tax revenue for the state of Illinois.

          1. Crazyhorse

            I should be grateful …….. WoW and – savvy is not term i would use to describe the ownership of the Cubs. I do not want any generations of Cub fans nor the people of Illinois to give tax revenue to the Cubs forever. the key word is forever …………

            1. JB88

              *Boggle* You are either very closeminded or very shortsighted.

              This happens in business negotiations between government and businesses all the time. And if you want to be pissed at someone, be mad at politicians that would give that money to a business, not the business for seeking it.

              1. Crazyhorse

                you are correct ! if the mayor or governor approves the….
                loan and because of that loan certain people will be in a never ending tax loop . Kinda sounds like the toll system we have in place,

        2. JB88

          One additional point, I think you also misconstrue exactly what the Cubs’ even seek through the $150MM. What the Cubs are seeking is actually a bond, which they will pay back (potentially with the equivalent of interest) over a certain period of time.

          In other words, this is not truly a subsidy but more like a fixed-term loan.

          1. Crazyhorse

            then go to a bank if it a loan.

  12. Crazyhorse

    well i did enjoy our conversation. i need to go and i want to say thanks for the conversation and time and effort to your replies. I am usually around -all the time.

  13. cubzforlife

    The reason the games are in Milwaukee is because they cannot have a rainout. This plan was shared with me by my pal Crane Kenney. Kenney told me the plan was 3 off seasons and play the April games in Milwaukee. He did not mention help with transportation but did say they would discount those tickets to season ticket holders.
    I’ve been told T.R. Will be at Kerry Woods event and I hope to pick his brain. The funny thing is how these guys look at me. They sorta kinda recognize me after seeing me at all these things but as soon as I open my mouth the realize I’m only a fan and they treat me like a stalker.

  14. Diesel

    Could they ever argue that the city is obligated to help due to the landmark status?

    1. Scotti

      They could argue the City should help because the tax would generate zero extra dollars without these improvements. The City has no skin in the game. They want to do nothing to improve the product yet insist on reaping rewards–millions each year–for the Cubs investing in their own product. How does the City deserve that money?

      In terms of Cubs being over a barrel (as others have stated)… Were the Bears or Sox or Bulls over a barrel? No. None were ever really going anywhere. Yet they got deals. The Cubs are not over a barrel. The City IS raping Cub fans over a barrel, though. Cub fans are the ones who pay the taxes! IF YOU DON’T GO TO A CUB GAME YOU SIMPLY DON’T PAY THIS TAX.

      And not only do the Cubs not get any other tax breaks but they actually pay extra each year for what the Amusement Tax is supposed to cover (drains on the City resources like policing and trash clean up). When you see a cop at Wrigley the Cubs pay for that separate from the tax. When you see City clean up crews the Cubs pay for that (you can see all of this in the Cubs yearly report to Wrigleyville residents). The Bears, Sox and Bulls do NOT pay for their policing or clean up of the surrounding area–the Amusement Tax covers that City expense. The reason the Cubs pay for it is because the City never allocated enough funds and the neighborhood blamed the Cubs!

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