Since this weekend’s revelation that the Ricketts Family was now willing to foot the bill for the $300 million renovation of Wrigley Field (plus another $200 million in projects around Wrigley) on the condition that certain restrictions – tied to signage, night games, extra activities, and street fairs – are lifted, it was inevitable that a small political fight was going to break out. Specifically, you had to figure that the city of Chicago, no longer asked to assist the Cubs directly with a break on the amusement tax, was going to be on board with the plan. And you had to figure that the neighborhood, represented by Alderman Tom Tunney, would push back a little bit, at least insofar as the lifting of restrictions could impinge on their preferences.
Each entity spoke out yesterday about the Cubs’ plans, with predictable results on each side.
For the city, Mayor Rahm Emanuel sounded very much on board with the Ricketts Family’s proposal.
“So, we’re at a point where there will be no taxpayer subsidies for a private entity,” Emanuel said, per the Sun-Times. That said, Wrigley is important to the neighborhood and to the city — or at least a part of the city that likes to go there – and I want to ensure that it continues that kind of important role that it plays in the North Side, which is why I’m also pleased that they’re also putting a hotel up. So, I asked all the parties involved to finish this up.”
In doing so, the Mayor suggested he would assist in getting things to where they need to be.
“We all have a stake in getting it done. It is not done until all the parts fall in place. There are other things that are necessary to do that. There are 1,200 jobs at stake in building and refurbishing Wrigley. But, I want to be clear. I said from the beginning and now it’s absolutely clear and underscored: There will be no taxpayer subsidy in the refurbishing of Wrigley. But, all the parties have a role to play to see it through to the end, and I intend to help do that.”
Naturally, he made certain to emphasize the feather in his cap that this new deal would represent.
“When I first started this discussion, the Cubs wanted 200 million in taxpayer dollars,” Emanuel said. “I said, ‘No.’ Then, they said we’d like 150 million taxpayer dollars and I said, ‘No.’ Then, they asked if they could have 100 million dollars in taxpayer subsidies, and I said ‘No.’ Then, they asked about 55 million dollars in taxpayer subsidies. I said ‘No.’ The good news is after 15 months, they’ve heard the word, ‘No.’”
Ha. Ha. Ha.
Emanuel made certain to emphasize throughout his remarks that there would be no “taxpayer subsidy” for the renovation, and was clearly applauding himself in the process. Thus, you can imagine why he’ll be strongly pushing for the Ricketts’ self-funding plan to take hold and go forward.
Does that mean he’ll push Tunney on the other side of the aisle? Probably some, though he wasn’t interested in saying so publicly at this point.
Tunney, for his part, isn’t strictly opposed to the Ricketts Family’s plan, but he wants to make sure his constituency is considered in the process. Yesterday, he released a statement indicating his priorities in these discussions, which were published on the Lakeview Patch site:
- A 10-year extension of the Neighborhood Protection ordinance that would include a limit on night games and concerts held annually at Wrigley Field.
- A dedicated police detail unit for all Wrigley Field events, especially post game coverage.
- An improved streetscape—lighting, sidewalks, traffic signals, identifiers and landscaping—on Clark Street to enhance commercial activity and on Sheffield Avenue to preserve the residential district.
- A commitment to restore the CTA Sheridan Red Line El Station.
- A limit on street closures of Sheffield or Waveland Avenues for any Cubs Street Festivals.
- An updated planned development for the proposed Triangle building and plaza on Clark Street north of Addison. This development should include space for public and community events like farmer’s markets and ice skating.
- A long-term agreement between the Chicago Cubs and its rooftop partners concerning advertising inside and outside of Wrigley Field that has the approval of the Landmarks Commission, the City and our community.
Obviously that last one is the biggy, as far as the Cubs are concerned. The rooftops, with which the Cubs do currently have a contractual revenue sharing agreement, want to make sure that their views aren’t obstructed by new signage (or, presumably, if those views are obstructed, that they are compensated). Fair or not, it’s understandable that it’s their position, and the Cubs will probably try their best to work out a collaborative solution. I’m sure those discussions are already being had.
The first one is likely almost as big, as the Cubs clearly want to be able to increase their night games (tricky in a residential area), and their non-Cub events like concerts (again, tricky in a residential area … though, isn’t being able to open your window and hear a concert, like, a good thing?).
The other items appear to be things that could be helped by some city involvement and/or are things that the Cubs, themselves, might very well want, too.