1_PROPOSED_MARQUEE_VIEWAs the Chicago Cubs continue to look for ways to increase revenue for the purposes of renovating Wrigley Field, their battle with the rooftop buildings that line the outfield has reached something of a hushed silence. Early last week, the two sides met to discuss a rooftop proposal that would permit the Cubs to place advertising on the rooftop buildings – and keep 100% of the revenue generated by those ads (while splitting some with the City) – in exchange for an agreement not to block the rooftop views into Wrigley Field, and an extension of the two sides’ present contract.

That contract has been the subject of much debate in recent weeks (and months and years, really), and we know very little about it. We know that it suggests that the Cubs cannot block the rooftop views into the ballpark, by way of Wrigley’s landmark protections, but doesn’t outright forbid it. We know that the rooftops are obligated to share 17% of their gross revenue with the Cubs. We know that the agreement lasts another 11 years, unless it is renegotiated (or breached) before that time.

Beyond that, though, we just don’t know much. What’s the precise language on the rooftops’ rights and obligations? What about the Cubs? Has advertising been contemplated before? Are the two sides already sharing revenue on some of the ads that currently appear on the rooftops? Since it’s a private contract between private parties, we’re probably never going to know the answers to those questions unless the contract, in its entirety, is leaked somewhere.

… which hasn’t quite happened, but Tribune business reporter Phil Rosenthal has apparently had a look at the agreement, and shared some additional details. Among them:

  • While the contract obviously contemplates protecting the rooftop views, it explicitly states that “any expansion of Wrigley Field approved by governmental authorities shall not be a violation” of the agreement.
  • That means if Mayor Rahm Emanuel is truly behind the Ricketts Family’s plan to pay for the Wrigley Field renovation on their own, he could lean on any other governmental entity he needs to in order to get things done – for example, large ads and a JumboTron along the outfield wall. That could mean the rooftop owners would have absolutely no say, and no recourse in the courts. I’m not sure the Cubs would want to go that route, but it is apparently a possibility.
  • WGN-TV is required to show and comment on the rooftops during Cubs broadcasts, and the Cubs are supposed to ask other television partners to do the same.
  • The Cubs are required to mention the rooftops when they give tours of Wrigley Field.
  • The Cubs are required to include positive stories about the rooftops in Vine Line, the team’s official magazine. (As a publisher/writer, that one makes me tug at my collar a little bit.)

Interesting stuff, and these details have the feel of an agreement that is intended to be friendly and cooperative. But, of course, all that matters when it comes to contracts is what is in black and white. The two sides may have been on good and friendly terms back when it was written in 2004, but each side is only obligated by the words that actually made it on the page.

I have a feeling we’ll hear more about this ongoing issue this week, as the Cubs are going to want to know what direction they’re going as soon as possible.

(Disclosure: Some of the rooftops advertise on BN, but that has not impacted my coverage of this ongoing story.)


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