Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Some Reported Details About the Contract with the Rooftops

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.)

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

18 responses to “Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Some Reported Details About the Contract with the Rooftops”

  1. The Brian Roberts Trade

    That doesn’t sound good for the rooftop owners.

  2. CubFan Paul

    So any Wrigley renovation that effects the outfield walls/rooftop views makes the contract void.

    Thats a good thing for Cubs, because if the rooftops want to stay in business their demands will have to be more reasonable

    “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)”

    That proposal only estimates $10M-$20M a year to the Cubs and over 50% of that pot going to the city. Not good enough.

    Any individual outfield wall ad/JumboTron the Cubs install would net $5M-$50M a year individually.

  3. John

    Warning: Something’s Not Right Here!

    Ace- I got this warning about Malware when I clicked on you this morning. I have more of the info If you need it.

    1. hansman1982

      Look in this morning’s bullets for the answer. Nothing coming from Brett.

  4. Colocubfan

    Brett,
    Your idea of a left field jumbotron; does that include additional seating?i.e. a 2nd deck of seats and a jumbotron? Just curious.

    1. CubFan Paul

      that’s what I want from the renovation: a 2nd deck of seats in left and/or right field.

      That would give space for OF luxury boxes on the level between the decks and an digital advertising strip in left and right that would eclipse any measly rooftop revenue.

      1. TNN2

        That is never going to happen. For one thing the “uninterrupted sweep” of the bleachers is protected by the landmark ordinance. The Cubs are asking for the landmark status to be eased, not eliminated. you can still erect ads that don’t interrupt the sweep, but you can’t put up stands that satisfy the same condition.

        Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is the issue of how would you build that? There isn’t any room to erect or support such a structure unless the Cubs somehow built over the streets which will never happen. the neighbors freaked out about the safety of the bleacher renovations overhanging the sidewalks back in 2005. There were enough concerns about lighting and safety to the point where the Cubs scaled it back so the overhangs wouldn’t be so pronounced.

        Besides, the Cubs don’t need additional seating. At 42,000 Wrigley is the perfect size for a baseball park which is why you see all the new parks being built to this scale.

  5. Spencer

    Whoa. Those last three bullets are really interesting.

  6. MJ

    Finally, someone has revealed the language of the mysterious rooftop contract. This may not end great for The Roofies. But, if were a betting man, I have a feeling that they’re not going to go out of business. I believe, eventually, The Ricketts will purchase an ownership stake in the buildings to keep them running.

    Then again, we don’t even know what kind of signage the Cubs are talking about. The rooftop owners’ fears may be much ado about nothing.

  7. TNN2

    This is outstanding news. If that first point is true then the rooftops owners are done. It won’t even come down to arguing about something as nebulous as the community benefiting from the projects.

    If the landmark commission says that ads in the outfield are ok then the Rooftop owners are done. All they need to do is take a look at how the Prentice Hospital preservation hearings have proceeded to see that their time is running out.

    I said it before – I think a realistic solution is for the rooftop owners to give up their “rights” on 3 or 4 of the buildings (probably in LF) and let the Cubs put up whatever ads they want in front of those. In exchange they would protect the remaining unobstructed views.

  8. matt

    I honestly don’t believe the Cubs are trying to be jerks about this. I don’t think their plans include 100% blockage for the rooftops. Let’s be honest, I’ve been on the rooftops, and if you want good seats with good fan interaction, Wrigley Field is the place to be. If you want an enjoyable experience, all you can drink and eat at a very reasonable price with the ballgame “background music”, the rooftops are 100% the place to be (well worth it, great time, if you haven’t done it as a Cubs fan…it’s a must experience). However, I do believe the Cubs want the signage, and all profits of the signs to go to the Cubs, and you can’t blame them. I also believe this is a way for the Cubs to maybe renegotiate that 17% AND get additional signage in the rooftops. The Ricketts understand the rooftops/neighborhood are part of the experience, they aren’t going to risk losing all of that. This is more about leverage.

  9. Fastball

    One thing those rooftop owners can always do at their own expense is build up higher. I am all for Ricketts doing whatever he wants with his stadium. But if the rooftop guys want a view when Tom is done they can pay to raise their buildings up higher or put their bleachers on stilts so people can see over the signs. If they do and I was Ricketts I would be taking a larger percentage than 17%. Who the hell negotiated that deal anyway. If it was Crane Kenney he should be fired on that terrible negotiation alone.
    Also the Cubs have to mention the Bleachers in an article and the announcers have to mention the Bleachers on WGN. I would knock that out in about one 5 second sound bite at the beginning of each game before the 1st pitch is thrown. Any other ridiculous requests from those bar owners? If I’m Ricketts I would be moving forward full speed ahead. Screw the Rooftop Owners!!! If your a Rooftop Owner, Sorry about your luck if you want to watch the games follow my suggestion listed above.

  10. Serious Cubs Fan

    I say Ricketts should put signage all around the outfield walls and make the viewing experience pitiful for the rooftops. Wait the rooftop owners out after their profits drop significantly and then after 2-3 yrs of them trying to continue business after all the obstructive views, make them a respectable offer for the rooftops property and then take signage off the wall and put them on the rooftops and they’d also be able to collect 100% profits fro the ticket sales and that means much more revenue.

    Yes their maybe lawsuits, but the Ricketts need to show they are willing to put up a fight. Just give the rooftop owners one swift blow. It may not be morally right but them steal a product for the last 20-30 years has not been morally right either

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