Alderman Tom Tunney, who represents the neighborhood in which Wrigley Field sits, says City Hall is pressing the Chicago Cubs and the owners of the rooftops that outline the outfield at Wrigley Field to come to an agreement about advertising, views into Wrigley Field, revenue sharing, and other items that ultimately impact the Cubs’ ability to move forward with their plans to renovate Wrigley Field.
The Cubs and the rooftop owners have been locked in a mini-battle over the last few weeks as the team looks to find new ways to generate the revenues necessary to support a renovation of Wrigley Field. One option is advertising along the outfield wall, but, because such signage could block the rooftops’ views into the ballpark, the owners of those buildings have proposed that the advertising instead be placed on their buildings, with the revenues going to the Cubs and the City. The Cubs don’t believe that arrangement will generate as much revenue as in-stadium advertising, so the two sides have been “discussing” a modified arrangement that would generate more revenue for the Cubs (presumably in the form of an increased share of the revenue the rooftops take in on tickets they sell to watch Cubs games) while not simultaneously putting the rooftops out of business.
Well, according to Tunney, the Mayor’s Office is pushing the parties to get a deal done by the end of this week so that the rest of the plans – which amount to the Ricketts Family paying for the renovations to Wrigley without public financing – can move forward without delay.
“[The two sides] are trying to put something together by the end of the week,” said Tunney, according to the Chicago Tribune. “It’s hard to corral all the interested parties.”
A spokesperson for the Mayor confirmed to the Tribune that his office is indeed applying pressure to get things done “very soon.”
That the City is applying the pressure to get things rolling only underscores just how important the renovation is to the City and the Mayor. Given that the current plan – by which the Ricketts Family would fund the Wrigley renovation with new advertisements, more concerts, more night games, and street fairs – includes no public money, and the Mayor has already touted the emergence of that plan as a fiscal success for his administration, you can bet he’s on the Cubs’ side here. It is logical to conclude that, if a deal is put together by the end of this week, it will be very favorable to the Cubs.
But, of course, we still don’t know if the point at which (1) the revenue from the advertising on the rooftop buildings, plus (2) any increase in the revenue share the rooftops can afford without going out of business, is still insufficient to match what the Cubs believe they can generate from in-stadium advertising (plus, as ugly as it is, the long-term value of putting the rooftops out of business and then taking over those buildings themselves). It remains possible, regardless of pressure from the City, that there is no match here. That is to say, it is possible that the Cubs simply can’t make as much working with the rooftops as they can working against them. I hope that isn’t the case – legal fights are unpredictable, slow, expensive and often ugly – but I guess we’ll find out soon.
The fact that the two sides continue to work together, according to Tunney, suggests that they may be able to reach a compromise, though.
I don’t like the idea of the Cubs being placed under an artificial time constraint to make a decision on something that will affect the organization for the next 20 years, but I guess that’s the nature of the political winds. If the Cubs want to get moving on the renovation, and want the necessary support to make the concert/night game/street fair stuff happen, they might just have to play ball with the rooftops now. Hopefully doing so will buy them all the political capital they need for the next five years.
(Disclosure: Some of the rooftop businesses advertise on BN, but that has not impacted how I’ve covered this ongoing story.)