However you felt about Rick Reilly’s article about the Wrigley Field renovation and the financial importance to the Chicago Cubs thereof, the article mattered because it kept the story in the national attention (or, for some folks, brought it to their attention for the first time). It was natural, then, that there’d be a fair bit more written about the renovation in the ensuing days. There’s a ton to discuss on the renovation, be they related to the current national attention or not, – so much that it’s gotta be Bullet-style.
- Crain’s writer Greg Hinz, who’s been relatively tapped in on the Wrigley renovation story, says there has been real progress on deal talks in the last week, and we could see a “partial” deal announced “soon.” It’s interesting to hear Hinz mention a partial deal – presumably that means some of the funding mechanisms, but not all – since Mayor Rahm Emanuel has, at least publicly, been adamant that he doesn’t want to see any partial deals. He wants the whole thing done at once.
- Hinz hears that, at this point, the entirety of the hold-up is the dispute with the rooftops and Alderman Tom Tunney’s loyalty to those rooftops. The Mayor has political reasons for not wanting to step on Tunney, so that’s why we’ve had such a protracted period of apparent silence. The rooftops want to make a deal, and the Cubs would probably prefer to just block the rooftops with ads. Since that may not be politically feasible, the Cubs and the rooftops are likely going to have to come to an amicable resolution, at least until their current 20-year agreement expires in 2024. (Might I suggest a combination of in-stadium ads that don’t block views, ads on the rooftops with some/most/all revenue going to the Cubs, and an increase in the 17% gross revenue share that the Cubs get from the rooftops (negotiable based on the ads)? In exchange, the Cubs don’t block the views for at least the next 11 years – and with the increased revenue, particular the revenue coming from the rooftop share, maybe the Cubs decide they don’t want to block the rooftops after those 11 years, either. The rooftops might want more, but when you’re fighting for your very existence, you gotta know when to make a deal.) If the Cubs and rooftops make good on such a deal, Hinz says Tunney may be more willing to bend on the other funding mechanisms (more night games, more concerts, and street fairs), pending some kind of decision on police and parking issues.
- Speaking of those collateral issues, the Lake View Citizens’ Council – we may as well just call them “The Neighborhood” – has written a letter to Mayor Emanuel, essentially asking that they be apprised of the Cubs’ plans before anything is formally decided. They want to know what’s going to happen with parking, police, night games, and the general impact on the neighborhood. The letter is the second in a series, the first coming last April, in which The Neighborhood seeks to have a voice in the renovation discussion. They certainly have a stake in the game, but an improved Wrigley Field is going to be a good thing for most everyone in The Neighborhood, so I’m modestly disinclined to be sympathetic when they start making demands on the Cubs. That said, many of the things they request are reasonable – for the most part, right now, they just want information. (Of course, as I’ve said before: it’s hard for the Cubs to give anybody answers on the renovation when they don’t yet know what they’re going to be permitted to do.)
- What I find most interesting in the letters, which were courteously provided by Serena Dai of DNAinfo (whose coverage of the renovation story at the local level has been unmatched by anyone), is that The Neighborhood – in a letter to Tom Tunney – actually pushed for an increase in available night games from 30 to 33, and concerts from 3 to 4, back in early 2012. We’d been led to believe that the Cubs were pushing for those increases as a stepping stone to future further increases. Now we know that The Neighborhood is fine with minimal increases, but that suggests that the Cubs actually want considerably more night games and/or concerts (which is understandable). Before you go thinking that The Neighborhood was being entirely altruistic, you should know that, in exchange for the very modest night game/concert increase, they placed a condition: “A financial contribution from the Cubs to the Lakeview Community will be made to offset any inconveniences experienced by residents and businesses of Lakeview. The Cubs shall make a financial contribution for each of the four (4) additional night events using the following formula: a minimum of seventy-five thousand dollars ($75,000.00) per event with a maximum of two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000.00) per season. These funds are to be spent on identified community projects that will be determined on an annual basis upon mutual agreement of LVCC and the Cubs.”
- (Interesting aside: the Cubs’ community affairs representative for the discussions with The Neighborhood? Why, it’s none other than the previous president of the Lake View Citizens’ Council, Jennifer Dedes-Nowak. Very savvy, Mr. Cubs.)
- Beth Murphy, one of the owners of Murphy’s Bleachers – a prominent rooftop building and bar – suggests that the Cubs and the rooftops are still working peaceably on a solution. “I know this sometimes presented as rooftops versus Cubs,” Murphy told the Tribune, “but really it’s just everybody working together to make solutions that works the best for everybody, including the Cubs, including the rooftops, including the neighborhood. And we have a long tradition of hashing things out.”
- If the final frontier in the battle to get a deal done is indeed striking a balance with the rooftops, the Sun-Times’ Herb Gould suggests that the Cubs be allowed to put up huge billboard ads in the outfield. On the backs of those ads, though, he suggests the Cubs show a broadcast of the game. Since the rooftop experience is largely about the social aspect and the food and drink – according to Gould – and since you can’t really see the action on the field from the rooftops (again, according to Gould), this is the perfect compromise. Somehow I suspect the rooftops would not agree, nor would their patrons. Seeing the whole field, however large or small, is the point of live sporting event attendance. Watching a large version of a broadcast in close proximity to the ballpark (to say nothing of the small broadcast delay, which would be a nightmare) is not the same thing. Maybe the rooftops will be left with no other choice, but I think this is a suggestion they’d fight pretty strongly.
- Some Deadspin writer had a mindless and lame response to the Reilly article (most Reilly articles come complete with so many thoughtful responses available that I have no patience for someone taking the lazy route on a Reilly fisking), but what matters is that it’s more national attention.
[Disclosure: some of the rooftops advertise on BN, but that has not impacted the way I've covered this ongoing story.]