respect wrigleyAfter a couple weeks of “leaks” and “anonymous sources” telling the story of the Wrigley Field renovation negotiations, the owners of the rooftop buildings – large stakeholders in the outcome of the renovation talks, as they are trying to preserve their views into Wrigley Field in the face of the Cubs’ desire to add advertising along the outfield wall – decided to hang it all out there. And it doesn’t sound like any kind of agreement, at least with respect to them, is even remotely close.

For your benefit, I’ll just show you the entire press release the rooftops just sent around:

Wrigleyville Rooftops Association Setting the Record Straight
Rooftop owners exasperated by inaccurate statements by Ricketts family

CHICAGO – The Wrigleyville Rooftops Association wants five facts to be known as the Cubs’ self-imposed April 1 Wrigley Field renovation deadline approaches:

1. The Ricketts family does not need to renegotiate their 2004 landmark ordinance agreement with the City of Chicago by April 1 to move forward with renovation plans. The landmark ordinance protects the “uninterrupted sweep of the bleachers” – not updating the clubhouses, public restrooms and various guest amenities. Nothing has prevented the Cubs from making these improvements except to use the renovation debate as an excuse to drive away the Rooftops.

2. The Ricketts family was well-aware of the 20-year contract signed in 2004 with the Rooftop owners when they purchased the team. Two of the top people in the Cubs’ current organization, Cubs President Crane Kenney and Mike Lufrano, Executive Vice President, Community Affairs/General Counsel, negotiated the contract and profit sharing agreement with the Rooftop owners.

3. As reported by media outlets this week, the Ricketts family attempted to purchase five Rooftops in 2011 and place signage-including a jumbotron-on the properties. The Ricketts family’s idea back then was nearly identical to the compromise solution being offered to them today.

4. The Ricketts family requested public financing for the renovation even knowing they are about to receive an enormous financial windfall. The Cubs have publicly stated they intend to sell broadcast rights for their product next year, possibly even saying goodbye to their partner of many decades, WGN television. Here’s what the Ricketts know: a similar deal negotiated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in a like-sized media market was recently signed for $7 BILLION.

5. Many of the Rooftop owners have lived and invested in the Wrigleyville community for more than 30 years when the neighborhood was much different. Upon engaging in a partnership with the Cubs in 2004, they proceeded to collectively invest $50 million to upgrade and enhance their facilities. The Rooftop owners have collectively paid the Cubs approximately $25 million in royalties and are scheduled to pay another $45 million over the next decade. Unilaterally changing a contract without one party’s consent is unfair to any business let alone your neighbors of 30 years.

Beth Murphy, longtime owner of Murphy’s Bleachers, adds, “Our win-win advertising plan would dedicate 100% of all revenues from signs on rooftops to the Cubs to renovate Wrigley Field and help improve community needs. Signs on rooftops were proposed by the Ricketts family two years ago when they tried to buy a rooftop, so we’re confused why it isn’t good enough for them now. The Ricketts family should honor the contract we signed in 2004 that was negotiated by current Cubs’ top executives. There is no reason to block our views.”

The Rooftops are a tremendous economic engine creating significant revenue for city, county and state government.

There are so many reactions …

  • This release doesn’t come out if the sides are feeling good about a deal. The April 1 deadline to have a broad renovation deal in place (which includes funding mechanisms like outfield signage) is coming quickly, and I suddenly feel less than optimistic. Unless …
  • Maybe this is a sign that the rooftops are about to be abandoned by the political entities that had been aiding them to this point? The talk about honoring the contract – which is in place between the Cubs and the rooftops through 2024 – and the discussion of the previous rooftop plan to place advertising on the rooftop buildings makes me wonder if the rooftops are afraid that they’re going to simply be ignored when the final deal is struck, and this is their desperation play. (To whom, exactly, I’m not sure. Residents in the area? Politicians? Cubs fans?)
  • The first point in the release may technically be correct, but, as I’ve said many times before, I can’t blame the Ricketts Family for refusing to start signing renovation checks when they don’t know what funding mechanisms are going to be available to them.
  • That the Ricketts Family planned to place advertisements on buildings they would have purchased in 2011 doesn’t necessarily settle things today. For example, maybe they’ve since realized that ads on the rooftop buildings won’t pay as well as in-stadium ads. Or perhaps the only reason they were willing to accept ads on the rooftops back then was because they were going to own a portion of those rooftops. I really don’t know. I don’t think any of us outside of the negotiations do.
  • The TV deal thing seems like a red herring. The fact that the Cubs are going to ink a new TV deal in the coming years really doesn’t relate directly to the funding of a renovation of Wrigley Field in quite the same way that revenue-adding activities at Wrigley Field does. Further, a new TV deal is not certain to approach the level of the Dodgers’ deal for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that only the WGN portion of the Cubs’ TV deal is up in 2014, and that’s fewer than half of the games. That said, could the Ricketts Family start renovations by paying out of their own pocket in anticipation of the TV deal? Sure. Should they have to? I’m not sure they should.
  • Maybe it’s the former lawyer in me, but I don’t have a problem with the rooftops resting on the contract that the Cubs signed with them in 2004. The question, though, is to what extent the Cubs can unilaterally block rooftop views without breaching the contract (or, to what extent they can negotiate a change of that agreement, or can breach the agreement in a way that still generates more revenue than they would lose by way of the breach)? Once again, only those who’ve extensively reviewed the contract can say for sure. The language in this release doesn’t indicate to me that the Cubs would necessarily be breaching the contract by erecting blocking signage, as it feels like more of a plea for fairness.
  • I’m not sure anything in the rooftops’ current arguments are going to persuade anyone who is ardently against them, nor turn anyone who supports them away. To me, it’s the same as it’s always been: if there’s a compromise that keeps the rooftops in business without unnecessarily or unreasonably sapping Cubs resources, then great, let’s get that compromise done. If it increases the revenue coming into the Cubs organization, all the better.
  • The timing of the release is interesting, given that the community meeting about Wrigley renovations is taking place tonight in about two hours.

The Cubs aren’t going to be happy about this release, but it seems to me that, if it’s come to this, they’ve already cut off negotiations anyway. Perhaps the Cubs will now simply wait for the April 1 deadline to come and pass, and then they’ll start exploring non-Wrigley options. Perhaps the rooftops have already been cut out of the loop, and an unfavorable deal for them is already coming down the pipeline.

It’s unbelievable that things have gotten to this point, but there are a lot of dollars at stake, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that every side is fighting tooth and nail.

[Disclosure: Some of the rooftops advertise on BN, but that has not impacted the way I’ve covered this ongoing story.]

  • DONNIE621

    Luke not sure I understand your post can you break it down a bit…Thanks

    • Luke

      I’ll assume you mean the one referring to the Cubs, Tunney, and the rooftop owners pretending there is no problem in the meeting.

      As off the time of the press release it certainly seemed there was a problem, otherwise it is had to explain the rooftop owners attempting to go on the attack. So if that trio of interest parties is saying at the community meeting that there aren’t any issues, then either:

      1 – a deal was reached between the release of the press release and the start of the meeting, but that deal is being kept secret for the time being, or
      2 – they are pretending that there is no problem even though it certainly appears there is one (ie: acting).

      Keep in mind I’m working off of reports coming in from Twitter that indicated that the three parties were acting as if everything was perfectly fine.

      • aCubsFan

        Yes, it was a bit amusing to see the TV reports from the meeting and the rooftop owners saying they were pleased with what the Cubs were saying at the meeting but the Cubs weren’t saying much of anything according to the reporters.

  • Jason

    At this point, I think I’m rooting for the rooftops to get their views blocked. Say what you will, but not only are they mooching off the Cubs product, but they’re preventing the Cubs from making max revenue off their own product. It’s BS from the Cubs perspective.

    • Edwin

      Other than the oportunity cost of lost revenue, how exactly is the rooftop owner’s “mooching” hurting the Cubs?

      Currently, the Cubs are getting a cut from the rooftop owner’s at no additional cost, if I understand the current deal correctly. Maybe the Cubs could get more revenue by putting up signs that block the view, and they have every right to pursue that. But I can’t blame the rooftop owner’s for doing what they can to fight for their business. That’s just how these things work.

      • CubFan Paul

        “Other than the oportunity cost of lost revenue…”

        That says it all right there.

      • Kevin

        And the fact they line Tunney’s pockets to disrupt the Cubs attempt to get approval.

        • Edwin

          Yes, they’re looking out for their business. The Cubs are also looking out for their own business as well. I don’t see the need to try and turn either side into the villain. Personally, I’d rather see the Cubs get their way and be able to schedule as many night games as they want, and put up whatever signs they want. But I can’t blame the Rooftops for trying to look out for their own self-interests. It’s what people do.

          Some of the rooftop owner’s also provide funding for content on Bleacher Nation, so I guess maybe some of them might not be completely heartless.

          • Jason Pellettiere

            Of course I don’t blame the rooftops for trying to save their business, but the fact remains that their “business” takes money out of the Cubs pockets.

            If the rooftops didn’t exist, the Cubs would make more money.

      • Ryan

        What you just wrote Edwin is the ole “I am gonna take the side of the weak”, just so they have a voice argument. The rooftops have no right or say in any business decision or remodel that the Cubs want to do. They have no place in the MLB, a stake in the Cubs ownership, org, etc.

        They steal a product, and profit from it. The Cubs were blind fools for giving them anything in 2004. The Cubs only struck that 17% agreement, since they felt like they had to get something, rather than nothing. They should have sued, but they didn’t want to “shun” the fans. Well, here you go now…

        How many times have you walked around Wrigleyville on game day and get hounded for tickets, yet you can’t buy them online over the phone? Where did those “available” tickets come from in the first place if all the Cubs games had been sold out? That neighborhood has been banking it for 50 years or more, and now they are squirming and ranting like petulant children, because they know that if they give an inch, the Cubs will take it all because they know the Cubs can. No court will hold the rooftops or Wrigleyville neighborhood rights up. They have no rights to the Cubs or their product.

        That is the point.

        • Brett

          That’s all well and good, but, strictly speaking, the rooftops do have rights: contractual rights. Because they have a contract signed with the Cubs.

          The extent of, and limits of, those rights are really the question.

  • OregonCubFan

    Question – Exactly what statements by the Ricketts are the RTO “exasperated by”? The only one they reference in their statements are the so-called fabricated deadline of April 1. It seems to me that the Cubs and Ricketts are saying very little (at least publicly) and the RTO are shooting themselves in the foot by talking.

  • cubsfan2003

    I’m just bummed the rooftops got a 20 year deal. I’m not a business guy, but it doesn’t make sense to me. Put up a million Toyota signs(or whatever brands.) Starve the rooftops out. Buy them up. Make them the second bleachers. Take the stadium ads down once you get the rooftops. Put up as many ads as you can over there and you’ll be ok. Keep the stadium more or less clean long term from ads. We’ll be better than Fenway. Again, I’m not a business guy and I’m sure there a lot of issues there.That 20 year deal really screwed the cubs.

  • George Ludwig

    First there was Arizona State and now the roof tops.

  • Die hard

    Why is this a surprise? What did Ricketts have in experience managing his money? He made his fortune managing other people’s money. It is a lot easier when giving advice than taking it … Or being too emotionally involved to think straight

    • MichiganGoat

      Face and palm together again

  • CUB5

    I’m surprised the Ground Watching Association hasn’t pushed harder for Wrigley to move to all glass so they can watch the game without paying directly too. Rooftops were a good idea for the building owners, but I still can’t see how they have ANY voice in the renovations. No other ballpark that I know of has to contend with this BS.

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  • Tim

    The roof tops may have been there for 30 years. Wrigley Field has been there almost 100! The reasons the roof tops even exist is because of Wrigley. I feel like the RTO are taking for granted all of the money they have made because of the Cubs and Wrigley.

  • The Anti-Bartman

    At this point, to hell with the rooftops. I like anything and everything that makes the Wrigley experience unique (minus the significantly outdated bathrooms) but the renovations need to happen sooner rather than later. And Tunney needs to calm down. I know he is merely protecting interests of the community, but is it not ridiculous that we’re having real conversations about the Cubs moving to the burbs? Hopefully, a deal gets done. The rooftops/community need to stop whining and realize that they don’t have a community without their golden goose. I want increased parking and a better red line stop, but at the cost of the rooftops’ existence I would prefer to see the Cubs play in a modernized Wrigley Field. How many of you are that attached to the rooftops anyways? It’s a cool experience from what I hear (I’ve never even considered going over going to the actual Wrigley) but I’d rather see more seats inside the actual stadium.

  • Coal

    I think it is very interesting (telling, maybe) that the Rooftops and Tunney started by talking about concern for neighborhood safety, atmosphere, parking, police, etc. It proved tough to authentically make that point – since the buildings theselves are (now) grossly out of proportion and essentially squeeze in as many “all you can drink” customers inside up to (beyond?) fire code. The buildings seat hundreds each, yet none of them has any parking. So you’re basically putting thousands of extra drunk people on the streets after games.

    Now, it’s the contract. Perhaps after this one falters they’ll move to the landmark status building.

    Contract or no contract, the more high profile this gets the more the rooftops look like the bad guys here. They’d be smarter to stick to a non-public negotiating table, in my opinion. The public negotiating does not play to their strengths.

  • Dustin S

    It’s interesting that the rooftops included the quote on the landmark ordinance about not blocking the view. I’m sure the Cubs lawyers are all over this one though looking for loopholes (if they didn’t bury one in there). The play elsewhere idea could be a good one since it gets around the landmark clause, unless that was accounted for in the contract. The wording of this release makes it almost sound like it wasn’t and now the rooftops are worried. Hey rooftops, your sweep of the bleachers might not be blocked…but who’s to say there will actually be games there?

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