Last night’s Lakeview/Wrigleyville community meeting, which included representatives from the Chicago Cubs as well as Alderman Tom Tunney, was largely uneventful. Per reports, folks were asked largely “meh” questions about normal neighborhood issues (well, “normal” for a neighborhood that is home to a major sports team), which is fine. It’s their neighborhood.
But Alderman Tunney addressed the time line for getting a deal approved, and essentially said having a deal in place by April 1 – the date by which the Ricketts Family has said it needs a deal in order to get construction going after the 2013 season – is not going to happen.
An annual neighborhood review of Wrigley Field Tuesday shed little light on potential changes to the ballpark, and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) says he won’t let a deal go through without the community seeing details — meaning a final deal is unlikely to happen by Monday as the Cubs had wished.
“I’m not sure we can all absorb this, certainly not without a very developed community process on the development plans,” Tunney said.
New ideas about hotel development, parking plans and signs won’t roll out until Wednesday’s Community Directed Development Council, a closed-door meeting Tunney holds with the local chambers of commerce, neighborhood representatives and development partners.
And while the Cubs wanted a deal by Monday — when the team opens its season in Pittsburgh — the final agreement will not be made at the Development Council meeting, Tunney said.
The alderman said any plans the team debuts behind closed doors must be presented to Lakeview’s neighborhood groups before Tunney introduced any ordinance changes the Cubs are seeking.
“We want to make sure that our community groups have a voice — not just the Ricketts family and the Cubs and their field,” he said.
My read on that is that the deal couldn’t really be approved until Wednesday at the earliest, anyway, so maybe the Monday deadline was always a bit soft. That said, I have no doubt that the Ricketts Family was quite serious about setting April 1 as the date by which they want to know that a deal is absolutely – pending mere formalities – going to get done.
Oddly, at the meeting, all sides acted as though everything was fine, and negotiations were simply proceeding as planned. That is very difficult to reconcile with the aggressive press release issued by the rooftops just hours before the meeting began. That release suggested that the rooftops were either being cut out of discussions or were simply standing pat on their offer to put advertising on the rooftop buildings. If either of those things is true, it’s hard to understand everyone at this meeting being so blasé. According to Dai, rooftop owner Beth Murphy expressed confidence that a deal would get done, and Cubs VP of Communications and Community Affairs Julian Green would say only that the sides are “working around the clock” to get a deal done.
So, what happens now? I think we’re going to find out when Monday comes and goes without a deal in place. All sides will be hounded by the media for statements, and we’re going to hear either that every side is still working on a deal and is confident a deal can get done (which is your signal that a deal is probably essentially done, but for some formalities), or that the Cubs are frustrated and are exploring their options.
If we hear that latter bit, then the conversation about the “threat to move” does change a fair bit. I still suspect actually moving out of Wrigley Field is not financially viable, but after being eminently reasonable for so long through years in this process, the Cubs are going to have to seriously consider alternative strategies.
Maybe the first threat is not moving permanently, but is moving home games to a non-Chicago location like Milwaukee for a couple years while the renovations are done (and the neighborhood suffers). We know the Cubs have seriously explored that option before, and we know that MLB would gladly support anything that gets the renovation done. Part of the reason the Cubs scrapped any plans to play games outside of Wrigley was because they felt it would be unsavory to receive public money and then provide revenue for another city while the renovations are done. Now that public money is off the table, it seems reasonable that the Cubs could bring the “play games elsewhere” back in play.
Are the rooftops, the city, and the neighborhood willing to go Cub-less for a couple seasons? Maybe that’s the best, first, credible threat.
Hopefully we don’t even get that far.
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