One of the more visible and vocal rooftop owners during the ongoing Wrigley Field renovation/funding fiasco is Beth Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Bleachers. She was in attendance at Tuesday’s neighborhood meeting about the renovation, and suggested that she believed a deal will eventually get done. The comments stood in stark contrast to an angry press release issued by the rooftops, which, to me, suggested that they’d been abandoned by their political allies or cut out of the negotiations entirely.
In an interview with Chet Coppock posted to NoozeBox.com, Murphy confirmed that, indeed, the rooftop owners have been cut out of the negotiations. From Murphy’s perspective, Alderman Tom Tunney – whom she cautions is not merely in the pocket of the rooftops – is hopefully representing the rooftops’ interests (together with the rest of the neighborhood) in the negotiations with the Cubs and the City. In other words, that press release was as much a plea to Tunney (by way of trying to sway his constituents and public opinion) as to anyone.
That the rooftops do not currently have a seat at the negotiating table doesn’t necessarily mean that the Cubs are planning to block them out of existence – or could even if they wanted to. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that the negotiations have gotten any easier. Presumably, Tunney is still representing the rooftop interests in those negotiations, and maybe it’s for the best that the Cubs and the rooftops are essentially negotiating through an intermediary. Then it’s just business.
I think it’s fair to guess, however, that, if the Cubs/rooftop contract was absolutely iron-clad with respect to the Cubs not being able to block any rooftop views under any circumstances, it would be impossible to not have them at the negotiating table throughout this process. (Murphy told Coppock that she wishes the rooftops and other neighborhood associations were allowed to be involved in the negotiations, directly, meaning that the fact that they are currently excluded is not by their own choice.) In other words, the agreement – as we’ve suspected based on comments from those who have seen it, and from the reluctance of the rooftop owners to talk about the contract language – probably has some flabby provisions in it, and there’s room for the Cubs to maneuver. That’s probably the primary reason that the rooftops are relying on Tunney and the political process so extensively, rather than on their own contractual rights.
In the interview, Murphy says the rooftops are sticking to their offer to place advertising on the rooftop buildings and give that revenue to the Cubs, rather than to allow the Cubs to place advertising in Wrigley Field, which might block the rooftop views. She believes the Cubs should honor their agreement with the rooftops, and Coppock goes so far as to suggest that, if the Cubs were to move out of Wrigley Field, that would be a breach of the agreement with the rooftops (I’d imagine that’s going to rile some of you up, though it might technically be true).
A deal remains virtually impossible by Monday, the Cubs’ self-imposed deadline, but hopefully we’ll learn that day or soon thereafter that a deal is close. The Cubs wouldn’t let that date slide without a significant change in approach unless a deal was legitimately close, in the sense that it’s just a matter of procedural requirements before the deal can be announced. That is all to say: I still suspect that, by the end of next week, we’re going to have a good sense of what direction things are going to go.
[Disclosure: Some of the rooftops advertise on BN, but that has not affected the way I've covered this ongoing story.]