respect wrigleyOn City Council’s approval of the Wrigley Field renovation and development plan yesterday, my response was more of relief and guarded happiness, rather than all-out celebration. That relief and happiness was legitimate: the largest political hurdle in this process has been cleared, and if the last six months (hell, the last two and a half years) have demonstrated anything you didn’t already know, clearing political hurdles in Chicago is always something to relish.

The reason there was no all-out celebration yesterday, however, is that there are still things to work out. Important things. Difficult things. Rooftop-y things.

To wit: the Cubs are making certain emphasize that, although they now have the approvals necessary to proceed with the renovation, before they will order a single shovel, they need certainty about what’s going to happen with respect to the rooftop buildings. As you know, the rooftop buildings are home to businesses that sell tickets to watch Cubs games from their rooftops. Those business have a revenue-sharing agreement with the Cubs, which lasts through the 2023 season, and which pays the Cubs 17% of the gross revenue the rooftops receive.

Those rooftops have opposed the Cubs’ efforts to erect outfield signs from the first suggestion of such signs earlier this year, for fear that the signs would put them out of business. Partly in deference to the rooftop partners, the Cubs agreed to put up only two signs at this time – a large video board in left field, and an advertising sign in right field – and agreed to strategically locate the signs so as impact the rooftops as little as possible. From there, the Cubs also agreed to “bump out” the outfield walls at Wrigley Field to further reduce the impact on rooftop sight lines, and even went to the lengths of testing the proposed signage with mock ups so that everyone could see just how much the views would be impacted.

By all appearances, the Cubs have done a great deal of accommodating throughout this process. And they are willing to do even more accommodating so long as they have certain assurances.

Contrary to earlier reports, the Cubs have not yet agreed to a 10-year moratorium on outfield signs beyond the two already-approved signs. Instead, the Cubs have offered that they will agree to such a moratorium only if the following conditions are met, as indicated in a statement by Tom Ricketts: no threat of litigation by the rooftops, the strict enforcement of existing rooftop ordinances by the City, and long-term certainty regarding the Cubs’ ability to control outfield signage.

In other words, if the Cubs are going to forgo any additional signs over the next 10 years (even though the Landmarks Commission has already approved a Master Sign Program that allows the Cubs to add additional signs), they want to know for certain that the rooftops won’t sue when the video board and right field sign are erected. The Cubs also want to know that current ordinances will be followed, and want to know that, after the 10-year moratorium, they will be able to operate their business as they see fit.

And, until these issues are resolved, the renovation will not begin.

I can understand the rooftops’ presumed position here. They’re fighting for the life of their business, and probably fear that the best offer they’re getting is a 10-year stay on death row, after which, the switch is flicked. When the future of your business is on the line, you fight. I get it.

And I would understand frustration by fans whose instinct is to say, “fine, the Cubs can’t put up the outfield signs yet, but they can start renovating the player facilities now. Why don’t they just start that?” You’re right. The Cubs technically could start those parts of the renovations immediately.

But, look at this this from the Ricketts Family’s perspective. After abandoning their request for public assistance in financing the renovation (assistance that would have come from the taxes imposed on Cubs tickets), the Ricketts Family offered to pay for the whole thing themselves so long as they were afforded the ability to generate new revenues to pay for the renovation. It wouldn’t make much sense for the Ricketts Family to now start writing checks for the renovation when two of the primary revenue-generators (the outfield signs) are imperiled by legal action. You can disagree with this position, but I can’t say it’s unreasonable. Even for the very wealthy, $500 million is a whole lot of money. And everyone has a budget.

The rooftop contract runs for 10 more years, and the Cubs are ostensibly working hard to ensure that the contract is fulfilled. Indeed, they have reportedly suggested a plan that would create an overhang over Sheffield – potentially even creating a pathway to the Red Line L stop behind the rooftops – to place the right field advertising sign so that it would not impact rooftop views on that side of the ballpark. There are logistical issues with the plan, including what compensation would be owed to the City, if any, for taking additional public space, and what public process such a plan would need to go through. It is likely one of many ideas, but it underscores the lengths to which the Cubs appear to be going to preserve the rooftops’ business while still serving the organization’s need for additional revenue.

Hopefully there’s some kind of compromise here.

The unnerving part? If the rooftop issues take too long to resolve, or if the modified right field sign plan takes too long to be approved, the Cubs could lose *another* year of construction. No one wants to see that happen, and, if it does, I’d think the Cubs would have to start considering alternative arrangements like looking into playing a season or two, or parts of seasons, away from Wrigley Field to speed up the renovation process once it begins. I doubt that would be very good for rooftop business, so it’s not as if the Cubs are the only entity with something to lose by a delay.

Yesterday’s City Council approval was very important, but it wasn’t the final step in getting the renovation underway. Much of the political wrangling is now over. Now it’s time for the business wrangling. Fingers are crossed.

Disclosure: BN previously had an advertising relationship with some of the rooftops. Neither that prior relationship, nor any subsequent change in the status of that relationship, has impacted the way I’ve covered this ongoing story.

  • bbmoney

    That disclosure is interesting to me. But I imagine it should be left there.

  • TulaneCubs

    To me, this is an interesting change in position from the Cubs. Their previous communications seemed to be one of total confidence that the rooftop owners had little to no legal ground to stand on. The fact that they’re including the rooftop owners refraining from a lawsuit as a condition of them rebuilding the stadium seems to me to show a huge step down in confidence. Maybe they think they’ll eventually win the lawsuit, but that a court will order an injunction impeding the building? Just seems like an odd position change on this subject from the Cubs standpoint.

    • MichiganGoat

      Even if their legal position is ironclad it doesn’t mean the rooftops can keep everything tied up in litigation for years- that’s the fear. Rooftops could keep the signs blocked while litigation happens, it’s time for the Cubs to get aggressive with deadlines and consequences. Like: If we don’t have these assurances by this date we will have to do XYZ (all of which will cost the rooftop and coummunity revenue). This dance has gone on long enough

    • Kevin

      The Cubs are playing hardball off the field.

    • Coop

      I’m not sure it demonstrates in lack of confidence in their legal position. The reality is that a lawsuit (regardless of how likely the Cubs are to win – and I believe they still feel they have a strong position) is going to represent a serious time commitment. This is what the Cubs want to avoid – being tied up in court for many months/years, waiting for legal resolution before they can proceed. Even if they are 100% sure they would win in litigation, it is still far better to avoid that process.

      • Michael

        I see this announcement as a grand argument…

        Essentially they’re putting the future of the entire project and possibly the future of the organization in its current location on the rooftop owners.

        If the rooftop owners hold this up or make it unenviable for the Cubs to want to fool with it, the rooftops will take the brunt of all the blame from a public who, for the most part, think they’ve been getting away with too much from the Cubs as it is.

        The owners will have to craft a carefully worded response to the Cubs…I think they just took a publicity punch in the face.

  • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

    If Edwin rates a #3 starter then Miquel would be a steal at 11 mil or less

    • King Jeff

      That’s a fairly bold claim for someone that you’ve likely never seen pitch, and definitely haven’t seen pitch against high level competition.

  • King Jeff

    If the Cubs did decide that they had to play away from Wrigley for a year or two, would they then owe the rooftop owners those lost seasons?

    • Spencer

      I would say probably yes, at least something.

      • Kevin

        If the Cubs signed a deal like that then its their own fault.

        • Jay

          Yet another idiotic move by Crane Kenney in a long line of them. How that guy still has an office at Wrigley Field mystifies me.

    • dash

      I’d hope not.

  • sdcoddi

    Thanks for covering this for us! Sounds like you lost an advertising partner over some of this stuff (based off your disclosure change). Unfortunately, that’s how it goes sometimes…can’t please everyone. Keep up the good work here on the site!

  • Spencer

    *Previously* had an advertising relationship with some of the rooftops?

    • hansman1982

      I noticed that as well (along with the disclosure missing from a few previous Renovation updates),

  • MichiganGoat

    Well I say we get it approved and then play our home games somewhere else next year. That will really piss off the rooftops and Tunney. A whole year with no revenue from the Cubs for Wrigleyville should show the neighborhood why they need Wrigley around.

    • Cubs Fan in STL

      If they cannot put the signs up until 2023, I’d like to think the Cubs will then line the entire outfield and make it so the entire Rooftop Association is punished for Tunney and Murphy.

      • King Jeff

        By then, their contract will be up, and I’m sure that ownership will have all of the complaints, threatened lawsuits, and failed negotiations with Tunney stored in their memory when it comes time to either re-negotiate, or cut them out of the deal altogether.

  • dash

    That would be a great response to the Rooftops and Tunney… You’re making things difficult at every turn? OK, well thanks to you we’re gonna have to shut down Wrigley for AN ENTIRE YEAR!

  • ETS

    Why does it feel like someday there will be a book called, “How the Rooftops Killed Wrigley and How Rosemont Ended a 106 Year Drought”?

  • Cubs Fan in STL

    I’d love to see the Cubs, if for no other reason than to screw the rooftops, play the entire renovation seasons elsewhere. Then the rooftops can keep their 83% of 0 ticket sales. I bet they’d be willing to negotiate then…

    • Chris84

      I remember reading somewhere that said that if the Cubs played a season elsewhere, the rooftops would sue them for breech of contract.

      • Cubs Fan in STL

        I would like to see the contract. I’d be surprised if the itstated the Rooftops Association being owed anything for games played outside of Wrigley.

      • ssckelley

        I would love to see where in the contract is says this. If so you would think the roof top owners could sue the Cubs for not fielding a competitive team. If the Cubs did have to play outside of Wrigley they would lose revenue as well.

        What the rooftop owners need to realize with this new ownership they will end up making more money in the long run. I am sure the renovations will lead to an All Star game (which would be a hot ticket item) and in 2015 when the Cubs are competitive those seats will be much easier to sell, not to mention if they get back to the playoffs and World Series.

  • TWC

    “Disclosure: BN >previously< had an advertising relationship with some of the rooftops."

    That's interesting.

    • Spencer

      Welcome to seven minutes ago.

      • TWC

        Yours was a question. Mine was a declarative statement.

        • Spencer

          That’s true. Totes different.

      • MichiganGoat

        Cali time is always 7 minutes behind

    • Spencer

      More interesting to me is that the Disclaimer went away altogether for a while.

    • DarthHater

      The interesting question is not whether any advertising relationship has affected Brett’s coverage of the story (it obviously hasn’t), but how Brett’s coverage of the story may have affected the advertising relationship.

      • TWC

        That’s the direction my thoughts went, too.

      • Spencer

        I don’t think we’re gonna get an answer.

        • DarthHater

          We could just make up an answer and start discussing it. If Brett then deletes our conversation, we’ll know we were onto something. 😛

          • butlerdawgs

            There’s gotta be a good conspiracy theory in there somewhere.

    • Jp3

      “That’s f’n interesting man, that’s f’n interesting”

  • auggie55

    That’s exactly what the rooftop owners deserve out of all of this – a year without revenue because of the Cubs playing somewhere else. I’d really have to laugh at Beth Murphy on that one.

  • cubchymyst

    “…strict enforcement of existing rooftop ordinances by the City.”

    I wonder if the rooftops have been violating some city ordinance.

    • Polar Bear

      This was also my thinking. It seems that they may have not been following the agreement.

      • Kevin

        I believe it’s simply “don’t put advertising on the rooftops”

  • Cory

    Off topic Giants release Hunter Strickland good #s in high A another piece for the scrap pile?

    • ssckelley

      Not released but designated for assignment, which means the Giants are simply clearing 40 man roster space. For the Cubs to claim him they would need to open a spot on their 40 man to get him. I think we are going to see less and less of these types of transactions as the talent the Cubs are getting is going to make each spot on the 40 man roster extremely valuable.

  • Jon

    This wouldn’t even be an issue if Clown Kenney never signed that ridiculous contract with the Rooftop owners. Why did Ricketts retain this idiot?

    • Kevin

      That’s a riddle for the ages!

  • Tom A.

    Because he signed the contract. Once suit issue gone, he will be expendable.

  • RIch

    The players facilities are so sub-par that regardless of new revenue streams, that needs to be addressed regardless of a jumbo-tron..

  • RIch

    I always wondered if the dimensions are remotely feasible for the Cubs to play at Soldier’s Field for 1 season..if they wanted to renovate sooner…( of course playing at the Cell or Brewers could be arranged I would think )…

    but a full season with no Wrigley crowds may really alter the reality of the roof tops..

    • hansman1982

      probably as well as this:


      • hansman1982

        dangit, that’s supposed to be baseball at the LA Colliseum

  • CubsFanSaxMan


  • cubzforlife

    The plan that was discussed last year was April/may games in Milwaukee has to be a stadium with a roof, no rainouts. I think this was going to take 3 years. Or two years at The Cell. This was a serious plan, Crane Kenney told me at a Season Ticket holder event. They would probably extend rooftop deal for comp? Ricketts needs to have Rahm turn loose city inspectors on all the rooftops. Food prep, elevators, fences too tall, too short not strong enough. I was shocked to read what Ricketts had to say. I was sure they had a deal. I was wrong. He sure sounds pissed. He never seems to show much emotion. Anyone local try and make K Woods fundraiser at Wrigley. Wiffleball. I’m gonna wear my BN shirt there. Been saving it.

    • cubfanincardinalland

      You are correct. Pick up the paper and it’s congratulations all around. Politicians doing what they do, patting themselves on the back. We delivered. Rahm and the council can now say we gave them what they wanted.
      Reality, there is no deal. Not even close. And the likelihood of one is slim. I view the process as one more step for the Cubs to head on down the road. The other siblings are livid with where this has gone. Owners of the rooftops just flat out taunting the Cubs. Now Tom is starting to see that this is a cluster eff from the get go.
      Read the statement, how does anybody come up with a done deal from what Ricketts said? If anything, they now have their out. We wanted to do the project, but are hands were tied. Which is pretty much the truth.

  • Ivy Walls

    If I were the Cubs I would buy a minority stake in the best location on either field and then devalue each other.

    There might be some value to the club operations having a few roof tops owned by the Cubs.

  • Tom A.

    If the Cuba are surprised by politics, then they are naive. Yea, Tunney is a liar and rooftop owners are strealing scum. But, for Cubs to not expect politics is bad. Now, they news to play politics too. Get MLB to help !

    For example, MLB could not agree to the deal unless the Cubs show that they can financially support the arrangement and remain team competitive. Heck with all Cub debt, they surely could support deal rejection on that reason alone. Cubs need to show that they must have sufficient revenue sources and what if they can’t given signage limits.

    Come-on Cubs give them nasty politics back.

    I would love to see Tunney and Rahm explain to others that the Cubs deal was screwed up. Hope Wrigleyville tars and feathers Tunney !!!.

    Cubs are just being too nice.

  • Tman

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I never understood why the Cub ownership and the rooftops haven’t been able to establish a better working relationship than they have.
    Right now the Cubs owners have more leverage than ever before. Certainly this is a good opportunity to renegotiate.
    Instead of a percentage of the gross, why not just number the seats on the rooftops like any other section in the park and basically allow the cubs to get a fixed amount per person per ticket? If the rooftops want to have a private party, the group has to buy up all the tickets, or whatever, something could be worked out.

    Seems like it could be easy enough to enforce. The Cubs could just look across the street and count heads and see if it matches what the rooftop reported. Put in the agreement if the rooftops cheat, they get fined heavily.
    I mean really, the Cubs could sell seats that they don’t have to maintain, issue rain checks for, or insure. They could just sit back, count heads, and count money.

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