respect wrigleyIt’s not as though we haven’t discussed the financial side of Cubdom plenty this week, but the news comes when it comes …

The renovation of Wrigley Field, the attendant costs thereof, and the subsequent revenues therefrom, are still one of the three biggest stories in the Cubs’ world right now (together with the impending TV deal discussion, and the revamping of the organization from the ground up). Unfortunately, after City Council approved the bulk of the renovation plan – and the developments around Wrigley – we’ve heard very little in the way of actual progress toward a renovation. We’ve heard a peep here and there about delays, and about an unlikely start after this season. Here’s another peep.

The most recent delay – the one that probably put the final nail in the Cubs’ ability to get the renovations started this offseason (sigh) – has come in the form of the longstanding, and apparently still ongoing, dispute between the Cubs and the owners of the buildings that outline the outfield at Wrigley. The two sides have a revenue-sharing agreement for the next 10-ish years, and they have to sort out the impact of the two outfield signs the Cubs want to erect as part of the renovation. The Cubs want an agreement that the rooftops won’t sue as soon as the Cubs begin work, and the rooftops want to know that the signs won’t block their views.

We’ve been over this dance again and again, with the Cubs testing out signage to see how much blockage there would be, and the Cubs agreeing to bump out the outfield walls to diminish the impact of the signage. Obviously that hasn’t been enough for the rooftops, who’ve since suggested a patio extending over Sheffield, which would allow the right field sign to be even closer to the lower-portion of the rooftop buildings, thus eliminating any sightline obstructions. The Cubs countered with a larger patio that would cover much of that block of Sheffield (as a way to make up for the bridge they’d wanted over Clark, but lost in the public approval process).

Although the Sheffield patio sounded like a nice solution for all sides, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. The neighborhood feedback has been solidly opposed to the patio, and it would require political approval, since it was not part of the original renovation plan that was approved by City Council. And according to the Sun-Times, Alderman Tom Tunney will not be supporting the large patio deck, in large part because he’s not hearing the kind of community support he’d need to get on board (can’t really blame him if that’s the case – the patio would be essentially external to Wrigley, and would benefit only the Cubs and the rooftops).

So … what now? It’s hard to say.

Tom Ricketts acknowledged to Gordon Wittenmyer that, at this point, the renovation – specifically, the player facilities that were supposed to be in place for 2014 – is probably not going to start after this season. Cubs VP of Communication and Community Affairs Julian Green acknowledged to the Sun-Times that negotiations with the rooftops are not moving along right now. Indeed, for their part, the Cubs are holding open the possibility that they will simply erect the outfield signs without an agreement with the rooftops – something the Cubs say they have the right to do (there is some debate as to whether the Cubs/rooftops contract only limits the Cubs where the Landmarks Commission has not approved their changes … but the Landmarks Commission has approved these outfield signs). Green added that, with the offseason approaching, the time to start working with corporate partners is coming fast. I suppose that means there’s a possibility we’ll see a short-term sign going up in right field for 2014 (and probably an ensuing fight with the rooftops), even as the JumboTron in left field would not come for another year.

We continue to wait and see.

  • http://It'searly Mike F

    Let’s not get lost in a discussion of Landmarking, the National Trust for Historic preservation and the whole topic. None of that happens in a vacuum, the designated property owners at some point sought that. And that really isn’t and never has been the issue. It was always at a variety of levels from security to infrastructure improvements problematic with the city from the several Tribune attempts through now.

    Make no mistake, the Ricketts family has made some poor decisions in this and tired to work with people while Papa blew them out of the water. But all of that misses the point, Ricketts sees tremendous marketing value in being at the corner of C & A and has never seriously put anything else on the table. He really hasn’t negotiated well. He desperately, for whatever reason wants to be where he is and that is the fact. And unlike many municipalities that is a really bad place in terms of the table to be when dealing with the City of Chicago. Tom may be a victim indeed, and I stand up for him plenty but he’s put himself in this position.

    • Cubbie Blues

      No, they did not seek it out.
      “Agreeing to a landmarking of any kind, in our view, is a tremendous concession,” Cubs president Andy MacPhail said Friday, noting that no other major league park has such a designation.”
      It was a concession to extend the bleachers. It is also an issue because they have to gain approval if they want to pick their nose in a non-designated area. Let’s not forget the facts.

  • Die hard

    The sanctity of contract is protected by the Constitution — They can twist themselves into a pretzel trying to avoid it but will always be there to smack them in the forehead– landmark status or any other political shenanigans is not worth spit up against the contract

    • MichiganGoat

      Okay lawyers your up… I’m assuming he’s referring to the “contract clause” which from my limited understanding applies to state legislation not private entities.

      • Cubtucky

        You’re correct. The constitution has nothing to do with contracts. In fact, the entire notion that contracts are somehow unbreakable is a fallacy. One of the first things you learn in law school is that the law favors dissolution of a contract when the economic benefit of breach outweighs the benefit of continuing the contract. Contracts are not now — nor have they ever been — intended as inviolable indentures. Most contracts spell that out by having a buyout clause. I’m sure there is one in the Cubs deal with the rooftops, too.

        • DarthHater

          There is a difference between a contractual agreement between two parties and the legal framework for enforcing such an agreement. The Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution provides that “No State shall . . . pass any . . . Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts[.]” That provision relates to the legal framework under state law for enforcing contractual agreements, but it has little or no direct impact on the parties to a private contract.

          In general, there is nothing in the law that directly prevents a party from breaching a contractual obligation. But if you do, certain legal consequences will follow. For example, the other party may be able to sue the breaching party for monetary damages or, in limited and exceptional circumstances, may be able to sue to compel specific performance—that is, to require the breaching party to go back and perform its contractual duties. The Contracts Clause of the Constitution restricts the ability of a state to tinker with the legal framework in a way that would enable anyone to breach contracts with complete impunity—i.e. with no legal consequences at all. The Framers included this restriction in the Constitution because they feared that, without it, state legislatures could be politically pressured into enacting laws that would undermine the predictability of contractual relationships, with very bad consequences for the nation’s economy.

          • DarthHater

            Oops. I was replying to the goat, not to you, Cubtucky. I don’t disagree with anything you said. 😛

  • Die hard

    If Ricketts wants 3.2 million attendance he needs to cut tkt prices by 33% at least until team ends a season over .500– Jumbotron is a fad soon to fade

  • http://It'searly Mike F

    You are flat out wrong. Reread what Andy said…. agreeing is a concession. Anyway you take the active word is correct. They may have wanted not to, they may have disliked it, but clearly as a concession for what the hell ever they agreed to it. And Ricketts knew when he bought the team it was landmarked. It is a fact like many we may not like. It avoids the entire issue. Wrigley is a antiquated dump and the space is too cramped and too boxed in. But none of this is new and its a 100 year old problem, so let’s just quit acting like this is something new and the cubs are victims. They should have seriously considered moving long ago, not because it is a landmarked site, but because it is a dump in a place with wind conditions and restrictions, which more than any artificial salary considerations has led to a drought in winning for over a 100 years.

    Rail away, I have no love loss for the Chicago political structure, but it, the historic problems, landmarking and all the rest were well known. Ricketts chose to buy the cubs, Ricketts has made the choice to keep Kenney, and Ricketts has chosen to take the tact he has in negotiating with them. To somehow bury our heads in the sand and act as though he is a victim on this is just plain dumb. I think he’s been treated very unfairly recently on aspect of this team in the media, but Wrigley is a mess entirely of his own making. He should have long ago seriously looked at more realistic modern choices for relocating the team. He didn’t, because there is some obvious marketing value to C & A.

    • Cubbie Blues

      They agreed because, well, look at the politics involved in all of this.

      Ricketts bought because he was a diehard fan. Who among us, if we had the money, wouldn’t buy the team, warts and all.

      “but Wrigley is a mess entirely of his own making” What? He bought the franchise with the warts because he loved the Cubs and wanted to take it over and make it work. You yourself pointed to the reason why moving is not an option. Nobody is “sticking their head in the sand” we are (or at least I am) a realist and acknowledge where we are in this and it isn’t pretty, but we are, where we are. We are in a financial struggle with imposed debt and a political quagmire (I can’t believe I spelled that correctly). Ricketts didn’t create the mess, he is trying to get us out of it.

  • http://It'searly Mike F

    Look at it this way. Go take your significant owner to look at a house and they negotiate with the seller while your partner tells the seller they can’t live another without buying the house. See what happens.

    • Cubbie Blues

      It really makes it hard to see what you are responding to without you hitting the “Reply” button.

  • http://It'searly Mike F

    Well, I don’t know about the he bought it because he is a fan, that is to play out. I’m not one of the extremist who think he’s an evil profit monster. In fact I think profit is a good thing. And I think a lot of people have jumped to extreme conclusions the last two days on the baseball management side. But while he is a fan, I think it is naive at best to assume he bought the team because he is a fan. His family are major investment banking people. He has I believe a MBA from the University of Chicago and is an investment banker. Let’s not delude ourselves that he some benevolent rube who the pols have taken advantage of somehow.

    I’m not against him, but let’s be clear, Kenney, the people he has on the business side and the strategy they have employed with the City has been disastrous. Lot’s of developers find a way to work through the maize of crap the City does. Tom is not a victim, he could walk away and change the dynamic in a number of ways, they made mistakes that play into this and make themselves victims of their own making. Part of it is the baseball side too. You can’t sell marketing, the City and even fans on what is increasingly rightly or wrongly being perceived as a small market major league roster strategy. Tom himself in the one clear message the last two days said the problem with major league roster is they aren’t exciting. Baseball is an industry based on exciting players, and at time when you want so many to buy in, what they have done at the major league level may need to be rethought.

    Other teams in major markets work with tough cities too, The victimizing of the Cubs has plenty of self induced gunshot wounds in the foot.

  • http://permalink papad1945

    Tom has no balls. It’s time to move on and relocate in the burbs. The taxpayers built a ballpark on the Southside. What do the rooftop owner’s think the neighborhood would be like without the Cubs. Tom needs to tell teach them the facts of life.

  • lukers63

    The most disappointing part of this season to me has not been the product on the field, but the ongoing battle with renovations. I love Wrigleyville and want the Cubs to stay at Wrigley, but as more and more time goes by, I want the Cubs to leave so Tunney and the rooftops can be left with their collective d***s in their hands.

  • wilbur

    Tom Ricketts is a cubs fan, he met his wife in the bleachers; that maybe his biggest disadvantage in this whole process.

    At a certain point, the owners of the red sox reached the conclusion that they would have been better off moving the team from fenway. Unfortunately for them, they reached that point after they had started the renovations and were too far in to change course.

    The Ricketts haven’t reached that point, yet. They haven’t even started construction yet, wait until they get into that stage. So, I’m not saying they should move, but I would front load all the concessions, signage, permits, etc before lifting a shovel. Or, maybe they should just plan on a lesser rehab for 10 or twenty years and then plan on moving the team to a greater facility. The Olympic proposal for chicago was going to use a temporary stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies, they could use something like that for a few years and then leave, and repurpose the property. Restoration is more expensive than renovation, which is more than rebuilding, which is more than replacement, which is more than, well you know.

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  • Scotti

    “The Cubs countered with a larger patio that would cover almost that entire block of Sheffield”

    I get that Tunney and The Sun Times refer to the patio this way but that is completely and utterly incorrect. The Cub version of the patio doesn’t even cover half of the stadium much less “almost the entire block.” The Cub version is basically double the length of the rooftop version and that includes the bump out for the walkway to the El.

    The Cub version can be seen here:

    Clearly there is plenty of street both before and after the patio.

    • Pat

      That’s just a drawing. You have no idea what the specs on the submitted plan are. And it’s a terrible drawing at that, given that something that looks to be 100 feet long at least somehow only casts 20 feet of shadow/darkness, and apparently doesn’t need any rear support columns. The Wrigley renovation drawings didn’t include the jumbotron or additional advertising – but that doesn’t mean they weren’t part of the plan.

      • Scotti

        There is a portion of the patio that goes almost the length of the ballpark (clearly not all of Sheffield). That does NOT cross Sheffield but does go over the sidewalk on the west side of the street. The portion that DOES cross is limited (from where the sign will be as the northern part and down south to the east/west alleyway that goes to the El).

        Here’s the sign:

        Google “Wrigley Field, West Addison Street, Chicago, IL” and you can clearly see this is nowhere near most of Sheffield.

        Neither the Cub, nor rooftop, proposals have gone anywhere north of that in respect to crossing the street. The Cubs only extension of the rooftop plan was SOUTH to accommodate the “people mover” from the El at the alleyway. Anything else is either made up or conjecture. It is simply in Tunney’s interest to confuse people on this since he personally stands to lose money if people don’t visit the establishments that he is part owner of in the area.

        “Business owners also worried that a walkway would cost them some customers, with fans taking the walkway instead of walking down Addison, sources said.”

    • Losing makes u better 62-100 > 75-87

      Tunney is an idiot. He wants to patio above Sheffield but he won’t let cubs have their bridge above Clark street. Bc people will throw beer on the street supposedly. Clown Tunney needs to get replaced. The ricketts should buy the guy who beats Tunney in the next election for alderman so we don’t have up deal with the same stupidity of Tunney and can get things approve at a faster pace. #chicagopolitics

      • Scotti

        Tunney is a businessman. He wants foot traffic visiting his establishments. The notion of such a businessman making these decisions certainly calls into question the impropriety of it all, but he isn’t an idiot.

        • Losing makes u better 62-100 > 75-87

          I understand why didn’t want the bridge but the guy is a hypcrite.

          • Scotti

            Hypocrite, Yes. Idiot, No.

        • caryatid62

          Tom Tunney doesn’t own any businesses within a mile of Wrigley field. His personal business interests don’t connect at all.

          • Scotti

            Wrong. Tunney owns Ann Sather’s on Southport and that is 0.6 miles per Bing. The restaurants all around Wrigley (not just the neighboring few blocks) do significantly better business when the Cubs are in town (and especially when the Cubs are playing day games).

            So his personal business interest DO connect with Wrigley.

            • caryatid62

              That Ann Sather closed.

            • caryatid62

              Furthermore, every study has shown that businesses more than .25 miles away from a stadium see zero noticeable positive economic impact. (see “Sport and Public Policy,” Santo and Mildner, “Professional SPorts and Catalysts for Metropolitan Economic Development,” Baade, “Analysis of Sports Facilities and Events,” Crompton, “Sports, Jobs and Taxes: the Economic Impact of Professional Sports Teams and Stadiums,” Noll and Zimbalist)

              • caryatid62

                That should read “positive OR negative economic impact.”

              • Pat

                But the narrative is so much more entertaining than the actual facts.

  • Die hard

    Follow this bouncing ball– no court will allow landmark status or tax breaks or zoning changes or any other state/county/city govt action to void the terms of the contract–such legislative actions do not give Ricketts excuse to bail claiming that the circumstances are now different by such govt actions– the framers of the constitution were afraid that govt. in power would favor one party over another which is what Ricketts intends to use as a basis for erecting the Jumbotron –the contract clause prohibits this— sorry no sale

    • DarthHater

      Government cannot legislatively void a contract, but contracting parties can build future legislative actions into their contractual agreements. None of us knows exactly what the Cubs-rooftops contract says. Some have reported that the language of the agreement allows the Cubs to erect any signage that is approved by the city council. If the rooftops agreed to that, then it would not be remotely unconstitutional for courts to enforce that agreement.

      One thing is certain, however. If the matter ever goes before a court, the judge–unlike certain other people–will actually read the contract before forming an opinion.

      • Pat

        To be fair, the fact that they are even worried about it (and since they have claimed they can’t proceed unless they are guaranteed no lawsuits, they obviously have concerns) makes it pretty clear the language is not all that clear in their favor.

        I don’t think the delay on the start of renovations has anything to do with worries about lawsuits from the rooftops. I’d be willing to bet a fair amount that it’s because they haven’t gotten the sponsorship interest they anticipated. Despite the belief they are putting their own money on the line, it’s far more likely they are depending on sponsorship agreements for the upfront cash to get things started.

      • Die hard

        Now you sound like Fox News ” some say” and thus it’s true– if the rooftops agreed as you suggested then they deserve the Jumbotron– if the contract was silent on signage then you go to whether the Jumbotron will defeat the purpose of the contract which was to allow the rooftops an unobstructed view to offer their patrons– if the contract prohibited obstructing the view then it doesn’t matter what the city council allowed — sorry no sale

        • DarthHater

          I didn’t say it’s true, I expressly said, and I quote, for the benefit of your utterly vacuous and deliberately blindered mind: “None of us knows exactly what the Cubs-rooftops contract says.”

          As for your limp-logic excuse for a counter-argument, being “silent on signage” and “allow[ing] the rooftops an unobstructed view” are not the only possibilities. Among the other possibilities is the possibility that the rooftops may have agreed in the contract that the Cubs can erect signs if they are approved by the city.

          P.S. Those markings on the interior wall of your large intestine are not the language of the contract.

          • turn two

            Name calling or the pictures, can we just have an adult debate here?

            • DarthHater


              • mjhurdle

                well said.

            • Die hard

              To do so need adults on both sides — if the contract allowed the Cubs to put up a Jumbotron then why didn’t Ricketts do so from day one? Was he less desperate then to raise revenues so didn’t want to challenge contract? On the other hand it appears that the contract may be silent or else there wouldn’t be so much back and forth now in the media in which case the issue is whether blocking the view will destroy what the rooftops bargained for assuming their view will be blocked significantly… If not blocked significantly but they lose revenues then there still could be an action for damages — as I stated before Ricketts can agree to make up any net loss using avg since contract started as baseline which would be fair if view blocked significantly