It’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.