Although the Chicago Cubs and the rooftop owners may be at something of any impasse in their negotiations to get the Wrigley Field renovation underway, it sounds like the Mayor’s Office is getting three lingering issues out the way for the Cubs.
First, there has long been a question of how the City of Chicago would be compensated for the Cubs taking public land to bump out the outfield walls at Wrigley as part of the renovation project. Doing so will allow the Cubs to increase Wrigley’s footprint (without having to move), and is expected to decrease the impact of the new outfield signs on the visibility into the park from the neighboring rooftops.
According to a Sun-Times report, that compensation has been determined as something akin to “time served.” That is to say that the Cubs will not be paying anything additional for that property, beyond the $4.75 million they’ve already committed to local community projects. That decision comes from the Mayor’s Office, and word of it comes from a “top mayoral aide.”
Second, the Mayor will push for a tweak to the night game ordinance that increased the Cubs’ total night game allotment to a maximum of 46 games in a given season. The original version of the ordinance gave the City the right to control rescheduling of rainouts, and when certain national games could be night events. The Cubs opposed that language immediately, and it sounds like they’ll be getting their way.
Finally, the Cubs will be getting their street fairs. Remember them? Long-discussed (and then quietly not discussed) as one of the revenue-generating pillars of the renovation, the Cubs would like to be able to hold street festivals on Sheffield Avenue during weekend home games. They will now get that right, between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
These items are expected to be introduced and approved at the October 16 City Council meeting. For more details on all of this, check out the Sun-Times report.
Interestingly, in return for these items, it sounds like the Mayor’s Office expects that the Cubs will begin construction in earnest by November, although the anonymous source indicated that the Mayor’s Office wants the Cubs and the rooftops to work out their differences, too. Recall, the Cubs have resisted doing any major construction work until they know for certain that the rooftops will not sue when construction begins, and until they know what will happen to their outfield rights when the rooftop contract ends in 2024.
It always made you wonder: the Cubs wanted assurances from the rooftops that they wouldn’t sue once construction began, but the Cubs may not have had any meaningful leverage to hold over the rooftops (“Don’t sue when we put up those outfield signs you hate, or else, um, we … won’t put them up?”). The Cubs had, at one time, threatened to go ahead and put up the outfield signs anyway, but nothing seemed to come after that suggestion. So, what was the whole dance about? Well, it’s fair to now wonder whether the Cubs were actually hoping someone else – like, say, the Mayor’s Office? – would put pressure on the rooftops not to sue, and would clear other paths for the Cubs to begin renovations.
Whether that’s true or it has been/will be successful are things I don’t know. Indeed, these movements by the Mayor’s Office could be wholly unrelated.
What we know, according to the Sun-Times report, is that the Cubs now have certainty that they will owe no additional compensation to the City, their issues with the night game ordinance, as passed, will be fixed, and they will get their street fairs.
So, will there be renovation action by November? The Mayoral source’s comment notwithstanding, the Cubs – by way of VP of Communications and Community Affairs Julian Green – still say no, not until they get the assurances they need from the rooftops. That hasn’t happened yet, and we haven’t even hear about much in the way of negotiations in weeks.
Things could get interesting, politically, once again in November.