respect wrigleyIf you’d told me a couple weeks ago that I’d soon be writing a headline including the words “Wrigley Renovation,” “Rooftops,” and “Lawsuit,” I would have groaned audibly and feared the worst.

In this instance, we’re not at “the worst,” because the referenced lawsuit actually has nothing to do with the rooftops. Of course, lawsuits are rarely a good thing.

The owner of some apartments on the west side of the ballpark, west of where the proposed hotel will be built, has filed suit against the City of Chicago and the entities that are behind the development (not the Cubs ballclub, itself, but the various LLCs that are involved in the renovation/development project – for all practical purposes, and as far as I know, we’re talking about the owners of the Cubs).

The suit, which you can read here (via Crain’s), alleges that the City did not have authority to pass the ordinance permitting the hotel construction both on constitutional grounds and because the original planned development for that site had expired at the time of the ordinance. The plaintiff, Thomas Romano, seeks an injunction stopping construction of the hotel (construction hasn’t yet started), and damages in excess of $6 million (that appears to be a perfunctory ask, given that nothing has actually happened yet).

*OBLIGATORY I AM NOT A LAWYER COMMENT* While I am no longer a practicing attorney, my uneducated look at the complaint suggests that what we have here is a pretty simple case of a business that fears it will be harmed by something coming down the pipeline, and, having not succeeded in stopping said thing, is now turning to the last refuge of the courts. That is not a comment on the merits of the complaint (the constitutional claim seems thin, but I can’t speak to the planned development expiration claim), or a direct suggestion that the lawsuit is a mere attempt to get the Cubs/City to throw the plaintiff a little money to get him to go away. In the end, however, if the best argument is that the Ricketts Family/the City didn’t follow the proper procedure in getting this particular development approved, the solution will be … following the proper procedure. In other words, with plenty of time to get the hotel construction going, I have a hard time seeing this particular suit causing any significant problems (though it will undoubtedly be a pain in the ass, as most litigation is). The Ricketts Family owns the property, and the City has said they can do with it what they want.

A Cubs spokesman said the organization is reviewing the lawsuit, but has no comment at this time.

The news on the rooftops side of things might be slightly more positive. Speaking with Crain’s Greg Hinz, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he still believes the Cubs and the rooftops will figure out something that works, since it is in everyone’s self-interest to get a deal done. Recall, the Cubs refuse to begin the renovation process in earnest until they know that the grim specter of a lawsuit from the rooftops is not hanging over their heads. On that item, the Mayor said encouragingly that, despite the appearance that the two sides have dug in and are not currently speaking, there actually are talks ongoing between the Cubs and the rooftops.

Talks, alone, are encouraging at this point, but it’s even more encouraging that the Mayor – who recently helped push positive resolutions for the Cubs on smaller outstanding issues – seems to be looped into the talks. He’s got as much interest as anyone in getting the (privately-funded) renovation underway, and I’d think his efforts to push, should he be inclined to do so, would help things along.

  • praying the cubs get ready to win

    The Cubs should make a deal with the rooftops, trade them some sort of revenue. The Cubs in return take over the properties. Extend the bleachers over the streets using the park side for the extended bleachers. Under the new bleachers, the Cubs can finally host lots of activities like Theo, Jed and Ricketts want. Before tearing the roofs down, maybe the Cubs make use of the buildings, maybe they advertise all over all the buildings. My thoughts on a resolution and add revenue to the Cubs and expand Cub seating.

  • Josh t

    I hope cubs don’t Lock themselves in another contract with the rooftop owners or extend any deals

    • Josh t

      Cubs should wait till the rooftop contract is up in 2023 and then block view completely. Run the rooftops out of business and purchase them and collect 100% of the revenue

  • cubs2003

    I’m not a lawyer, businessperson, or politician-but to me this is a game of checkers more than chess. Maybe I’m being naive. There’s a contract with the rooftops that has to be honored or else a settlement has to be negotiated. The Cubs can fight in the margins for now. They should be putting their resources into ensuring that they can put up all the advertising they want when the contract with the rooftops is over. At which point, you make sure none of them get a view of the ballpark and are blocked by ads. Their property value then goes down and the Cubs can buy them for cheap. Then the Cubs take the ads down and can move them to the rooftops if they want. I’m sure I’m missing things, but that seems like the obvious plan to me. Work on in-field improvements for now and have some patience.

    • The Dude

      cubs2003, I don’t think it’s that simple. The rooftop owners won’t reach a settlement now that essentially lays the groundwork for their demise. As much as I’m frustrated with the process, they did make investments based on the contract with the Cubs. If I were in their position, I wouldn’t give in either. Money is money, and unfortunately for us fans, who have been lead to believe a higher payroll is directly tied to the advertising dollars received post-renovation, this fight will continue to piss us off (I assume). This mess is far from over, and it’s so damn frustrating because I do sympathize with the rooftops (to a degree), but I just want to see the end results!

      • cubs2003

        I’m not expecting the rooftops to roll over right now. I’m talking about after the contract is up in 2023 or whatever. At which point, the rooftops shouldn’t have any say in the matter.

  • Jason P

    So the next step in the process is essentially for the Cubs to strike a deal with the rooftops guaranteeing they won’t sue if their views are slightly obstructed when the signs are put up, am I correct?

    It’s very possible the rooftop owners haven’t considered this perspective, but here’s my take: wouldn’t it be best for them to strike a deal quickly so the renovations can get rolling? The sooner they strike a deal, the sooner the Cubs have maximum funds to allocate to baseball operations, and (presumably) the sooner they become competitive. From the rooftop owner’s perspective, I can guarantee you they’d make more money with a good Cubs team on the field and slightly obstructed views than a crappy team and clean views. If the Cubs get good, there’ll rarely be seats anywhere that go unsold.

    • Cheryl

      I don’t think the rooftop owners are interested in an improved ballpark and club even if there is a possibility of making more money. They have a contract and will ring every penny from that contract knowing full well that the cubs won’t renew the contract. So, the cubs don’t have much in the way of alternatives now. The cubs will have to play elsewhere for a year anyway. The renovations can probably only be done in good weather. So perhaps that year could be extended and extended again and temporary quarters be found elsewhere? Ricketts could always tell the rooftop owners that structural changes take time and can’t be rushed. They have to be done right to ensure the safety of the fans. So perhaps after two or three years of no cubs maybe there’ll be a lot less roof toppers and businesses.

      • 1060Ivy

        My understanding is that the plans do not call for Cubs to play games away from Wrigley at any point during renovation. The Cubs are modeling the renovation plans after the Fenway renovation which never required the team to relocate games.

        It pushes out the renovation schedule over several seasons and is the plan maybe a pain in the ass for fans as assess to portions of the Wrigley maybe restricted but it ensures that the Cubs play at Wrigley and Ricketts continues to get the gate receipts and concessions.

  • Die hard

    If IRS gets aggressive Cubs could be out of business by then

  • Ken

    “The Ricketts Family owns the property, and the City has said they can do with it what they want.”

    Yet they can’t do want they want with the property they own just east. Annoying.

    • Brett

      Heh. You made me chuckle and bummed me out all at once.

  • Pingback: Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: How About Buying Some Rooftops? | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary()