Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs demonstrated another mock-up sign in right field, designed to emulate what the (presumably) imminent Budweiser sign will look like once erected. The demonstration, which used the words “Wrigley Field” for the sign, offered the rooftops outlining the outfield at Wrigley another opportunity to see how their views would be impacted by the sign, which has been approved by the City of Chicago. The Cubs and the rooftops have a revenue-sharing agreement through 2023, which the rooftops claim provides them with the right to unobstructed views into the park.
How did the rooftops react to the mock-up? Not well.
Per multiple reports (examples: Sun-Times, DNAinfo), a rooftop spokesperson said the mock-up blocked views, and if the final sign blocks views in the same way, legal action is forthcoming. For the Cubs’ part, VP of Communications and Community Affairs Julian Green told the Sun-Times that, although the rooftops wouldn’t have the “same” views they had before, all rooftops would still have a view into Wrigley Field. Now that the Cubs have a sponsor in Budweiser for the sign, Green said, they plan to move forward with it. It could be up as soon as next season.
So, how about the obstruction? Is it really as bad as the rooftops’ bristling makes it sound?
There is a particular picture making the rounds that purports to demonstrate just how awful the sign would make views for the rooftops. This is the picture (appears in the Sun-Times piece, the DNAinfo piece with no source credited):
That’s a pretty significant obstruction, yes? Well, hold on. I am a little suspicious of this picture (not its authenticity, but its utility) for a variety of reasons.
First, it’s pretty obvious that the sign isn’t actually set at the time the picture was snapped. Just look how high off of the back of the patio the sign is at that point – what is that, 10 feet too high? And the words “Wrigley” and “Field” are hanging, at an angle, offset awkwardly. This is not a finished product. Second, it appears that the sign is not set back 15 additional feet closer (and thus lower) to the rooftop building, as it would be when construction bumping out the outfield wall was completed. Third, we don’t know which rooftop this shot is coming from, and what impact it would have on other rooftops besides this one particular rooftop. Fourth, the picture is limited in scope and is fixed in a particular location, amplifying the “blocking” feel.
Finally, and most notably, we don’t know where on the rooftop building the picture was taken from – is it the very top? Is it through a lower-level window? Look at this picture of the rooftops over the right field wall and tell me where you think that original picture of the new sign was taken from. I have an extremely hard time believing that the picture emanated from the rooftop seats, as opposed to a lower-level in the building (where obstructed views should be much less of an issue).
Everyone seems to agree that there is some obstruction from the sign. But I am wondering if perhaps this particular picture – the only one making the rounds from the rooftop perspective – is being circulated by certain interested parties because it makes things look as direly awful as they can possibly look. Should the originator of the photo – whomever that may be – care to correct me, I’d be happy to make any appropriate corrections. Heck, we’d all love as much information about the picture as you’d be willing to share.
We’ve got plenty of gamesmanship going on already with respect to the meaning of the words “block,” “obstruct,” and “cannot,” so it’s only to be expected that there would be some gamesmanship being played with the “evidence” of these things. It’s a shame that we can’t just get a clear picture, so to speak, if what is actually going on, and what realities the parties are actually dealing with.
For the Cubs’ part, they have once again suggested that they are entitled to put up the right field sign (the JumboTron in left field remains undiscussed in this context for some reason, which could be because everyone knows it will take longer to get in place (and it’s a ‘we’ll get there when we get there’ situation’), or because everyone knows it won’t significantly block views … hopefully it’s that one) because the City approved it. Without the rooftop contract in hand, I can’t speculate on the precise language (which is always the key), but it sure sounds like the Cubs are moving forward in any case.
Something I still don’t quite yet understand: the Cubs are unwilling to start construction on the renovation project until they know the rooftops won’t sue to block the signs … but the Cubs are willing to put up the very sign that could trigger that litigation? Are we simply approaching the point where the Cubs are going to call the rooftops out and force the litigation issue? Then, once that’s resolved, the renovation can proceed? I guess it’s conceivable, but I seriously hope it doesn’t get to that point. Litigation, as I’ve said, is unpredictable and slow. Big money cases like this are often measured in years, not months, and I don’t think anyone wants to see the renovation finally get underway in 2016.
So, I circle back to where I always land: hopefully the parties can work something out, whether it’s some kind of new agreement, a purchase agreement, or some kind of politically-forced stand-down by the rooftops. The sooner the Cubs get their signage in place, the sooner new revenue starts rolling in. And the sooner the meat of the renovation gets underway. And the sooner fans can see the fruits of that revenue and renovation on the field and in the stands.