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respect wrigleyI don’t really know what’s going on with the Wrigley Field renovation hold-up right now. That’s where I was last Friday after some interesting comments from Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney at a season ticket holder event, and I was hoping the ensuing days would provide some clarity. They have not. So I’ll just dump the info on you, and wrap it up with a standard, “I guess we’ll see what happens.”

At the aforementioned event, Kenney, in response to a fan request for a candid explanation of what’s holding up the renovation right now, didn’t really provide a clear response. But, interestingly, he did not focus on the rooftops, which are believed by most to be the final impediment to getting shovels in the ground (the Cubs have repeated many times that they will not start work until they’ve got some kind of assurance in place that the rooftops will not sue to block the construction, because of a couple outfield signs (which, incidentally, are a huge part of the funding for the renovation)). Instead, Kenney described some recent legislative movements, the purpose of which has been to update the renovation plan as it was previously approved by City Council.

Those legislative issues are tied to a variety of small changes to the renovation plan, and one relatively major change: the outfield walls will be bumped out further than previously approved. Because of that change, the Cubs had to go back through the full planned development process, and then get approval from City Council (which is expected to come without any fight, as it is strongly backed by Mayor Emanuel). The Cubs have already received approval from the Landmarks Commission for the additional wall bump-out, and the legislative process continues unabated.

Kenney spoke as though this legislative process was the last remaining step before the Cubs get to work, although he did intermittently reference an ongoing dispute with the rooftops. It was, to be frank, a little confusing. It is true that the Cubs can’t start the major work until they have the final approval on these changes to the original renovation plan, but, if that was all that was holding things up, we’d have heard about it a long time ago (because the Cubs would be trumpeting the impending work from, no pun intend, the rooftops).

Instead, it seems like the ongoing negotiations/battle with the rooftops remains the holdup. To that end, the Sun-Times reported this week that the Cubs remain in discussions with the rooftops in the hopes of avoiding a lawsuit. Apparently, the Cubs have had positive discussions with “some” of the rooftops (perhaps the majority that aren’t being blocked?), and something short of that with the rest of the rooftops. You can read the Sun-Times report for the precise quotes from Cubs General Counsel (aka top lawyer) Mike Lufrano, who has been very involved throughout the renovation process. There isn’t a ton to parse, because, like Kenney, he’s not quite giving up the details.

I should point out that I’m not necessarily complaining about not having pristine, candid, thorough details about the status of these discussions with the rooftops. Usually, when business people and lawyers are doing verbal backflips to avoid committing to anything specific, there’s a good reason. It tells me that the discussions are ongoing, and no one wants to muck anything up while there’s still a chance for an amicable resolution. In that same vein, I have generally regarded the last couple months of relative silence to be a good sign. If discussions had broken down rapidly, there would have been a lot more anonymous venom in the media, as there was earlier this year.

I guess we’ll see what happens.

(Aside: yes, I am aware that the Braves recently announced plans to leave 15-year-old Turner Field (egads, how did they ever make it work in such an ancient park!?) in favor of a publicly-funded, suburban park. No, I am not interested in comparing that situation to the situation with the Cubs, for reasons geographic and ballpark-value. Being in downtown Atlanta is not nearly the same thing as being in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. And the difference in ticket sales geography is nuts. The Braves are simply moving to where all their fans are.)

  • caryatid62

    “The Braves are simply moving to where all their fans are.”

    And where they can sucker in a bunch of idiot representatives to agree to fleece their constituents for millions of dollars that could better be spent on virtually anything else.

  • beerhelps

    The Braves just moved to where they will get the most taxpayer dollars, not because it will be conveniently located for their fans.

    • Eternal Pessimist

      If it wasn’t about being located near their fans (in a better neighborhood) they would just stay at Turner field.

  • Blackhawks1963

    The Braves are moving because the new ballpark will provide significantly enhanced revenue sources and to a location that is indeed more strategically located. They have always drawed poorly a Turner Field and don’t have the benefits of full parking revenues, etc,

    Smart business decision especially since Cobb County is agreeable to pay a substantial amount of the pricetag for the new stadium.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Your missing the point in comparing the Braves and the Cubs. It’s all about the business model. One team is getting a new stadium for free, with many new revenue sources. It will benefit their franchise for decades.
    The other is stuck in gridlock, unable to even spend their own money to rebuild a crumbling stadium, much less put up an advertising sign. It has been crushing their franchise, and will continue to do so under the present situation.

    • King Jeff

      Spot on.

    • MichiganGoat

      True and we have to wonder when the Cubs are going to be forced into considering a real move. If this isn’t finalized by the start of next year… its time to consider options because as great as Wrigley is, if it can’t be restored and used to bring necessary revenue to compete with the other markets they might be forced into the unthinkable.

    • Joker

      This is the difference between southern, good ol’ boy politics and whatever passes for politics in Chicago.

  • Die hard

    The one common thread linking this rooftop renovation fiasco to Obamacare website woes is Rahm Emanuel– Ricketts may want to look for the exits before the mayor costs the Ricketts family even more money

    • gocatsgo2003

      This may be one of the best inane “Die hard-ian” posts yet. Really ties everything together.

      • SH

        Should collaborate with Brains to add some literary flourishes.

    • Darian

      You forgot to mention VInce Foster.

    • MichiganGoat

      Yeah um well
      [img]http://img.pandawhale.com/52197-Picard-facepalm-gif-ubif.gif[/img]

  • Eternal Pessimist

    I wonder what the additional bump-out will do to the blocked views. If the new Jumbotron is placed on the back end of this new outside wall will it block very few seats and make it worth going ahead regardless or the possible lawsuit…maybe it will reduce the possible compensation the rooftops can expect for blocking those seats.

  • Cey My Name

    Love it! An Obamacare website/rooftop/Rahm comparison- Six degrees of Kevin Bacon or Six Degrees of Mayor Emanuel

  • dash

    It is interesting, though, that the Braves will probably be playing in their new stadium before the Cubs even have their Jumbotron installed. When these renovations finally get underway, I really hope they just shut Wrigley down for a year and get it all done at once rather than drag it out over 5 more years.

    • toby

      I think shutting it down for a year or more during renovations would also cause some, if not all the rooftop owners to lose their shirts because they are all probably mortgaged to the hilt. This would also probably guarantee that there would be no lawsuits whatsoever. Those empty buildings are probably not fit for multi-family living without a lot of work and might then be available for a song by the Ricketts family.

      The novelty of the Cubs playing home games at a different venue for a limited time might also create a season long surge in attendance and a buzz about the rebuilt Wrigley being home to a new Cub team.

      I’d love to see the Ricketts step on the roofies’ throats by taking the show on the road for a year or so.

      • Hee Seop Chode

        I know for a fact that this is not the case.

      • Joker

        If Bud was on board, this would be easy. Miller Park is the house that Bud built and Wrigley North, is it not?

        This, however, is far too cut throat for MLB and the Cubs to attempt. I would applaud it, but it will NEVER happen.

      • ClevelandCubsFan

        What if they set something up in Soldier Field for a year? Baseball in Football stadiums sucks, yes. But it’s better on the fan base that Milwaukee or even US Cellular. There are no good downstate options a la the Bears at Illinois. And it still causes the rooftops to lose a TON of money.

  • Blackhawks1963

    With regard to bumping out the right field wall further onto Sheffield, I’m reminded of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer had a Kenny Rogers Roasters neon sign blaring thru his apartment 24/7. The right field sign will be within touching distant of those apartment windows !! These idiot rooftop owners should be careful what they asked for. They won’t be able to rent those apartments anymore !!

    The Cubs WANT to spend $500 M of their own money and can’t. Only in the corruption riddle city of Chicago.

    • beerhelps

      There are still apartments in those rooftop buildings???

      • Cubbie Blues

        No, there are not.

        • Hee Seop Chode

          Yes, there are. Most have appartments on basement, first, and second floors. The 3rd and 4th floors in question are bar/entertainment areas.

    • King Jeff

      I would still rent one of those apartments if they were available.

  • Sandberg

    I did love (not) Brett’s statement on the Podcast that Atlanta moving would bring out the “Meatheads” saying the Cubs should move too. As if no reasonable person would think moving was an option.

    • Professor Snarks

      Well, it’s because of anything Atlanta’s doing, but you can color me a ‘meathead’. Wrigley is a money pit, and over time will cost the Rickett’s significantly more to renovate/rehab than it would cost them to build a new stadium.

  • Ken

    Is there a “heat map” for Cubs tickets sales?

  • Kevin

    A smart business model will show a team can demand more TV revenue if games are played at night. 30 something night games a year is not smart business.

  • Napercal

    Said it before and I’ll say it again. It is impossible o overstate how baly the Cubs have screwed up the politics on this. Somehow the Ricketts family has made the McCaskeys look like savvy business people. You may not like Reinsdorf, but he has gotten a baseball stadium for free, a privately-funded state of the art basketball/hockey/entertainment venue and a freekin’ practice center approved. Yes. Chicago is corrupt. But using that as an excuse for fumbling this project is like people living by airports complaining about the noise.

    • Blackhawks1963

      How exactly has the Ricketts fumbled the process? He’s boxed into a corner that is equal parts Landmark Commission, City Hall / Alderman Tunney and the rooftop owners. What exactly do you suggest Tom Ricketts should have done differently? Its easy to sit there and poke holes, but this process has been a political nightmare and bureaucracy of massive proportions to navigage through.

      In terms of funding? Well, in this day and age of the state of Illinois being $16 BILLION in debt, the city of Chicago essentially broke and the economy still very shake there was zero point zero chance the Ricketts were going to get public financing beyond the few token tax breaks Emmanuel managed to get them.

      • MichiganGoat

        Yeah I don’t think you can compare anything else built in Chicago to the issues facing Wrigley. They have a landmark commision to deal with, a very well funded and aggressive neighborhood to battle with, and all the other politics that go along with construction in a major city. Now maybe they underestimated how much the neighborhood and rooftops would fight back and how annoying they could be, but its not like there is anything they could have done to keep Tunney from being difficult.

        • Caryatid62

          There’s literally millions of things they could have done to keep Tunney from being difficult.

          • dash

            Or, rather, million$.

            • mjhurdle

              heh, well done sir

          • Blackhawks1963

            Cement boots and dump him into the Chicago River? What exactly is your point? Although Tunney is a tinhat dictator, the fact is he became the speaking agent of the rooftop owners who obviously donate lavishly to his reelection campaign.

            You tell us how Ricketts could be dealing with Tunney, the city or, most importantly, the rooftop owners any differently.

      • Jim L

        After the sale was complete, Ricketts never should have said they were committed to staying at Wrigley. Even if that was his intention, to stay and refurbish the park, taking away the threat of moving was not very smart.

        Then the whole fiasco with the amusement sales tax to fund the renovations was a little naive of him given the economic climate.

        He obviously did not do his homework on Chicago politics before he purchased the team.

        • Brains

          i think he just got a big loan from daddy and is struggling to pay it back. he wanted to be the boss, but was built more for lower middle management. now the cubs are in dire straights.

        • Edwin

          That depends on if the threat to move was ever very credible. I’m not so sure it was.

      • Kyle

        If Ricketts comes in guns blazing with a franchise sale that isn’t crippled by debt and a serious commitment to alternatives, then the entire Wrigley process goes much more smoothly. His naivete has cost the Cubs a lot in the last few years.

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      The Cubs have bumbled the politics? Really? In the state whose political culture is called “The Combine” because everything that goes in gets shredded to pieces and ruined, regardless of party? In the city that works so successfully at keeping that political farm machinery working? In the city that spawned Al Capone and Richard Daley (2 of them!) and Rod Blagojovich?

      Let’s be honest and admit no one can ever claim to have a solid, unflappable business plan when it comes to Chicago, Illinois.

  • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

    I wonder how much incentive the Cubs gave the rooftops to not sue? (Sharing more revenues – or getting more exposure to the rooftops, thus making them a partner.)

    You may dislike your parasite. Even detest all notion of cooperating with it. But if your “PLAN” rests on increasing ad revenues, getting approvals, and the like, you might get more with the “honey” than the “lemons” approach.

    Increasing the economic pie, for the area, makes all winners. Instead, it may be a case that all the parties know Ricketts has his profit-maximizing model first and foremost, and the welfare of neighbors and rooftops and players’ desire to come to Chicago, a far off distance from that. Politics, does not seem the Ricketts “plus tool.”

    Are there no alternative placement of the signs? What of the Rooftops – could something visible be made that enhances their share? See the problem from their side, might lead to more cooperation, less acrimony, or feet dragging,

    If preservation is your deal, as the lawyer for the Cubs stated, “We’re anxious to get started. Every day that goes by is a day that we’re not devoting the full measure of resources to preserving the ballpark. We’re doing some work this off-season as we always do. But we’re anxious to get started on the bigger project.”

    Then make it easy to see the decision helps all, not just the Chicago Cubs, and ownership.

    • Scotti

      The Cubs plan DOESN’T help all… The Cubs building numerous new sky boxes competes directly with the rooftops. The Cubs building several new clubs, and massively expanding the current Captian Morgan club, competes directly with the bars and restaurants (Tunney owns Ann Sathers half a mile from Wrigley). More night games hurts the bars, restaurants and rooftops. (After DAY games, fans linger in the neighborhood and spend money in the bars and restaurants. After night games they don’t show up early and mostly go home right after the game. Chilly night games don’t sell out the rooftops). Any amount of song and dance by the Cubs won’t fool the other parties involved.

  • MattM

    I actually agree with what Jason Powers said. Also, why would you not explore actually putting signs on the ROOFTOPS with revenue sharing! It makes no sense at all! They could have approached the roof tops and gotten a deal done by now. Not only that but they could actually build a bridge between the rooftops on the left and right and wrigley. People could freely move about the roof tops and wrigley and you could add more seating!

    It just makes no sense that they have not explored that possibility!

    Not only that but the Ricketts are pretty moronic with their political views! I’m sure having hard core right wingers in Chicago is not really helping the situation.

    That said some of the management decisions that Ricketts has already made are pretty suspect as well. Clearly, lying to fans hasn’t really helped ticket sales. I’m also pretty certain that he lied to Epstein as well. If you recall in the beginning Epstein NEVER said anything about economic situations and always said that if a deal made sense they would make it. Now they are pretty much admitting they have no money to spend! So

    • Hee Seop Chode

      “Not only that but they could actually build a bridge between the rooftops on the left and right and wrigley. People could freely move about the roof tops and wrigley and you could add more seating!”

      This plan has been explored. It isn’t time yet.

    • Tman

      I had the same question and was surprised to find this a few weeks ago.

      http://espn.go.com/chicago/mlb/story/_/id/8881512/wrigleyville-rooftop-owners-offer-plan-keep-wrigley-field-view

      I don’t know. Don’t have a dog in this fight but it seems there are a lot of options out there.

      • ClevelandCubsFan

        Why not just change the cut? Right now, the Cubs get 17% of business. Cut it to 16% or 15% in exchange for no lawsuits.

  • Napercal

    For the past 20 years or so, I never understood why the Cubs didn’t go ahead and buy those buildings. Tenants pay a premium to live there and then the Cubs could control the whole thing. They spent so much time worrying about the McDonalds property and the proposed hotel, the economics on those apartment buildings make way more sense from a real estate investment perspective.

    • dash

      You can’t buy what isn’t for sale.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        pah! You cannot absolve Hendry from failing to “get it done” on the Brian Roberts trade that easily!

        Oh, wait: different discussion. Sorry.

  • KielOvher

    Atlanta’s ticket sales map is interesting. Is that information about Cubs’ ticket sales available anywhere? Curiosity piqued.

  • Tman

    The bummer is that the Ricketts bought the team, they’ve been acting like they detest everything about the ballpark that makes it unique.

    I was shocked last year after spending $100 on a ticket only to have bad loud music and ads blasting away between innings along with the few LED boards there tastelessly strobing a beer brand as furiously as possible.

    I later read they wanted to launch fireworks during games.

    Wow, what an original idea that was. Unfortunately, the evil neighborhood dwellers objected to that as well.

    I don’t get it. They never had an attendance problem.

    It seems the only successful thing the Ricketts have done so far is lining up more scapegoats than the owners of the Billygoat Tavern.

    • Jono

      Attendance drops when the team is bad. It’s always been like that.

      The old school feel is cool. But I don’t mind wrigley conforming to modernism (is that even a word?) as much as I mind how the rooftops and local government are hindering their development

  • itzscott

    >> they’ve been acting like they detest everything about the ballpark that makes it unique. <<

    Money talks to people who's primary objective in life is to keep making more no matter how much they already have.

    I don't think Ricketts detests Wrigley, I just don't think he respects it and the uniqueness which made it what it is to the rest of us.

    The bottom line is that Wrigley was a cash cow, but the Ricketts family in consort with Crane Kenney felt there was an opportunity for it to be even more of a cash cow and everything else be damned or attempt to stand in their way in their desires to make more money off the sacred cow.

    • mjhurdle

      I can’t wait for the Wrigley renovations.
      What is special about Wrigley is that my favorite team plays there. i don’t need it to stay the same way it was 80 years ago just out of some geriatric sense of “nostalgia’.
      I am excited to see Wrigley brought into the current century.
      And if it makes the Cubs more money, that is even better.

      • Jono

        +1

      • cms0101

        I have to agree. They’ll keep the ivy, scoreboard, etc. The damn rooftop companies weren’t even there when I became a Cubs fan, just people who lived in those buildings sat up there, so it doesn’t bother me at all that they’re going to be put out of business. They built an industry of stealing the Cubs’ product. Everything they’ve always talked about regarding the renovation has highlighted the importance of keeping the same feel, but improving the amenities where they can. Making a little more money in the process doesn’t bother me at all, especially if that additional money brings in additional resources to help the team win. Who spends $1 billion to not make money?

        • itzscott

          The fact of the matter is that Wrigley was a cash cow and still earned The Tribune Company hefty profits year after year even when payrolls were at their height.

          Just because payroll is at pre-playoff levels now and then supposedly they’ll escalate to what most would consider the norm for a major market team after Ricketts gets what he wants, does that mean the additional revenues were plowed back into the team when those same revenues were previously proven to be there before?

  • Die hard

    If Cubs were smart they would make first move by starting lawsuit against Rooftoppers asking for declaratory judgment on the contract. Get it going and get it over with

  • http://mccarronlegal.com jmc

    oh come on. Everybody knows Cub fans pay to see grass and cement and sing take me out to the ballgame I don’t give a damn about the players they show up anyway. Scott Boras is wrong

  • jj

    Brett, do you have a chart showing where Cubs ticket purchasers reside or even where self-professed Cubs fans reside? I suspect it would similar to Atlanta where the heaviest amount is to the northwest of the current park.

    • Die hard

      Agreed — Schaumburg Cubs has nice ring to it

    • Scotti

      Brett doesn’t have one but you know the Cubs do and, like Atlanta, they would leak it if push came to shove and they needed to show why the team was considering a move toward their base (NW burbs).

  • RoscoeVillageFan

    Mr. Powers comments carry a lot of value and would be an ideal scenario if the cubs and rooftop owners can pull it off. Without a doubt, there is a ton of money being left out there but wouldn’t it eventually be sweet where you could start your day off at a rooftop and end at the game be watching shark throw his first no-no? All for the price of one ticket? A really expensive ticket? If the two sides continue talking, they could establish an atmosphere unrivaled for baseball…even in suburban Atlanta. Just as an aside, anyone who has been to the ATL and has seen how much it is unlike Chicago, knows enough to not compare the two cities or baseball situations. It’ll probably be a great move for them.

  • Die hard

    Moving walls out is not to going to significantly affect neighborhood but it does send a message to Rooftoppers that Cubs may have enough clout to get their way on the other issues that is stoppable only if a lawsuit is started

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