respect wrigleyAlthough City Council has signed off once again on the comprehensive plan to renovation Wrigley Field and develop the surrounding area into a Cubs-centric bundle of wonderful, the team has yet to actually break ground on any of the meat of the work, thanks in large part to a standoff with the rooftops that surround Wrigley.

You know the story: the Cubs say they need two large outfield signs in place to help pay for the renovation, and the rooftops say the Cubs can’t put up signs that obstruct the rooftop views without breaching the contract between the rooftops and the Cubs. For fear that a lawsuit could shut down the construction as soon as it starts (causing unknown logistical problems), the Cubs won’t start work until they’ve got a deal in place with the rooftops that involves no lawsuits.

To that end, we heard last week that Mayor Rahm Emanuel may be helping nudge the rooftops in the direction of an agreement, while simultaneously pushing the Cubs publicly to get the project underway. According to Greg Hinz at Crain’s, that nudging has taken the very specific form of City Council floor leader Pat O’Connor engaging in a kind of diplomacy mission between the Ricketts Family and the rooftops. Hinz says that there’s not a deal yet, but the sides are talking, and there’s still progress being made.

In other words, even though work hasn’t yet started, there’s no reason to sound the alarm bells. Besides, if it’s true that construction cannot begin this offseason no matter what, then there’s suddenly several months in which to work out a deal. Call me a starry-eyed romantic, unwilling to listen to the Cubs’ explicit statements to the contrary, but I remain hopeful that some of the renovation work can still be done this offseason. Don’t join me in that hope, though, because I think I’m on an island.

Eventually, we’re probably going to hear that the Cubs reached some kind of agreement with the two or three rooftops that the new signage actually impacts, which could be a reduced revenue-share, or possibly a buy-out. Until then, we wait.


  • kgd

    Oh if only they could just bulldoze the rooftop buildings and turn them into a parking garage…

    • Robert

      The Right of Imminent Domain:
      The city takes the land.
      Compensates the owners.
      Evicts and moves the renters,
      Demolishes the buildings,
      Sells the land to the Ricketts.
      The Ricketts can then build:
      Parking lots
      Batting cages
      Pitching warm up cages

  • MichiganGoat

    At this point if all it takes with those obstructed rooftops is to just remove the revenue agreement I hope they just take the loss and move on.

  • Jon Hay

    I remain puzzled as to why the Cubs are so fearful of a lawsuit from the rooftop owners who pay them a measly $4M a year? As part of a $500M deal, you’d think the Cubs could negotiate a deal to subsidize or simply buy out the rooftops that will be affected by the expansion. Ricketts needs to get this done now and give Cubs fans some reason to get excited.

    • mdel78

      It’s not about the $4M the Cubs are getting. It’s about the lawsuit where the rooftop owners want damages (which is what THEY earn, not what they are paying the Cubs) over the remainder of the existing contract, plus legal fees the Cubs would have to pay.

      I’m not a lawyer, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express, but that could add up to a substantial amount of money potentially that could potentially be avoided with a little patience and open negotiation (which is what they are doing).

      • Jon

        Yep, the 4 million per year the rooftops paid the Cubs is chump change. You have to look at the rooftops overall “gross” revenue and over the course of the contract. Since the Ricketts took “moving’ off the table early in this deal there is really no incentive whatsoever for them to help the Cubs.

        The Cubs can approach them about a financial buy out, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of using the signage revenue to pay for the renovation? I bet the rooftops would demand a ton agree to this. We are Natalina about mucho dinero, and probably some American dollars too.

        • Jon

          *talking about* damn auto correct.

        • Scotti

          Moving doesn’t come off the table until the Cubs start construction. They have always stated that their preferred option is to get it done at Wrigley but they have never ruled out moving (and they HAVE gone so far as to get other cities putting “thier two cents in” to the media which actually had a very dramatic effect on Rahm’s support).

    • Eric S

      Not only that if the Rooftop owners put the case in litigation, that means the Cubs couldn’t do ANYTHING renovation wise or at least not put up the signs in question until the lawsuit was settled. So instead of waiting a year for this revenue stream to come in it’s possible it can take several years to untangle the mess. The rooftop owners would be in no hurry to resolve the lawsuit and may file appeal after appeal just to keep the sign litigation going until their contract runs out. In that case, THEY win and get extra revenue as a result while the Cubs had to gnaw their teeth the entire time. This ironically is the path of least resistance.

  • Jon

    “And meanwhile Mr. Ricketts perhaps could assemble a team on the field that does something besides lose most of the time.”

    Best line in that Crains article.

  • dash

    I hope they’ll at least give the concrete nets a fresh coat of paint for the 100 year anniversary.

  • BD

    I still can’t believe they are going to miss out on getting anything major done this offseason. What a waste…

    • MichiganGoat

      I do wonder how fast they can get a jumbotron put up.

  • Greenroom

    My biggest fear is that when the renovation begins and they start going undergound, getting into the nooks and crannies, they are going to see more to do than meets the eye. In VaBeach, they re-did the boardwalk 15+ years ago and they found rats and more rats and lord only knows what else. Put things into stall mode pretty quickly. And Dash, that is pretty funny.

    • Rich

      Maybe they can find an old 1908 Champioship banner.

      • dshea

        Only if they moved it from the park where the world series took place. : )

  • salesguy

    Can’t the city just claim eminent domain on the affected rooftops and put this to bed? Mind you, I’m not a lawyer, my legal training amounts to several episodes of Major Crimes, and Boston Legal, but since the city’s involved, can’t the city just come in, claim eminent domain, and buy the affected buildings, and either sell them to the cubs, or keep them for themselves? I freely welcome any opinions to explain to me how I’m horribly wrong, which I freely admit is probably the case.

    • regimezefelerski

      Politics, There are more than just Cubs interests here. Matter of fact, I doubt if City Hall is concerned ‘particularly’ with just the ‘Cubs’ concerns. They have to think about those ‘other’ voters. The ones Alderman Tunney has been so concerned about until recently. Maybe not, but I imagine something like what you propose could be political suicide for someone. This is just my thought.

    • roz

      “a condemning authority may not take or damage property by the exercise of the power of eminent domain unless it is for a public use, as set forth in this Section.” 735 ILCS 30/5-5-5(a). Now, I am not a lawyer (yet) and I haven’t done any case research regarding eminent domain in Illinois, but I have to imagine that were the city to just simply take the rooftops so the Cubs could start construction, they might have a bit of a hard time arguing that they took the rooftops for a public use.

  • Peter

    I wonder if a deal has been discussed that if attendance to rooftops declines by certain set percentages over the next few years due to view blockage, the rooftops shall be compensated to make up for lost revenue. Takes the risk out of it for the rooftops, and the Cubs then assume that risk.

  • bbrave307

    I think the Cubs do have some leverage in this deal.

    First, the Cubs could play one season elsewhere while they do all the Wrigley work in one year. That would really hurt the rooftops. Way more so than it would hurt the Ricketts.

    Second, the Cubs could offer to extend the existing agreement by one year if everybody signs off. That could also be huge to the rooftops who have to be worried about what would happen when the Cubs can shut them out at the end of the current agreement.

    Finally, there has to be division among the rooftop owners. The ones that wont be blocked by the signs would love to extend the agreement. While the two that are blocked have other interests. Ricketts needs to divide and conquer.

    • Napercal

      Cubs should just buy the buildings. It would be cheaper. They could do whatever they wanted with the rooftops. It would help with the street festival. No more rooftop owners to deal with. All good.

      • Jon

        That does’t make any sense. Factoring the 4 million(17%) a year Cubs get from the rooftops that’s ~24 million in revenue per year the rooftops do. Also factor in they have 10 more years on this deal + increases in revenue(inflation) this deal has to have projected revenues over 300+ million over the next 10 years. Then add in the property values for all the rooftops. That’s an insane amount it would take to “buy out” all the rooftops. Insane.

        Blame the fuc* idiots at the tribune that signed this deal 10 years ago. They should have blocked all their views…killed the rooftops ability to generate revenue and bought the buildings on the cheap.

        • Lapdawg

          Remember though, that the only two of the rooftops are supposedly effected. Not sure how many toto there are, but if we assume there are 12, then only 1/6 of the revenue is lost or only 4 million per year. Multiply that by 10 years and we’re only talking about a total of 40 million in damages.

          As far as property values g, they’ll be back in the toilet in 10 years anyway if the Cubs are po’d enough to not renegotiate. That’s where the other non blocked owners exert pressure on the blocked ones to get something done.

  • JonRed

    While the Cubs hands might be tied given their contract with the rooftop owners (thanks Crane!), I had heard rumblings that MLB could get involved and threaten legal action that the rooftop owners are stealing MLB property. It could be an interesting angle to play.

    • aaronb

      The Cubs willingly signed a contract with the Rooftop owners. So the Cubs are partners with 17% revenue coming back to the team.

      Generally not kosher to sign a deal only to back out before the contract is fulfilled.

  • Tman

    It’s everyone’s fault but the Ricketts.

  • Anonymous47701

    To Left Field Rooftop Owners: If you can see the entire infield (home plate, pitcher’s mound, all three bases) and some areas of the outfield, then your views are not obstructed by the video board.