Taking the step that they intimated last week when discussions with the rooftops broke down, the Chicago Cubs have filed for a permit to install the right field advertising sign, according to Greg Hinz. As you may recall, the City has approved the 650-foot, see-through sign in right field, and the Cubs have secured a sponsorship relationship with Budweiser for that sign. So, in that sense, the Cubs are simply doing what was expected.
In other sense, though, this could be the start of a nasty fight with the rooftops, who have already filed suit on a related matter, and could pull the trigger on another legal battle. Throughout the renovation approval process, the rooftops have held the threat of litigation over the Cubs’ head should the team obstruct any of their views with outfield signage. For their part, the Cubs say they need the outfield signage to, in part, generate revenue for the overall renovation.
What happens now? No one outside the walls of the involved parties knows for sure. Maybe the rooftops immediately file suit. Maybe they wait until the sign actually goes up. Maybe this was expected, and nothing changes, and the sides keep on negotiating (Danny Ecker says a meeting is scheduled this week between the rooftops and the Cubs). Maybe the Cubs are trying to grab some leverage? Maybe they’re trying to force the rooftops to act first?
I won’t pretend to know. I can only hope that this is a step in getting things resolved. Somehow.
UPDATE: The rooftops have issued a statement, via spokesman Ryan McLaughlin:
“This is an unfortunate turn of events because our hope was to find a solution to this matter. Rooftop owners believe any blockage of our views violates the contract we have with the owners of the Cubs. We have instructed our legal team to proceed accordingly.”
Now, to be certain, this doesn’t mean the rooftops will immediately sue (though they could). “Proceeding accordingly” could mean many things, including continued negotiating (now framed by legal posturing). Speaking from experience, the lawyers get involved in these matters looooong before a court actually gets involved. If the rooftops do sue (or seek arbitration, if the contract contains a mandatory arbitration provision), I could see this going one of two ways: (1) a protracted legal battle that delays the renovation for a very long time (more than a year would not be out of the question); or (2) a nudge to get everyone to work out a settlement. The good news is that courts really do try very hard to get two sides to settle in a case like this, and it wouldn’t seem like there would be a ton of discovery (which can really slow things down). Hopefully a lawsuit, if it comes, simply pushes the sides to get something done.
I know. I keep saying “hope.” Silly me.