Well this is an interesting wrinkle (but see UPDATE below).
According to a Tribune report and two rooftop owners, the owners of the rooftop businesses that outline Wrigley Field have offered to relent and agree not to sue the Chicago Cubs if they erect outfield signage. The wrinkle? They’ll agree only if the Cubs go back to their request to put up two outfield signs, rather than seven.
Earlier this year, the Cubs declared that they were at an impasse in their efforts to come to a side agreement with the rooftop owners, which would allow the Cubs to put up two outfield signs – a Jumbotron in left field and a see-through sign in right field. Not wanting to delay the overall renovation/expansion project at Wrigley Field any further, the Cubs announced that they would simply move forward with a revised plan, which included, among other things, seven signs in the outfield, rather than just two.
Read the Tribune’s report for the details on the rooftops’ apparent new offer. It comes via Jim Lourgos and George Loukas, the latter of whom suggests he may have been one of the holdouts on an agreement (now telling the Tribune that he’s willing to suck it up and be a team player after previously wanting to go the legal route).
We’ll see if this is merely more posturing, or if this will be the start of renewed talks. We also don’t know the precise contours of what the rooftops are accepting/offering, though it sounds like they are relenting on the two signs, as they were planned, as of last year. According to the Tribune’s report, the Cubs have yet to respond to this rooftop offer, which came in “recent weeks.”
Some speculated that the Cubs’ change of course in May was a threat to the rooftops: you won’t agree to our compromise of two outfield signs? Fine, we’ll put up seven. Because the seven sign plan was actually part of the Cubs’ original request to the City, however, the revised plan was far from an idle threat. Indeed, the Cubs are set to go before the Landmarks Commission next week to get approval for this revised plan. It sounds like the rooftops feared the Cubs would get that approval, and may not have felt as strong about their legal position as they’d publicly portrayed.
Will the Cubs now back off their increased sign request? Will they go forward with the Commission meeting to get further approval of the seven-sign plan, which they can use as added leverage (just in case)? Or will the Cubs simply proceed with their new plan, and deal with ensuing legal fight? If the Cubs have been sitting on this offer for a while now, there must be some aspect of it that is not immediately palatable to the Cubs.
This is pretty interesting, in any event. I’ve reached out to the Cubs to see if they have any comment on this just yet.
UPDATE: The Cubs’ prompt official response, via spokesperson Julian Green, is as follows:
We are 100 percent focused on presenting our revised expansion plan to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. Our construction timetable depends on getting the required approvals at that meeting so that must be our priority at this time.
We engaged in good-faith discussions with the rooftops and thought we could come to an agreement that would work for all parties. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. At this point, we’re not prepared to lose another year and jeopardize delivering on the promises we made to our players, fans, partners and neighbors.
We look forward to presenting our revised expansion plan to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. If they approve our plan, we will begin construction immediately which will generate a significant amount of resources – without taxpayer dollars – to achieve our goals of winning a World Series, saving Wrigley Field and being a good neighbor.
So, there you go. The Cubs’ position appears to be a version of, “We tried for a very long time to play nice, but we couldn’t come to an agreement. Now we’re going to do what we think is best for the organization.” It’s full speed ahead, for now, with the seven-sign renovation plan.
That could mean that the Cubs feel very strong about their legal position vis a vis the rooftops (my read on the contract would agree), and/or it could mean that the Cubs want the Commission’s approval of seven signs before they go back to the rooftops to discuss anything further (why settle on two signs when you could, by next week, have approval for seven?).
We’ll see how this plays out, but, for now, the Cubs will proceed in hopes of getting approval of their revised plan next week.