Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: A Funding Deal with the City May Be Near (UPDATE)

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Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: A Funding Deal with the City May Be Near (UPDATE)

Chicago Cubs

respect wrigleyLast week, the Chicago Cubs were showing possible renovation plans for Wrigley Field and the surrounding area to community groups, and Cubs’ VP of Communications Julian Green said official photos of the renderings of the possible upgrades are going to be presented January 19th – this Saturday, the second day of the Cubs Convention.

About that, I said this:

Now, I ask you: why would the Cubs present the renderings of the future of Wrigley Field and the surrounding area unless they had a pretty good sense that *something* was going to happen, and soon? Last year at the Convention, we saw renderings of the new Dominican facility, which was already green lit. Further, the Cubs announced the new patio section in right field and the new LED board, which had not yet been finalized, but everyone understood were going to happen.

The wheels in my head are turning. Would the Cubs reveal renderings and plans for the Wrigley renovations at the annual fan convention, only to add the caveat that, “we don’t know if any of this is actually going to happen, though, because we don’t know if we can get the funding to make it happen”? I really don’t think they would.

Recall, the hold-up in renovating Wrigley Field has been a long ongoing negotiation about the city and county’s involvement in the funding. The total expenditure, when considering the improvements to the area around Wrigley, is expected to be as much as $400 to $500 million. The Cubs reportedly have sought assistance in paying for these improvements in two ways: (1) a relaxing of the restrictions on ways they can generate revenue at Wrigley Field by way of advertising, street festivals, night games, and physical signage; and (2) a portion of the 12% amusement tax the city and county collect on Cubs tickets (up to $150 million).

Well, it’s looking like my thoughts last week were spot on (if I do say so myself).

Each of Gordon Wittenmyer and Bruce Levine have now reported that the revelation of the renovation plan on Saturday could be indicative that a funding agreement involving the city has been reached.

First, from Wittenmyer:

The Cubs plan to unveil detailed renderings of their plans for a renovated Wrigley Field during a Saturday session of their annual Cubs Convention at the downtown Sheraton this weekend, the culmination of a recent series of more private, local showings in the community — and an indication, some insiders believe, that public funding for the project is imminent.

Then, from Levine, who cites a source:

The Chicago Cubs will announce plans at the Cubs Convention this weekend to renovate Wrigley Field, according to a source familiar with the situation.

President of business operations Crane Kenney will present a detailed design at a seminar Saturday afternoon, the source said ….

The Cubs were close to a deal with Emanuel on the funding of a $400 million refurbishing of the ballpark, the source said. The money was to come from amusement tax on tickets sold that would be retired until the work at Wrigley was paid off.

Levine goes on to caution that the funding deal is not officially in place yet, according to the source. Still, considering the plan to reveal the renovation plans on Saturday, I’ve got to believe, as Levine’s source says, and as Wittenmyer’s insiders speculate, the funding deal is close.

Now, I know the funding aspect of the renovation is controversial, and I wouldn’t ask anyone to be excited about that piece if they don’t agree with public dollars being used at Wrigley Field. But I will say, as I’ve always said, that the renovation of Wrigley and the attending changes to how the Cubs generate revenue, is a huge, huge, huge story for the Cubs’ competitiveness going forward. The ability to generate more dollars means the ability to spend more dollars on the organization and on the big league product. All Cubs fans should be excited about that piece.

And, frankly, it’ll be exciting to have a renovated Wrigley and – if tastefully done – surrounding area. I’m getting pretty anxious for Saturday.

UPDATE: There’s a Crain’s report floating around that says the Ricketts have announced that they’re opening a boutique Sheraton across from Wrigley (which, if on the McDonald’s property, would square with the report last week). The report literally has no other information, but I’ll write it up as soon as there’s more. Seems like the Ricketts are stealing their own thunder on this one.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.