The odds of the Chicago Cubs and the owners of the rooftop buildings lining the outfield at Wrigley Field reaching a compromise on outfield advertising signage looked pretty bleak this weekend and into this morning. The Cubs are trying to raise revenue to pay for the renovation of Wrigley Field, and one of the most obvious ways to do the job would be add some advertisements along the outfield wall, which you see at every other ballpark in baseball. The problem, though, is that the signs could block the views of the rooftops, who have a revenue-sharing agreement in place with the Cubs.
It’s a sticky situation – one with so many interested parties that it’s difficult to predict how it will play out, or even what outcome is best for the Cubs – but everyone seems to be incentivized to resolve it quickly. Indeed, Crain’s reports that Cubs management, including Owner and Chairman Tom Ricketts by phone, met today with owners of the rooftops to continue trying to hash something out.
A source tells Crain’s that the mere fact of the meeting is a sign of progress. The sides left the meeting agreeing that time was of the essence, and agreeing to research some issues and get back in touch as soon as later this week.
As I said, because of the layered and intertwined interests involved – the Cubs, the Ricketts, the rooftops, the neighborhood, the politicians, the fans (it’s like a season of ‘The Wire’) – it’s difficult to say, as an outsider, what the best outcome is. On the one hand, it seems like simply putting the rooftops out of business and taking over that operation directly would be best for the Cubs’ bottom line. On other other hand, do we really know that? And do we know how the neighborhood would react? Would it negatively impact the “feel” of Wrigley? It may seem unlikely, but I’m always wary of unintended consequences. It still seems to me that a solution that allows the rooftop businesses to survive, while providing the Cubs advertising opportunities both on the rooftops and in the outfield, and perhaps providing the Cubs a better revenue share from the rooftops (it’s currently 17% of the gross revenue), would be the fairest, most widely palatable solution. And maybe resolving things with the rooftops will help the Cubs get some of the other things they’re looking for (more night games, more concerts, and street fairs, for example).
But who knows if that’s even possible. We’ll have to see what this week’s meetings hold.
UPDATE: The Tribune’s report on this meeting adds, from a source, that the Mayor’s Office pushed for the meeting today. I’m telling you: it’s ‘The Wire.’