Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Dave Kaplan and Tom Tunney Pump the Brakes

respect wrigleyYesterday’s optimism about a Wrigley Renovation deal coming “soon” has been tempered – only slightly – but just a bit more posturing that has emerged over the last 24 hours. The new deadline for a deal is Monday, which is the home opener, and you can still tentatively expect a deal announced at some point next week. But nothing is ever easy. (Obviously.)

  • It sounds like the possible parking garage, built on property north of the ballpark already owned by the Cubs, is something of a sticking point. The Ricketts Family might not yet be on board with constructing an expensive garage. “They have a big lot, a cemetery lot, that if you look at Google is as big as the stadium,” Alderman Tom Tunney told the Tribune of the parking issues currently being discussed. “Can they build on that? …. Building is expensive, I understand that, but it’s also part of the neighborhood concerns …. They’re exploring all their options here. And I think primarily from the combination of certain additions in the community and a more robust remote parking plan.” I don’t entirely understand that last sentence fragment, but the overall point is clear: Tunney wants more available parking in the Wrigleyville area.
  • If building a parking garage is too expensive, Tunney generously volunteered that the Cubs could provide free parking at remote lots, and then free shuttling in to Wrigley Field for game attendees.
  • Dave Kaplan confirms that his (Cubs) sources say the deadline for a deal has indeed been extended to next Monday, and writes that the Ricketts Family is willing to considering building that parking garage. Here’s Kaplan, essentially laying out the Cubs’ position: “I learned Wednesday that the cost of a major parking structure which could accommodate a significant number of cars would be very expensive, but is something that the Ricketts family is willing to fund if, and only if, they get a majority of the concessions that they desire regarding renovations. Those include signage, a jumbotron and a significant number of additional night games and concert dates.”
  • That all said, the fact that this kind of fight about a parking garage is even occurring is a good sign for the overall talks. You don’t really spend the final week of negotiations digging into the details like parking if you’re not already pretty much in agreement on the really contentious stuff (signage, JumboTron, night games (though the parking and night games are related)). Clearly the Cubs aren’t quite yet getting everything they want, otherwise they wouldn’t be holding up the parking garage as leverage. I have a hard time seeing the parking garage scuttling the entire deal, though.
  • Kaplan cites sources who suggest Mayor Emanuel may not be as 100% certain that the Cubs won’t move as he’s portrayed publicly: “Additional sources today also told me that Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to at least move talks along to the point where the Cubs would feel comfortable enough in announcing that they are definitely staying at Wrigley Field and that construction will begin on the first phase of the renovation plan at the conclusion of this season.” One of those sources went on to tell Kaplan that Emanuel understands the economic importance of keeping the Cubs in the City of Chicago, and will keep pushing for a deal to get done. He’s simply balancing political interests in the process.
  • Kaplan’s piece ends with a new “threat to move,” based on “speculation” that the other Ricketts siblings – besides Tom – are tired of Tunney’s obstinance, and are encouraging Tom to open up discussions with other cities that might make an offer to the Cubs. I have a hard time believing that the siblings, including Tom, are not completely on the same page about this (Wrigley is either a cash cow, or it’s not, and they know their books better than anyone).
  • Tunney added this, as a general matter about the entire Wrigley renovation issue, in his conversation with the Tribune: “My concern is the community, and there are so many moving parts I’m not exactly sure what we’ll be able to announce but, hopefully announce that they’re staying at Wrigley Field in Lakeview for the rest of their duration, at least until they win the World Series. There’s lots of different parts to this so I think when there is, it won’t be a resolution of the many asks that are out there, but a confidence that they’re staying in Lakeview.” In other words, Tunney wants the Cubs to announce that they’re staying at Wrigley, but also wants to emphasize that they aren’t going to get what they want. Sounds about right.
  • More Tunney, on the ancillary things the Ricketts Family intends to build around Wrigley, including a boutique hotel, an athletic club, and retail space: “Well, six months ago there wasn’t the hotel. So now we have a hotel, OK? . . . By the way it’s more than a hotel — the ask: full service food and beverage, a large health club and 176 rooms. So drivers of traffic, congestion. We’ve got a parking problem already, so how does this complicate that?” I am not a resident, so I could be the one off base. But Tunney sounds perilously out of touch when he says things like that. It is my understanding that a hotel and an athletic club in the Wrigleyville area are the kinds of things that residents want. Yet Tunney treats them like they’re just another headache that the Cubs want to thrust down upon him. I just don’t get it.
  • written by

    Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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