Emanuel ducks tough questions about Wrigley ‘framework’
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org April 16, 2013 3:50PM
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel | File photo
Updated: May 18, 2013 6:44AM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday pitched the Cubs’ “Fenway-style” plan to renovate Wrigley Field, but stepped out of the batter’s box when pitches started flying about the team’s costly wish list.
To bankroll a $300 million renovation of 99-year-old Wrigley without a public subsidy, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts says he needs the millions that would be generated by a 6,000-square-foot video scoreboard in left-field, a 1,000-square-foot sign in right-field and 35,000 square feet of advertising on a 91 foot high hotel and open-air plaza he plans to build outside the stadium.
Ricketts has further demanded a Class L property tax break for Wrigley and “no compensation” to Chicago taxpayers — either for air-rights over Clark Street to accommodate a pedestrian bridge or for taking out a lane of parking on Waveland and a sidewalk on Sheffield to extend the right- and left-field walls outward to minimize the impact of those signs on rooftop views.
On Tuesday, Emanuel embraced the broad-strokes “framework” he forged with the Cubs after months of painstaking negotiations.
But, he made it clear that it would be up to Ricketts to sell the finer points to local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and his constituents.
“It’s a framework of an understanding and a consensus. They will now put the details, which were discussed, in a plan. The alderman will run a process that engages the community. And then, we will come with a final product that represents the understanding and consensus that’s been achieved,” Emanuel said.
“We have a security plan, a traffic plan, a parking plan. We also have an agreement that the jumbotron will be in the park — not outside the park. We have an agreement on what the night games are. Those are the types of things that are big items [where] there’s a consensus. They’ll work through now the size of the sign, just like Fenway has, that works both for the neighborhood and the ownership.”
After standing his ground against a public subsidy, the mayor was asked whether he was prepared to support the 6,000-square-foot video scoreboard and concessions that amount to a public subsidy: the property tax break and free use of city streets, sidewalks and air-rights.
Each time, he ducked as if the questions were a high and inside, 100 mph fastball.
“They’re gonna submit their desires and goals and we’re gonna work through that to achieve what has always been the goal: a win-win, both for the neighborhood and a win for the ownership in being able to modernize,” he said.
“We’ll work with them because this is in the interest of the city. It’s in the interest of the ownership and it’s also in the interest of the surrounding community to keep this economic engine healthy.”
Earlier this week, Ricketts said there were discrepancies between the city’s sketchier plan and the detailed version put forward by the Cubs because there are “some things to finalize.”
But, he made it clear there was little room for movement.
“We’re willing to make a very large investment in this city. We think this proposal is what we need to do that. ... I’m gonna go forward with the assumption that there will be lots of community meetings, lots of discussion, and we will end up with this plan,” he said.
Rooftop club owners have renewed their threat to file a lawsuit, calling the outfield signs a “direct violation” of their 17 percent revenue-sharing agreement with the team and a landmark ordinance that protects the “uninterrupted sweep” of the bleachers.
On Tuesday, Emanuel acknowledged that rooftop club owners are “part of the community.” But, he argued that there are “a lot of other interests,” some of whom are “pleased” that the Cubs have agreed to provide free remote parking and bankroll traffic and security improvements.