Suburban suitors hoping to catch Cubs on rebound of break-up with city
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org June 15, 2013 12:32PM
Wrigley Field marquee with advertisement for Mastercard. 2008 File Photo. JOHN J. KIM ~ SUN-TIMES
Updated: July 17, 2013 6:58AM
The Cubs sure have a lot of suitors for a last-place team hovering around 16 games out of first place a month before the All-Star break.
What Rosemont, Cicero and now DuPage County are counting on is that the “framework” authorizing the Cubs to renovate Wrigley Field and develop the land around it may yet collapse like a house of cards.
What the soliciting suburbs believe — and sources close to the Cubs confirm — is that the siblings of Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts are souring on Chicago and growing increasingly concerned the deal will be modified in a way that denies the team the revenue it needs to renovate Wrigley without a public subsidy.
“Tom has gotten everybody to stand down while he works with the mayor. He understands the emotional value of staying at Wrigley. He’s holding his family together on this. But, they’re ready to roll,” said a source close to the billionaire family that owns the Cubs.
The City Council’s summer recess will be a measuring point for the team’s plan to install a 6,000-square-foot video scoreboard in left field, a 1,000-square-foot see-through sign in right-field and 35,000 square feet of advertising on a 91-foot high hotel and open-air plaza outside the stadium, the source said.
Ricketts has further demanded a Class L property tax break 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 outfield signs on rooftop views.
“If this deal looks like it’s going down in flames or not getting done in a reasonable time, Tom will invest in ‘Plan B’ locations. He’d still work with the mayor on a city site. But, maybe not in Wrigleyville. I know people don’t believe it. But, it’s true,” the Cubs source said.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said he won’t be cowed by threats the Cubs may leave 99-year-old Wrigley Field.
“One of the advantages of moving out of the city is they get to plan their own stadium with no constraints on night games or signs. The risk is, where’s the audience? Where’s the market?” Tunney said.
“They’ve been working with our neighborhood for 100 years. There’s positives in our neighborhood. There’s also a lot of conflict. I want to keep the hotel as small as possible, I want to reduce the size and amount of signage and the LED impact. I want extra security for all games. I’m trying to work within the framework and get a deal done as quickly as possible.”
Aides to Mayor Rahm Emanuel privately dismissed this week’s public solicitation from DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin as a Cubs-orchestrated negotiating ploy.
“This is all manufactured to gain leverage,” said a top mayoral aide, who asked to remain anonymous.
Last month, Ricketts threatened to move his team out of Wrigley and Chicago if he doesn’t get the outfield signs he needs to bankroll a $300 million stadium renovation without a public subsidy.
Since then, the Cubs have complained about language in the ordinance authorizing up to 46 night games at Wrigley that would: require the Cubs to foot the bill for security costs tied to more than 40 night games; forfeit a night game after any season that includes more than four “non-baseball events”; cap the number of Saturday night games at two and give the city control over when rained-out games are re-scheduled.
Sources said Emanuel met with Tom Ricketts shortly after the June 5 City Council vote and assured him the night game ordinance would be “fixed” to alleviate the team’s concerns. The mayor also reiterated his commitment to implement the rest of the framework.
What Emanuel did not and could not promise is that the Cubs would get every square inch of a sweeping signage plan that Wrigleyville residents fear will turn their neighborhood into a Chicago version of New York’s Time Square.
And that’s precisely what concerns the Ricketts family.
“The framework has got to pass in tact [including] signage on the plaza, the size of the hotel. It’s 91feet [high] for a reason. If you drop floors, you lose money,” the Cubs source said.
“Major elements of this framework have to get done without major litigation and drama or we’ve got a problem.”
Will DeMille, president of the Lake View Citizens Council, could not be reached for comment on the DuPage County overture.
In a May 29 letter to Emanuel, DeMille cited “significant concerns with the development outside the ballpark, including the amount and type of signage, the height and entrance of the hotel.” He demanded a “distinct review and feedback process” for every component of the so-called planned development.