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Mayor: Cubs and rooftop owners need to ‘seize’ a deal

Chicago Cubs Vs Detroit Tigers. Chicago Baseball fans enjoy evening game Wrigley Field.  Wednesday  June 13 2012

Chicago Cubs Vs Detroit Tigers. Chicago Baseball fans enjoy a evening game at Wrigley Field. Wednesday June 13, 2012 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 15, 2013 1:32PM

A frustrated Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday there’s a deal to be made between the Cubs and the rooftop owners that would generate the $300 million needed to renovate Wrigley Field if only the competing parties would “seize it.”

Emanuel had hoped to nail down an elusive agreement on the Cubs request to lift restrictions on outfield signs and night games and open Sheffield Avenue for street fairs on game days in time to introduce an ordinance authorizing more night games at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

The mayor was prepared to lift the 30-night games-per-season ceiling to the 37-to-44 range, with some of the dates reserved for concerts. Additional 3:05 p.m. starts could also be part of the mix.

But the meeting on Wednesday came and went with no night game ordinance because there is no agreement on the stickier issue of stadium signs that threaten to block the rooftops birdseye view.

That’s frustrating to the notoriously impatient Emanuel, who wanted to nail down the $500 million deal that includes a hotel across the street from Wrigley yesterday.

“We’re not gonna break off a piece as it relates to that ordinance, which is on night games. It’s all one piece. We’re gonna do this comprehensively,” the mayor said.

“There’s an agreement to be had. It’s right there. All you need is a little leadership and a little will. It’s right there at the table. There is an agreement readily available for all the parties, and I have stressed to them repeatedly: Seize it. I believe they will. But it took some time [for the Cubs] to realize also that city taxpayers were not gonna be subsidizing them.”

Pressed to pinpoint the hang-up, Emanuel refused to negotiate in public. He would only say there is an “actual” deadline, and it wasn’t Wednesday.

He would only say, “There’s more than one part. All of it has to work together…And when you are compromising or giving up on something you think is important, you want to see — not that somewhere else it’s compensated, but understand that the overall deal is still of value for you. You win things, you lose things. You’ve got to look at the sum total and realize that this is still good. I believe the parties will see that.”

Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, said the family that owns the Cubs “shares the mayor’s sense of urgency,” but the real deadline wasn’t Wednesday. It’s opening day.

“That’s when we need to have a program that’s pretty much signed, sealed and delivered, so the team is in a position to order materials for a very brief construction season between the end of this baseball season and the next,” Culloton said.

“We will stay away from public funding. We’ll finance this ourselves. We just need [the freedom] to run our business. That’s a very simple, easy to understand home base for us. In the talks that have taken place, that’s been our goal. We haven’t quite figured out that formula to get everybody else in the community who’s engaged here to sign on.

Ryan McLaughlin, a spokesman for the rooftops, said: “We agree with the mayor that a deal can be reached. The rooftop owners believe there is a win-win solution for the Wrigleyville community and are committed to that goal.”

Local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said he won’t lift the 30-game ceiling on night games unless it’s part of a larger deal.

“The sense of urgency is not on my part. The ordinance expires in 2015 for night games,” the alderman said.

“It’s a lot more detailed than just night games. It’s night games. It’s signage. It’s hotels. It’s public safety. There’s so many things…Everyone’s gonna have to give a little…We’re not there yet …The mayor and I have discussed what we think is a comprehensive plan for the community and we’re not on board yet.”

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