The Rosemont Cubs? That’s what suburb’s mayor is pushing for
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporteremail@example.com March 18, 2013 4:31PM
Updated: December 5, 2013 1:55PM
Throughout his four-year quest for the financing he needs to renovate Wrigley Field, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts has never once played the ultimate trump card by threatening to leave Chicago.
That could change if Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens has his way.
Stephens is offering to give the billionaire family that owns the Cubs 25 acres of land in the northwest suburb to build a suburban replica of 99-year-old Wrigley.
In an interview with Comcast SportsNet’s David Kaplan, Stephens accused local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), rooftop clubs overlooking Wrigley and local community groups of holding the Cubs “hostage.”
Stephens portrayed Rosemont as a “pro-development” community willing to remove all of the Chicago restrictions on night games, signage and street fairs that have cost the Cubs tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue.
He further noted that Rosemont has a three percent amusement tax, compared to the 12 percent that generates $17 million-a-year for Chicago and Cook County.
Stephens did not return repeated phone calls, referring questions to his spokesman Gary Mack.
“If it doesn’t work out with the negotiations they have going on right now [in Chicago], Mayor Stephens wants the Cubs to know they have an option and Rosemont could be that option should they decide to look elsewhere,” Mack said.
“What he does is put deals together. That’s what Rosemont has always been known for: a place where a business could go and find a friendly environment. He sees a situation that hasn’t been working and it’s in his nature to say, ‘We could make that happen in Rosemont.’”
Mack acknowledged that Stephens has met with Cubs underlings, but never directly with Ricketts.
But, he said, “There are 25 acres of land that Rosemont is willing to give to the Ricketts family to build a stadium. It’s the last piece of land of any size at the intersection of Balmoral and the Tri-State Tollway.”
Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for the Ricketts family, said the Cubs remain focused on getting a deal done in Chicago.
“The family appreciates the expressions of interest from Rosemont and others, however, the current focus is to work toward an agreement with the city of Chicago,” Culloton said in a statement.
Asked whether Ricketts was prepared to follow the lead of the Bears and White Sox by threatening to leave Chicago, Culloton would only say, “Tom Ricketts has no intention of talking to the mayor of Rosemont before opening day. Right now, the answer is ‘no.’ I cannot predict the future.”
The reference to “others” applies to former DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom, who made a similar pitch to Ricketts last summer.
“I told him he should consider moving to DuPage County as an option. He’s got a tremendous fan base out there. We still have a variety of large vacant sites out here that would be able to meet their needs,” Schillerstrom said Monday.
“Wrigley Field is tired. It needs a very substantial investment. With the restrictions placed upon it by Chicago, his opportunity to realize revenue [is limited]. If he came out to DuPage, he’d be able to have parking, skyboxes, advertising and he could build a replica. Everybody thinks people go to see the Cubs because of Wrigley, but the Cubs even without Wrigley Field have a national following. If he came to DuPage, he would fill the stadium and have the opportunity for additional revenue.”
Tunney could not be reached for comment.
The alderman has boldly declared that he would not agree to the Cubs’ request to lift city restrictions on outfield signs and night games and open Sheffield Avenue for street fairs on game days unless it’s part of a larger deal that includes more remote parking and added police protection after Cubs games.
The Cubs say they need those new revenues to bankroll a sorely-needed Wrigley renovation without a public subsidy.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel was out of town on spring break. A top mayoral aide, who asked to remain anonymous, dismissed Rosemont’s overture to the Cubs.
“The idea that the Cubs would leave Wrigley Field is not something to be taken seriously,” the Emanuel aide said.