Long-awaited Wrigley Field rehab deal expected by Monday’s opener
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com April 4, 2013 5:36PM
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The Cubs and City Hall expect to nail down a $500 million deal by Monday’s home opener that will allow the team to renovate 99-year-old Wrigley Field and develop property around the stadium by putting up “at least two” new signs inside the ballpark — including a video scoreboard in left field — and building a 300-space parking garage.
One day after local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) portrayed an agreement on all of the “moving parts” as nowhere in sight, two sources close to the marathon negotiations predicted an agreement by Monday that would allow rooftop clubs to continue operating for the 11-year “duration” of their revenue-sharing agreement with the Cubs.
Sources said “a couple” of rooftops would be “minimally” impacted by the decision to locate a jumbotron in left field and at least one more sign in right. But, the sources said negotiators are still working on ways to “soften” the impact. The size of the video scoreboard has not yet been finalized.
The source refused to reveal specifics,but said there would be no extension of the agreement signed by the Tribune Co. that requires the rooftops to share 17 percent of their revenues with the team.
City Hall sources said Mayor Rahm Emanuel also is prepared to lift the 30-game-per-season ceiling on the number of night games to “40 or more” night games and add even more dates for concerts. Six to 10 3:05 p.m. starts could also be part of the mix.
To appease Wrigleyville residents, sources said the Cubs are prepared to foot the bill for more police protection to control game-day crowds and build a new, 300-space parking garage on the gravel cemetery lot the team owns at Clark and Grace.
Tunney has demanded that the Cubs replace the 400 spaces that were supposed to be part of a “triangle building” adjacent to the ballpark that the team has now scrapped in favor of an open-air plaza.
Earlier this week, Tunney raised the prospect of a new parking garage on the cemetery lot and free remote parking.
“Wrigley Field has about 1,400 spaces, which is like the least of any baseball team in America — by far. . . . Boston has 4,500. Same congested neighborhood. So, we’ve got work to do. … You wonder why the neighbors are concerned about parking, traffic and congestion,” he said.
Noting that the gravel cemetery lot at Clark and Grace is “as big as the stadium,” he said, “Can they build [a garage] on that? There’s land [but] building is expensive. . . . They’re exploring all their options — a combination of certain additions in the community and a more robust remote parking plan.”
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts has offered to bankroll a $300 million Wrigley renovation without a public subsidy — and build a $200 million hotel development on the former McDonald’s property he purchased across the street from the stadium — if the city agrees to lift restrictions on outfield signs and night games and opens Sheffield Avenue for street fairs on game days.
With Tunney’s support, rooftop clubs that cash in on their bird’s-eye view of Wrigley have countered with a plan to generate $17.9 million-a-year to bankroll the stadium renovation by putting seven digital signs on top of their buildings instead of inside the ballpark blocking their views.
Emanuel has been trying to broker a deal that would allow the rooftops to survive and thrive and still give the Cubs the sign revenue they need to renovate the landmark stadium.
An agreement by opening day that eluded his predecessor would allow Emanuel to score a huge victory and keep the Cubs in Chicago and preserve Wrigley Field for another generation of baseball fans.
It would also allow the mayor to claim at least partial credit for a $500 million project that, the Cubs have maintained, would generate 1,200 permanent jobs, 800 construction jobs and $20 million-a-year in new tax revenue for the city and state.