Emanuel opens door to helping Cubs get more ad, sponsorship money
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com April 17, 2012 1:34PM
At the Logan Square Kitchen, Mayor Rahm Emanuel made an announcement about helping small business by eliminating extra permits required for similar services in Chicago on April 17, 2011. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times
Updated: May 19, 2012 8:13AM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday cracked the door open to helping the Cubs wring more advertising and sponsorship revenue out of Wrigley Field and surrounding streets to keep taxpayers off the hook for renovating the 98-year-old stadium.
“Wrigley Field is a great field. The Ricketts [family] purchased it. They have a responsibility that comes with it. We may make changes so they can enhance it. But we’re not gonna do that without consciously knowing who I sit there representing — and that is the taxpayers,” the mayor said at an unrelated event.
The Ricketts family “have a great venue and they thought it was a great venue when they made the buy in 2009. The package that comes together will come together when it’s ready to come together. But I’m there to be a steward for the taxpayers not one for the Ricketts family — and I know the difference.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that Emanuel is privately pushing a plan modeled after Boston’s Fenway Park to relax Wrigley’s landmark status and allow the Cubs to wring as much as $150 million in advertising and sponsorship revenues out of the stadium.
The changes range from more outfield signage behind the Wrigley bleachers, possibly including a jumbotron in right field, to street closings on Sheffield and Waveland every game day to make way for money-making street fairs.
The plan also includes sponsored “gateway” archways that welcome people to “Wrigleyville: Home of the Cubs” from various directions, more concerts and football games at Wrigley and a stadium club, restaurant and several thousand premium-priced seats.
The laundry list does not currently include more night games beyond the current 30, but could at some point to generate even more revenue, sources said.
On Tuesday, Emanuel refused to discuss specifics of his “Fenway plan” for Wrigley, except to good-naturedly accuse the Sun-Times of “ascribing something to me I have yet to agree to.”
Meanwhile, on the eve of a City Council showdown, Emanuel also said he is not prepared to wait any longer for his proposed public-private partnership that would pave the way for five financing giants to build “transformative” infrastructure projects.
“We have a major challenge, which is a 30-year to 40-year deficit [in financing infrastructure projects]. What we’re doing is now trying to address that deficit in creative ways,” the mayor said of his $1.7 billion Infrastructure Trust plan.
“I will not tie the city’s economic future, its job growth to the dysfunction of Washington and the dysfunction from Springfield,” Emanuel said. “ ... We have debated this long enough. …The question is, are we gonna do something about it or not?”
Emanuel said his plan is “just like a car loan, just like a student loan, just like a home loan” to pay for infrastructure improvements.
“After 30 years of discussion, it’s time to move forward,” he said.
To those who say he’s rushing through the revolutionary change in the way Chicago finances its infrastructure projects, Emanuel noted that the time between when he introduced the plan and when he hopes City Council will pass it is no shorter than the time period he gave for consideration of his plan to double water and sewer rates to rebuild the city’s water system.
“I proposed it in October. The budget was passed in November. About the same amount of time,” the mayor said.