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Alderman seeking deal for signs atop rooftop clubs by Wrigley

Updated: November 19, 2012 3:38PM



Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said Wednesday he’s trying to broker a deal that would pave the way for advertising signs on top of the 17 rooftop clubs surrounding Wrigley Field instead of signs inside the stadium that could block the rooftops’ birdseye view.

“If there is a good relationship between the rooftops and Wrigley, it’s good for the community. My job is to try to forge a solid relationship with the businesses that need Wrigley and Wrigley needs the businesses. It’s a symbiotic relationship. I’m trying to navigate that,” said Tunney, whose ward includes 98-year-old Wrigley.

“Obviously, the Cubs want unlimited advertising opportunities inside the park. I’m trying to work out a deal where, maybe some of the advertising goes on the buildings, instead of blocking the views. But, it’s really part of a bigger package.”

Tunney was asked whether rooftop clubs that share 17 percent of their revenues with the Cubs would get a share of revenues from new signage placed atop their buildings.

“That’s all to be determined. … There’s a lot of creative ideas going around. We’re in the process of exploring all different options. No decision has been made,” the alderman said.

“First of all, the idea is breaking [new] ground. The rooftop ordinance doesn’t allow for advertising on rooftops. You’d have to change the ordinance.”

Beth Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Bleachers, could not be reached for comment on the negotiations.

Cubs spokesman Julian Green would only say the team is working with Tunney “to find a solution to improve Wrigley Field while allowing the neighborhood to continue to thrive. There are issues we need to work through, and we welcome the discussions.”

Signage revenue is a potential sticking point.

Scrounging for every available dollar to renovate Wrigley, sources said the Cubs have argued that, if signage is only being moved to preserve rooftop views, the team should be allowed to keep 100 percent of the revenue, just as they would if the additional advertising were inside the stadium.

Rooftop owners have countered with a demand for additional capacity beyond the current, 200-seats-per-club limit.

Until an ill-timed controversy over the conservative politics of Joe Ricketts, the patriarch of the billionaire family that owns the Cubs, team owner Tom Ricketts was still hoping to use 35 years’ worth of amusement tax growth to help finance a $300 million renovation of Wrigley Field.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was prepared to sign off on that plan, a $150 million variation of a financing scheme he once called a “nonstarter.”

The other $150 million would have come from relaxing Wrigley’s landmark status to allow the Cubs to wring more advertising and sponsorship revenue out of the stadium.

Five months ago, Tunney declared his opposition to key elements of that plan.

Noting that rooftop owners had spent millions on city-mandated upgrades, the alderman said he was dead-set against any additional signage inside the stadium that blocks rooftop views.

Arguing that the “streets belong to the people,” Tunney said he was equally opposed to the Cubs’ plan to close Sheffield and Waveland every game day to make way for money-making street fairs that duplicate the festival atmosphere around Boston’s Fenway Park.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported in late July that the Lake View Citizens Council was opening the door to more night games and concerts at Wrigley — in exchange for additional neighborhood protections and cash contributions for community projects.

An agreement that expires in 2016 caps the number of night games at 30 per season. The Cubs routinely schedule just 27 night games to give networks televising Major League Baseball the flexibility to turn three Saturday or Sunday day games into prime-time broadcasts.

The Lake View Citizens Council offered to let the Cubs to schedule 30 night games and add three more if the networks choose to make a switch.

And instead of requiring City Council approval every time the Cubs want to stage a Wrigley concert, the LVCC offered “four night events” each year, including weekends — and as many as six concerts, provided the Cubs forfeit one night game for each of the last two.

In a follow-up interview, William DeMille, vice-president of the Lake View Citizens Council, opened the door to even more than three additional night games.

On Wednesday, Tunney held out the possibility of “separating the parts” and dealing with the night game ordinance before the stadium renovation.

Sources said the Cubs have already starting talking to Wrigleyville residents about 3:05 p.m. starts on Fridays and about “some flexibility” to play on Saturday evenings.

The Sun-Times reported earlier this year that Tunney has received at least $171,356 from rooftop club owners and another $15,675 in rooftop contributions to his 44th Ward Democratic Organization.

Tunney, owner of Ann Sather’s Restaurants, insisted that the contributions stemmed from his role as a strong advocate for business and that the campaign cash would not interfere with his efforts to be “fair and balanced.”



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