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DuPage County Cubs? Team would feel the love in western ’burbs, official says

Tom Ricketts May discusses proposed renovations Wrigley Field. | Paul Beaty~AP

Tom Ricketts in May discusses proposed renovations to Wrigley Field. | Paul Beaty~AP

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Updated: July 15, 2013 7:05PM

Convinced that the owners of the Cubs have soured on Chicago, DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said Wednesday he’s making a 9th-inning pitch to lure the team to the western suburbs.

Cronin said he’s identified at least two and as many as four parcels that would satisfy the Ricketts family’s need for a 40-acre site with “arterial road support and a public transit component.”

DuPage County also has conducted a marketing study that shows the Cubs would earn even more money in the western suburbs, even though the demographics of the team’s fan base would change dramatically from bar-hopping singles to families.

The Cubs would earn an extra $17 million-a-year right off the bat, since DuPage County has no amusement tax, he said.

Cronin says he’s pitching the Cubs — even after Mayor Rahm Emanuel has started delivering on promises made in his “framework” agreement with Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts — because there’s been a “qualitative change” in the attitude of team owners.

“They feel hurt, disappointed and offended. They believe their future — even if they’re able to strike this deal now — will be uncertain and based on the whims of political and government leadership,” Cronin said.

“That experience with the City Council [last week] over the night games was particularly eye opening, instructive and troubling to them. Some of the [Ricketts] siblings came to the conclusion that the city doesn’t really want to partner with them and it will be difficult and uncertain forever. They want to be wanted. We may not have the charming Wrigleyville neighborhood. But, we look for ways to make it work. We don’t throw obstacles in front of business.”

Cubs spokesman Julian Green reiterated the team’s complaint about confining language in the ordinance that authorized the team to play up to 46 night games-per-season at Wrigley, start six Friday afternoon games at 3:05 p.m. and stage four concerts.

But, Green said Ricketts is committed to seeing through an approval process he hopes will authorize a 6,000-square-foot video scoreboard in right field, a 1,000-square-foot, see-through sign in right-field and 35,000 square feet of advertising on a 91-foot high hotel and open-air plaza the Cubs plan to build outside the stadium.

Ricketts has further demanded: a Class L property tax break and “no compensation” to Chicago taxpayers — either for air rights over Clark Street to accommodate a pedestrian bridge or for taking out a lane of parking on Waveland and a sidewalk on Sheffield to extend the right- and left-field walls outward to minimize the impact of outfield signs on rooftop views.

“Our goal is to stay here in Chicago. That’s the commitment we made. As part of that commitment, we need to go through the planned development process. When we do, hopefully we’ll find that the city is just as committed to us,” Green said.

“At this time, we are not interested in competing offers. We’ve invested a lot of time, energy and resources in the planned development process. Our focus is on getting the necessary approvals so we can invest $500 million to renovate Wrigley Field and develop the surrounding community. Things get tweaked. We can’t expect nothing will be changed. But, we need flexibility.”

Rosemont has offered the billionaire family that owns the Cubs 25 free acres to build a suburban replica of 99-year-old Wrigley. Cicero has also expressed interest.

But, Green insisted Wednesday that the Cubs did not solicit the 11th-hour offer from DuPage to pressure City Hall to change the night game ordinance.

“We don’t have the time or luxury to invest in pressure tactics and aggressive measures. But, we’re flattered they believe there’s value to this franchise,” he said.

Last month, Ricketts threatened to move his team out of Wrigley and Chicago if he doesn’t get the outfield signs he needs to bankroll a $300 million stadium renovation without a public subsidy.

Since then the Cubs have demanded changes to a night game ordinance that would require the team to foot the bill for security and sanitation costs tied to more than 40 night games per season and forfeit a night game after any season that includes more than four “non-baseball events,” including concerts or college football games.

The team was equally unhappy with Emanuel’s decision to cap the number of Saturday night games at two per season and give the city “unprecedented” control over when rained-out games are rescheduled.

Emanuel responded to those complaints by essentially saying the Cubs should be grateful for what they got.

“It may not be exactly what you want, but that’s what an honest compromise is. And we’re gonna continue to make progress for them on a whole host of other issues of implementing the framework,” the mayor said last week.

“When you buy a company and you had 30 nights and you go to 40, that’s clearly an increase. There are six additional games that are now at 3:05 p.m. and four opportunities to do other alternative evening events, like concerts and football games.”

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