Here’s one viewpoint to Wrigley Field rooftop dilemma
BY HERB GOULD email@example.com March 14, 2013 10:21AM
A group of youth watch the game from a rooftop bleacher on Waveland Ave. at Wrigley Field, Wednesday, April 6, 2011, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: April 14, 2013 6:30AM
I’ve been thinking about this Wrigley Field rooftop controversy from all three sides. I don’t really understand any of them, except that the whole issue reminds me of other ongoing quandaries: The quest for peace in the Middle East. Pension reform. Golf’s long-putter debate.
Once something’s in place, change is difficult.
That said, I believe I have the perfect compromise for the Cubs, who want to put up video advertising boards at the back of the bleachers, and the rooftop owners, who don’t want video boards blocking the view of their customers.
But first, a little background . . .
The rooftop experience
My father was an early rooftop viewer, courtesy of his friend Carl Lerner, whose mother lived in a building that overlooked Cubs Park, as we used to call it. It was shortly after World War II, and they were going to school on the GI Bill, so saving a dollar on a ticket meant something.
They didn’t know it then, of course, but that was also the beginning of the current pennant-less era in which the Cubs are best viewed from afar. No matter how much we love them.
I finally followed in their footsteps last spring, watching a game from a rooftop emporium for the first time. I didn’t understand the rooftop concept, and basically still don’t. One of the appeals of Wrigley Field is being close to the action. Why dilute that by sitting up high and across the street?
Admittedly, it is a congenial social setting. One big reason, I was told, is that most rooftop experiences, while not cheap, include unlimited food and beverage. So if you want to drink half a case of beer, it’s a much better value than the over-priced suds at the ballpark.
This is not a major lure for me.
But it apparently works for others. And so, there’s a market.
Old deal, new owner
I’ve never understood why the Cubs permitted the rooftop explosion in the first place. To me, it seems like the farmer whose field is adjacent to the drive-in started charging people to watch the movie, and the drive-in owner said, ‘‘Well, OK. But give me 17 pennies on the dollar.’’
I wouldn’t do that. But maybe the previous Cubs ownership figured, if the ballpark is sold out, 17 pennies on the dollar is found money. Which it was, when the Cubs were selling out.
Now comes new ownership, which is neither selling out nor interested in having a pennies-on-the-dollar relationship with the farmer next to the drive-in.
The problem is, the previous owners signed a 20-year deal with their over-the-wall partners, who invested millions in their rooftop viewing palaces.
As a result, it makes perfect sense that the rooftop owners believe their agreement entitles them to not have their current view blocked by video boards.
It’s also understandable that the new Cubs owners don’t like this arrangement — even though the rooftop owners have a pretty compelling legal case.
And so, here’s the great compromise: The Cubs put up their video boards with advertising that’s seen by fans and TV cameras inside the park. But they also put up giant TV screens on the back of the boards — and display the game.
That way, rooftop fans can actually see the game, rather than pinstriped ants tossing around a dot.
How the Cubs and the rooftop owners divide the revenue from the advertising on the back of the video advertising boards shall be a topic for another day.
Next quandary, please.