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Cubs’ owners buy McDonald’s property across from Wrigley Field

 CUBSLAND—A company owned by Ricketts family owners Cubs has acquired parcel lacross from Wrigley Field for future development “mixed

CUBSLAND—A company owned by the Ricketts family, owners of the Cubs, has acquired a parcel of land across from Wrigley Field for future development of a “mixed use entertainment” project — in addition to the long-stalled triangle building. There’s a McDonald’s there now. Cubs won’t say exactly what’s planned there or how much the land cost. December 14, 2011. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 16, 2012 10:22AM

The owners of the Cubs have spent $20 million to buy a parcel of land across from Wrigley Field to develop a “mixed use entertainment” project.

Cubs spokesman Julian Green said the land at 3620 N. Clark — acquired by North Clark, a company owned by the Ricketts family — is now occupied by a McDonald’s, which would remain open for the foreseeable future.

Green wouldn’t discuss specific plans for the one-acre property.

He said properties around Wrigley “don’t come up for sale that often” and that the Ricketts family jumped at the opportunity to acquire it for future development.

The land is across the street from a triangle-shaped parcel of land next to the stadium and won’t affect that long-stalled development, he said.

“There are no concrete plans, but it could be mixed-use entertainment,” Green said. “The long-term plan is to create this major destination for our fans — something that draws folks to the ballpark year-round. I don’t believe residential will be part of it.”

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), whose ward includes Wrigley Field, called the land deal long overdue.

“I’ve always felt the Cubs should be more aggressive in owning property around the ballpark. If they would have done this 20 years ago, they would have paid a quarter of the price,” Tunney said.

As for what type of development he’d like to see on the parcel, Tunney said it’ll be up to Wrigleyville residents.

“They have not presented any plans to my office or the community. Their interest was to control it and do some small retail tent on part of the lot in the interim,” he said of the Cubs.

“It’s up to the community to figure out how we redevelop it. The triangle project was approved and never built, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”

Past owners of the Cubs have been second-guessed for failing to purchase the rooftops across the street from Wrigley and cash in on their bird’s-eye view of the landmark stadium.

That oversight set the stage for a bitter battle that saw the team put up windscreens to obscure rooftop views and file a copyright-infringement lawsuit designed to put the private clubs out of business. Rooftop owners ultimately agreed to pay the Cubs 17 percent of their gross revenues for the next 20 years. In exchange, the Cubs agreed to market the rooftops and adjust the compensation downward if a 2006 bleacher expansion hurt their views, which it did not.

To avoid repeating past ownership’s mistakes, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts bought a piece of a building with an empty rooftop across the street from Wrigley. And now he’s bought the McDonald’s parcel as well.

The land deal comes as Ricketts is trying to revive his stalled plan to use 35 years’ worth of city amusement-tax growth to finance a $210 million Wrigley renovation.

A taxpayer-subsidized stadium renovation plan would keep the Cubs at Wrigley for at least 35 years and pave the way for the Ricketts family to invest $200 million of their own money in the triangle building, the Cubs have said.

But Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called the plan a “non-starter” and sent the Cubs back to the drawing board in search of financing alternatives.

Earlier this year, the Cubs asked architects to redesign the triangle building promised in exchange for a 1,791-seat expansion of the Wrigley Field bleachers, armed with a survey that shows neighborhood residents want less parking and more open space.

The original plan called for a seven-story building dominated by a parking garage. The design also included an upscale restaurant, retail stores specializing in Cubs merchandise, team offices, below-ground batting cages and a rooftop garden.

Sources said the redesign might include a shorter structure built around an open square filled by an ice rink in the winter and a farmer’s market and outdoor concerts in the summer. Lost retail and parking revenues could be recouped by selling corporate naming rights to the plaza, concert stage or ice rink, the sources said.

Plans for a bustling pedestrian walkway in between the building and the ballpark patterned after Yawkey Way at Boston’s famed Fenway Park are expected to remain unchanged. Sports marketing expert Marc Ganis said the Ricketts family was “very smart” to buy the McDonald’s property.

“It’s something the prior owners should have considered doing,” said Ganis, who advised the Tribune Co., the Cubs’ previous owner, on stadium financing in the past. “The Tribune Co. had the opportunity to buy lots of property around Wrigley years ago and did not do so, and the team has been trying to play catch-up ever since.

“There are many parties making a lot of money around Wrigley Field who have no investment in the product on the field that draws the people. The Cubs should get control of as much of that adjacent property as they reasonably can.”

Asked what the Cubs should do with the McDonald’s parcel, Ganis said, “The most important thing they can do is generate revenue streams they could put back onto the field.”

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