MORRISSEY: Hard to defend Rickettses, but they have right to do business
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org March 9, 2013 12:54AM
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts appeared to be in a good mood Friday at Wrigley Field. At left, he greets Gayle Babb during the first day of single-game ticket sales. | John H. White~Sun-Times
Updated: April 11, 2013 6:46AM
‘‘We’re trying to give [the Cubs] special consideration, but they need to have special consideration, too, for the uniqueness of the neighborhood.’’ — Ald. Tom Tunney (44th)
You mean the neighborhood that owes its uniqueness to the Cubs and Wrigley Field? The neighborhood where property values are high because of the Cubs and Wrigley Field? The neighborhood filled with bars, restaurants and paying customers because of the Cubs and Wrigley Field? The neighborhood with parasitic rooftop owners raking in money because of the Cubs and Wrigley Field?
That neighborhood, Alderman Tunney?
The uniqueness of the neighborhood, conveniently and correctly referred to as Wrigleyville, has everything to do with the old ballpark that is squatting in its midst like a large, immovable cash machine.
It’s not easy defending a franchise owned by a billionaire family that makes no secret about wanting to find more ways to make more money. The Ricketts family plans to fund renovations at the old ballpark not out of the goodness of its heart but because it knows an improved Wrigley means more dollars in the till. It is not proposing a hotel with a health club, more concerts, more night games and more signage because it is into neighborhood fun or, deep down, because it thinks all that will help the Cubs win a World Series.
It is hoping to generate cash in part to help pay back the money it borrowed to finance the purchase of the team in 2009.
But it’s not as though Tunney is defending innocents here. Most of the Wrigleyville residents knew what they were getting into when they moved into the neighborhood. Surely they noticed the noisy ballpark as they shopped for homes or apartments, in the same way people living near O’Hare might have noticed the loud airplanes roaring over houses and rattling windows before they moved in.
That doesn’t mean residents have to bow down to everything the Cubs ask. It doesn’t mean surrender. But every time an issue comes up, Tunney and his constituents seem shocked that a major-league team has the nerve to want to do business at the corner of Clark and Addison. If the Cubs proposed a new parking lot with the proceeds going to disabled people, Tunney would complain about the environmental impact of wheelchair-tire rubber.
As I said, it’s not easy going to bat for what more and more seems to be the Omaha branch of the McCaskeys. All the off-field, ancillary things seem more important to the Ricketts family than the only thing that matters: the Cubs’ success. Nothing says ‘‘World Series fever’’ quite like a team-owned, revenue-generating hotel near Wrigley or a Pearl Jam concert inside the park, does it? If baseball is first, ownership sure has a funny way of showing it.
Oh, the Cubs will tell you all the additional revenue eventually will lead to a better product on the field, but every team in every sport says that, and it’s not necessarily true. Since the Rickettses took over the franchise, most of their efforts have had little to do with baseball.
But it doesn’t mean they’re wrong about wanting to get their share of a pie the team created.
There is no one particularly likable in all of this — not the wealthy owners, not the rooftop owners and not the alderman who seems to be opposed to just about everything except headlines.
Tunney’s approach is based on his certainty the Cubs aren’t going anywhere, but just imagine how hellish his life would be if they did move to another location. Even his constituents would see him as Public Enemy No. 1. But that’s not going to happen, and he knows it.
The team is willing to pay for the $300 million Wrigley renovation but wants to be able to put up more signs inside the park, which might block the views of the rooftop crowds. The rooftop owners want the signs put atop their buildings instead. Who cares what the Peeping Toms of baseball want?
The easiest thing in the world would be for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to side with the alderman (read: voters) against the greedy capitalists. But that would be based on factors other than reason. Looks to me as though everybody involved knew what he or she was getting into with Wrigley from the beginning.
It’s not as if the Cubs are asking that more front lawns be used as open-air urinals. They’re asking to do their business — the clean kind.