Cubs, city to keep talking Tuesday about possible Wrigley deal
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org April 1, 2013 2:58PM
Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa (11) celebrates with catcher catcher Welington Castillo (53) after getting the final out of a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opening day baseball game Monday in Pittsburgh. | Gene J. Puskar~AP
Updated: May 3, 2013 6:18AM
The Chicago Cubs agreed to soften their Monday deadline imposed by Chairman Tom Ricketts on getting a deal done to renovate Wrigley Field and will be back at the negotiating table Tuesday.
“The talks on Monday were positive enough that it was worth honoring the mayor’s request to stay at the table . . . Beyond [Tuesday], I don’t know,” a source close to the negotiations said late Monday.
Hanging in the balance: a $300 million renovation of 99-year-old Wrigley Field and the possible loss of another construction season.
Monday’s negotiations were an extention of efforts that began two weeks ago aimed at resolving the signage dispute between the Cubs and rooftop club owners that stands in the way of a deal.
Both sides will continue to try hammer out an agreement that would allow the rooftops to survive and thrive and still give the Cubs the advertising revenue they need to renovate the landmark stadium.
If Mayor Rahm Emanuel was discouraged earlier Monday, he was doing a good job of playing hide the ball.
“I did not set the deadline. They did — and they’re a party to the conversations. And I believe when all the parties have something to say, they’ll say it,” the mayor said, noting that it took 18 months for Ricketts to give up his quest for a public subsidy. “There’s good progress made to both allow the Cub owners to make the investments . . . that they need to make in their stadium and . . . also make sure that the community around Wrigley . . . sees the type of parking and security that they need for games to also enjoy the community. . . . There will be a time in which the fog will lift in the negotiations and people will see what’s in front of them as a victory.”
Earlier Monday, Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for Ricketts, said the team was still “talking exclusively” with Chicago and “hoping for a good result.”
About Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens’s offer to give the Cubs 25 acres of free land to build a Wrigley Field replica, Culloton said: “I can’t speak for tomorrow,” Culloton said.
Stephens said Monday he had no desire to “get in the middle” of the Cubs’ negotiations with the city.
“I understand the nostalgia of Wrigley Field and the sentimental value of the ballpark. I’m a baseball fan. They renamed the neighborhood Wrigleyville. I understand all of that stuff. I’m not gonna muddy up that progress, if it’s there,” Stephens said. “But, if the conversation starts to lead to a non-favorable outcome for both sides — if the Cubs are not gonna get what they want, the neighborhood holds fast to their demands and there’s an opportunity for us to make a pitch for Rosemont — that’s when I’ll make a call to the team and see if there’s something for us to talk about.”
Stephens touted Rosemont’s 3 percent amusement tax, compared to Chicago’s 9 percent.
And he noted that the Cubs would have no restrictions on night games, signage and game day street fairs that have cost the team tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue in Chicago.
“The perimeter of the field would front 294 with 250,000 cars of traffic every day. That provides an extra asset to market to potential sponsors,” he said.
“The baseball average is 57 night games [per-season]. The Cubs play 30. That’s [a revenue loss of] $27 million-a-season or $1 million-per-night game. They could own all the parking in Rosemont. There’s a lot of different revenue streams.”
Pointing to a story in Monday’s Chicago Sun-Times, Stephens said, “The Cubs are not only the most profitable team in baseball. They have one of the highest debt ratios in all of baseball. They’ve got to pay down that debt.”
A top aide to Emanuel has dismissed Rosemont’s offer as not serious because of the deafening jet noise that would surround a Wrigley replica in the shadows of O’Hare Airport.
“How can you sing, `Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ when you can’t even hear yourself think,” the Emanuel aide has said.
But Stephens emphasized that most of the takeoffs and landings would be north and south of the proposed stadium site.
“If that’s the biggest drawback to the site, then they obviously don’t want to come here,” he said.
Ricketts has offered to bankroll a $300 million Wrigley renovation without a public subsidy — and build a $200 million hotel development on McDonald’s property he purchased across the street from the stadium — if the city lifts restrictions on outfield signs and night games and opens Sheffield for street fairs on game days.
With support from local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), rooftop clubs that share 17 percent of their revenues with the Cubs have countered with a plan to generate $17.9 million a year to bankroll the stadium renovation by putting seven digital signs on top of their buildings instead of inside the ballpark blocking their views.
Sources said the final deal is certain to include “some signage” inside the ballpark — including a Jumbotron video scoreboard in left field — and “some blockage” of rooftop clubs even after attempts to “minimize” the number of obstructions, sources said.
City Hall sources said Emanuel is also prepared to lift the 30-game-per-season ceiling on the number of night games to the 44 or 45 games, with some of the dates reserved for concerts. Six to 10 3:05 p.m. starts could also be part of the mix.
Wrigleyville residents are likely to get more parking, as Tunney has demanded, to replace the 400 spaces that was supposed to be part of a so-called “triangle building” adjacent to the ballpark that the Cubs have now scrapped in favor of an open-air plaza.