A League of Her Own

Surprise! Illinois Doesn't Want to Give The Ricketts $200 Million

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Expecting Illinois to give you $200 million to fix up your own property when it's $13 billion in debt is kind of like expecting Kosuke Fukudome to put the team on his back and lead them to the NL pennant.

Nonetheless, the Ricketts obviously thought their financing plan was worth a shot, and hoped to ram it through the fall session of the Illinos General Assembly.

Alas, there is no joy in Wrigleyville. The mighty Ricketts have struck out:

The organization's plan to use amusement-tax growth over the next 35 years to fund a $200 million renovation of the nearly century old stadium on the North Side is dead, sources told the Sun-Times Wednesday.

Ricketts has been trying to figure a way to revamp the stadium while using some sort of public funding, such as the amusement tax growth backstopped with a 2 percent hotel tax, but city and state legislative leaders are wary of saddling tax payers with the burden of paying for the renovation if growth slows.

Legislators told the organization to head back to the drawing board as their plans won't make it through the Fall veto session.

Other ideas include creating a tax increment financing (TIF) district around Wrigley, or broadening the 1 percent tax on downtown restaurant meals that was used to finance McCormick Place.

Somehow, I'm sure this is Todd's fault.

While I think it was, at the very least, tone deaf to ask Illinois to pony up $200 million in the worst economy since the Great Depression, especially when hundreds of state workers are currently going without pay, but I really do want to see Wrigley renovated. Thoroughly renovated.

This shouldn't really be this difficult, right? I mean, Cubs fans have been throwing their money around Wrigley for almost 100 years now. Why not just get the money from the fans? Sell more bricks with people's names on for them for $500 a pop and promise to stick them under the ivy in the "New Wrigley." Give fans commemorative "pieces" of "the old' Wrigley for $150. Charge more for beer (blasphemy, I know). Sell "I helped save Wrigley" t-shirts for $100 a piece; hats for $50. Sell the right to show replays on fans' mobiles exclusively to Verizon. Then charge fans $15 a season to use it. Put those glass "donation boxes" like they have at the British Museum at the exits and ask fans to throw their loose change in as they leave the park.

I'm telling you, the money would start rolling in in no time. Cubs fans are DYING to give their money to this team. All the Ricketts have to do is a) speak frankly to the fans, b) give the fans a sense of community through constant communication, and c) ask for it.

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22 Comments

plamorte said:

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Good news lost in all of this is Laura Ricketts can now have a civil union. Marry Oprah or Ellen and boom there's your $200 mil.

Doc said:

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Anyone who has been paying attention closely to this should look at what potentially could be plan B for the Ricketts family.

If people thought that raiding the luxury tax (which the average tax payer has to pay) was a bad idea...the possible alternatives look to be a bit worse...expanding the restaurant tax boundary now used to pay for McCormick place or creating a tax-increment finance district in the Lakeview neighborhood. The original proposal was basically going to be paid for by Cubs fans. These new possible proposals will be paid for by everyone doing business in Chicago and, in particular, Lakeview.

Nice.

For those of you who think that the Ricketts family will just be able to handle this all on there own...they can't.

They don't have the cash on hand to do these renovations in one shot (if spread out over 10 or 15 years...yeah...they could float tha).

And for those of you who think the Ricketts family should just do a traditional financing of the project...on the off chance that someone would actually lend them the money, Major League Baseball won't allow the Ricketts to take on the debt because it would push them, as owners, the debt limit that a team is allowed to carry. (They are actually already over that limit, but thanks to the fancy financing of the sale from TribCo, they worked around a loop hole to get the deal done.)

The sad part...everyone should have seen this coming. An owner $450 million in debt, a bloated payroll, and a crumbling stadium? What did anyone expect?

JulieDiCaro said:

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I was reading something somewhere recently about how Mark Cuban and all the smart owners dropped out of the bidding precisely because they knew Wrigley needed renovating and they knew the State wouldn't pay for it. For some reason, the Ricketts seemed to think it would be a cakewalk, and they've handled this whole thing wrong from day one. They need to fire their PR department (they have their own, separate from the Cubs') and hire some people from Chicago who are in touch with the fan base.

Doc said:

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I've mentioned this before...but I really think the Ricketts family was blinded, by their fandom, to the true state of the condition of Wrigley Field. I'm becoming very concerned that they are too big of fans of the team to be effective owners.

The truth of the matter is, all four of the Ricketts kids need to just go away. They need to fire Crane Kenney and put a true baseball executive in charge of the team and stay out of his way and let him fix all this.

JulieDiCaro said:

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I think they're the kind of fans that worship Wrigley and the Cubs from afar. They seem far more invested in the corporate marketing aspect of owning a baseball team than the actually baseball operations side of the team.

Doc said:

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Hey Julie,

Based on number of empty seats at Wrigley last season, the drop in TV ratings, the sinking merchandise sales, and extremely slow sales of CubbieCon tickets...Cubs fans are no longer dying to give their money to this team.

Well...most of them...except me.

JulieDiCaro said:

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I STILL think they could turn this around if they got some better advice on the PR front. They've handled the fans in exactly the wrong way.

Doc said:

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Fire Crane Kenney.

Cubs Psychologist said:

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Nice opening comparison, Julie!! They do need a new PR head and marrying Oprah would not be a bad idea.

jarowcliffe said:

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I am yet to find anything that this "family" has done right with this team.

I remember when their bid was selected and they were going on and on about how the team would no longer have a faceless owner and blah blah blah. They did give the team a face, I guess. Too bad the face is an ass.

This was not a love affair purchase where they wanted to see this team win "for the fans." NOBODY spends $845 million just because, they spend it to make money! That is the bottom line, period.

Wrigley will be renovated, eventually. It will have to be. This "family" is going to do whatever they have to to make sure that the cost of the renovations do not cut into their bottom line first. If they can get someone else to pay for it they will. Its about making money, not winning. Sorry to be cynical but that is just the way it is. The Tribune wanted to make money, the Wrigley's wanted to make money, the Steinbrenners want to make money, everybody wants to make money.

JulieDiCaro said:

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but you make the most money by winning. more people come to the ballpark, more people buy merchandise, etc.

unfortunately, they seem to think the team is good enough to win as is, and they seem to follow whatever Jim Hendry says as the gospel truth. that's not good news for any of us.

jarowcliffe said:

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I agree with all of that but Cubs fans constantly shoot ourselves in the foot by being so loyal and devoted, Wrigley Field being part of the problem with this, that the owners never see a reason to actually make the team better.

When the Tribune did expand payroll and attempt to win it was to make the team more valuable for the sale.

plamorte said:

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White Sox closing in on Dunn.

Carlos Pena is all ours!!!

JulieDiCaro said:

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*facepalm*

Cubs Psychologist said:

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I just read that about Dunn. What followed was that we are in on Konerko?? Has anybody heard about this???

JulieDiCaro said:

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the White Sox can supposedly afford only 2 of Dunn, Konerko, and Buerhle. So it would seem that Konerko is the odd man out. on the other hand, there's a lot of buzz that a Konerko deal is close. We shall see.

MillsChC said:

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Haha.. Pat Rules!.. just saw that.

JulieDiCaro said:

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White Sox area about to sign Adam Dunn. And they still have plenty of money for Konerko. Meanwhile, the Cub have re-signed Jeff Baker.

Cubs Psychologist said:

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The Chicago Cubs, maintaining mediocrity since 1908!!

MillsChC said:

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Awww crap... just saw the news this morning.

Karen said:

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Me too...sad day

kiwibob said:

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Few bits of news really stun me these days but I looked up the Trib news thinking you were referring to re-signing Jeff Baker and were being ironic...
Now I've had a little cry and feel really awfully sad. I'm going to miss Ron. He rocked!
Bless you Julie for managing to get him to read my name out this year! And bless him for doing so...
For six or seven seasons, until mlbtv came along, I'd get up at 6am and tuck myself on the sofa and listen to Pat and Ron call pretty much every game of the season. Even once I could actually watch the game I would sometimes listen to it instead and re-create that feeling.... now a little piece of my life is gone.
I know some people thought he was an awful colour man but I personally thought he and Pat made one of the most listenable duos I've ever heard do sport...
Bye Ronnie... you cheered me up so many times... and one day, probably when I'm dead too... they'll finally win the damn thing and dedicate it to you.

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