I've been on board with a full-on renovation of Wrigley Field (and when I say 'full-on,' I mean knocking down everything but the ivy, the marquee, and the scoreboard and starting over.) I hadn't been all that fired up about a Fenway-esque renovation until I got the chance to check out Target Field this Spring and came home 5 different shades of green with envy.
So I was exicted to see today that the Ricketts and I seem to be ont he same page on this issue:
The owner of the Chicago Cubs is asking the state to help finance more than $200 million in renovations at Wrigley Field that will ensure the team stays at the historic ballpark for the next 35 years.
The Ricketts family, which purchased the team last year from Tribune Co. in a deal valued at $845 million, has pledged that the project will not be financed by new taxes or an increase in existing taxes.
The family's plan calls for the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, which owns U.S. Cellular Field, to float up to $300 million in bonds. The bonds will be paid over 35 years through amusement taxes that Wrigley Field customers already pay.
While Illinois taxpayers are going to be understandly hesitant to embrace state money going to renovate an already wildly-popular stadium while dealing with an $11 billion budget deficit, the bottom line is that Wrigley Field and the Cubs bring in enormous amounts of money to local businesses every year. Bars, restaurants, hotels, convenience stores, and local merchants all benefit from Wrigley Field. The more Cubs fans are in the area, the more money local merchants make. The more money they make, the higher the taxes they pay. The more taxes Illinois collects, the better it is for everyone in the state.
And lest you're one of the "purists" who doesn't want a hair on Wrigley's head touched or altered in any way, do yourself a favor and take a trip up to Target Field in Minneapolis. It will cure you of the Wrigley-is-perfect-the-way-it-is-itis right quick. Beautiful wide concourses, stairs and ramps that don't force you to take your life in your hands every time you go up or down, two different light rail lines that drop fans off within feet of their seats, an unbelievable variety of restaurants and bars. . . and that's before I even start talking about the intimacy of the setting and the beauty of the field.