As the wheels are in motion for the Wrigley Field renovations, it’s a battle now between the Chicago Cubs organization and the Wrigleyville Rooftops. It's a fight to see who can win Chicago hearts and minds by getting their message heard the loudest. Through the media and public relations, both the Cubs and the Wrigleyville Rooftops will get their agenda to the people. And since Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts is BFF with Wrapports Chairman Michael Ferro (who own the Chicago Sun-Times) it will be interesting to watch how the second city's second paper covers this.
And as you no doubt have heard, the city of Rosemont threw their hat into the ring too. However, that’s just a cheap publicity stunt by the mayor of Rosemont. Imagine the Kennedy with Cubs traffic ADDED to people commuting to/from the suburbs AND O’Hare traffic, the world’s busiest airport. Traffic jams on I-90 north are already homicide inducing as it is, adding Cubs traffic would be LUDICROUS.
The Cubs are going nowhere, they’re investing more in the land around Wrigley Field; not less. And Cubs fans might just care more about their ballpark and “the experience” than they do winning. The craziest fan base in all of sports, despite 105 years of "rebuilding," attests to this. Sorry Rosemont, you don't count here. The Cubs and Wrigley Field are intertwined. Moving to Rosemont has certainly done nothing to help DePaul, who is based in Lincoln Park. So we’ll just dismiss the stupid Rosemont idea and move on to the two actual players in this conversation: the Cubs and the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association.
We’ll look at their arguments and see where we agree/disagree.
1. The Ricketts family does not need to renegotiate their 2004 landmark ordinance agreement with the City of Chicago by April 1 to move forward with renovation plans. The landmark ordinance protects the “uninterrupted sweep of the bleachers” – not updating the clubhouses, public restrooms and various guest amenities. Nothing has prevented the Cubs from making these improvements except to use the renovation debate as an excuse to drive away the Rooftops.
I don’t know the specifics of the local legalese. You can see how both sides have a point- the local businesses help build the Wrigleyville neighborhood up from dangerous ghetto on the outskirts to trendy, adult playground. The Cubs have a point in that someone else is directly profiting off their product. Well, the years of detente are over and we have another battle over revenue between the two interests.
2. The Ricketts family was well-aware of the 20-year contract signed in 2004 with the Rooftop owners when they purchased the team. Two of the top people in the Cubs’ current organization, Cubs President Crane Kenney and Mike Lufrano, Executive Vice President, Community Affairs/General Counsel, negotiated the contract and profit sharing agreement with the Rooftop owners.
Yeah, well business evolves and things change. Especially after almost a decade. The “Cubbies” may be a cuddly, friendly mascot and “lovable loser” brand, but they are truly an unfeeling, amoral money-making machine. Just like all corporations.
I’m not saying the Cubs are greedier or more cutthroat than any other sports team corporation, I’m just saying they exist with the bottom line in mind first. And you’re absolutely naive to think otherwise. And you’re a DUMB businessman to rule out all re-negotiation. Especially after 9 years. And the Ricketts family made their money in T.D. Ameritrade, so they’re more about dollars than the lyrics of a Jay-Z song.
Or you could paraphrase Snoop: “mind on my money and my money on my mind.”
Point- Cubs (strongly)
3. As reported by media outlets this week, the Ricketts family attempted to purchase five Rooftops in 2011 and place signage-including a jumbotron-on the properties. The Ricketts family’s idea back then was nearly identical to the compromise solution being offered to them today.
Refer back to my opinion on point two.
Point- Cubs (slightly)
4. The Ricketts family requested public financing for the renovation even knowing they are about to receive an enormous financial windfall. The Cubs have publicly stated they intend to sell broadcast rights for their product next year, possibly even saying goodbye to their partner of many decades, WGN television. Here’s what the Ricketts know: a similar deal negotiated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in a like-sized media market was recently signed for $7 BILLION.
Well, the media rights are their own, so the Cubs can auction that off on the “free market” (biggest. misnomer. ever). I have no problem with them bailing on WGN for seeking “big paper like pancakes stacking them up” as Ludacris would say. However, public funding?
Public funding should NEVER EVER be given to any stadium anywhere. Period. That’s a scam of local tax dollars in every situation. The Cubs, like all teams are a profit-making private enterprise. Why the hell should public money be turned over to a private concern? Tax dollars should go to fund the places we can all use for free: parks, roads, schools (they are SO FEW nowadays) etc. When’s the last time the Cubs, or any team, let anyone in for free?
Point- Wrigleyville Rooftops (strongly)
5. Many of the Wrigleyville Rooftop owners have lived and invested in the Wrigleyville community for more than 30 years when the neighborhood was much different. Upon engaging in a partnership with the Cubs in 2004, they proceeded to collectively invest $50 million to upgrade and enhance their facilities. The Rooftop owners have collectively paid the Cubs approximately $25 million in royalties and are scheduled to pay another $45 million over the next decade. Unilaterally changing a contract without one party’s consent is unfair to any business let alone your neighbors of 30 years.
Beth Murphy, longtime owner of Murphy’s Bleachers, adds, “Our win-win advertising plan would dedicate 100% of all revenues from signs on rooftops to the Cubs to renovate Wrigley Field and help improve community needs. Signs on rooftops were proposed by the Ricketts family two years ago when they tried to buy a rooftop, so we’re confused why it isn’t good enough for them now. The Ricketts family should honor the contract we signed in 2004 that was negotiated by current Cubs’ top executives. There is no reason to block our views.”
I brought up the symbiotic relationship between the two parties in the intro. This is a more emotionally charged argument than it is an economic one. I hate to side with Ricketts, but nothing said here holds any weight.
Point- no one
Overall argument- slight edge to Ricketts. And it really hurts to type that phrase.
The Wrigleyville Rooftops claim they are a tremendous economic engine for creating significant revenue for city, county and state government. That may be true, but they’re still dependent on someone else’s product to be that economic driver. They are ancillary to the baseball team, not on equal footing. However, the deciding factor in this argument will be City Hall. They will take their cut first and foremost.
There’s a co-dependence here between the Cubs and the Wrigleyville Rooftops that needs to be worked out soon- before it gets really ugly. But maybe neither party will be “the Decider,” as George W. Bush would say. It may just be Rahm’s call after all.
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an author and regular contributor to MSN, Fox Sports , Chicago Now, Walter Football.com and Yardbarker. Banks has appeared on Comcast SportsNet and the History Channel, as well as Clear Channel, ESPN and CBS radio all over the world. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@PaulMBanks)
He earned his MBA from Loyola University Chicago in 2006
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