Wrigleyville rooftop owners respond

Wrigleyville rooftop owners respond

I told myself I wouldn't devote a whole bunch of time to the Ricketts/Rooftops dispute, but today the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association decided to fire back and it's only fair that we share their side of the story.

Here is the official press release...

Wrigleyville Rooftops Association Setting the Record Straight

Rooftop owners exasperated by inaccurate statements by Ricketts family

CHICAGO - The Wrigleyville Rooftops Association wants five facts to be known as the Cubs' self-imposed April 1 Wrigley Field renovation deadline approaches:

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.

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.

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.

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.

5. Many of the 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."

The Rooftops are a tremendous economic engine creating significant revenue for city, county and state government.



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  • Do the rooftop owners not understand that the Ricketts are not going to do the clubhouse remodel, if they don't have a deal for the whole rebuilding plan? Why would they spend money on a clubhouse remodel, if they end up moving away, because they don't have a deal for the entire plan.

  • And do the rooftop owners not understand that for years they have made money on selling a product they do not own. They talk about the money they have spend, how about how much they have made selling tickets to an event they don't own?

  • In reply to The Cubs Way:

    By the time the Ricketts had bought a majority share of the Cubs in 2009, the Rooftop owners had been in a revenue sharing agreement with the organization for 5 years of a 20 year deal. What do you not understand about that? If the Cubs would like to renegotiate the terms they can do so through the proper legal channels. What happened pre 2004 has no bearing whatsoever to the current situation.

  • In reply to untitledreality:

    I don't care what agreement they had in place. I only care about the Cubs winning a World Series. I believe we now have an owner who is making every effort possible to maximize revenues so that in turn they can put a better product on the field. Currently the rooftop owners and the neighborhood are standing in the way of that. Contract or not, rooftop owners have benefitted for years off a product they don't own. I for one as a fan will not be giving any of these rooftops my money until this issue is resolved. I can only hope all other Cub fans will do the same.

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    In reply to untitledreality:

    untitledreality (aka roof top owner),

    people don't care about you and the contract you signed to continue to steal a product you don't own. you are in the way of this team moving forward to a championship.

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    In reply to The Cubs Way:

    You and I really need to be friends on Facebook. Your responses on this matter are as if you've read my mind. Wrigley Field is the Cubs property. The roof top owners exist because of the Cubs' product.

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    In reply to The Cubs Way:

    BTW TCW, if you know the answer to "WWHRD about this particular situation?", then we definitely think a lot alike. That stands for (W)hat (W)ould (H)oward (R)oark (D)o?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Howard Roarke reference... Love it!

  • I do see their point of view however, let's not lose sight of the simple fact that without the Cubs, without that product, the rooftop owners, murphy's bleachers, the alderman, the city - they have nothing. If the Cubs leave, they are screwed!
    Now, trying to amend a contract for one party's advantage is completely unfair. The Cubs should honor the contract they signed and let it run it's course.
    Overall, as a Cub fan I kind of feel like the adult in a room of arguing kids. I really do not care anymore where they play! Just put a winner on the field and everyone will make money.
    I tire of hearing about, "I've been an owner for 30 years", "traditions", "landmark status", etc. Change is difficult at times and the Cubs/Wrigley have not changed for years - and that is a big part of the problem.
    It's time for change - Time to win a Championship - May be even time to leave Wrigley and become the Cubs again.

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    In reply to jaxx51:

    "...trying to amend a contract for one party's advantage is completely unfair."

    No it isn't when you consider that they really have no legal claim to the product. The Trib and the Ricketts have both been way to polite in the guise of being "good neighbors". The contract should never have been offered and now it should be taken to court and dismissed.

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    I have no problem with Ricketts putting the advertisements on the rooftop buildings, and I actually think it is a pretty clever solution that keeps Wrigley's classic look while having the signage in the backdrop. That said, Ricketts can start renovating now, but he wants that full deal on the table that allows him to do what he wants. I also like how they have no mention of the night game situation. Adding ten night games would be big. I could go to one after work instead of having to take a day off (this is my reasoning for wanting a few more). How about they allow Ricketts to add 10-15 night games (they're full of it when they say it will hurt businesses, as bars will still be full of fans. Fans may actually go down early to have a few before the game), and in turn Ricketts puts the signs on the rooftops instead of in front of them. Allow him to renovate the clubhouse, bathroom, concessions, and the front concourse area. That "sweep of bleachers" is a vague description and the rooftop owners are only using it to prevent signs from blocking their view. Let Ricketts fix the place up. The renovation conceptual designs look really nice, and I would love to see the improvements. I just hope these two babies quit bickering and play ball with one another.

  • My beef is not with the rooftop owners. They have a contract and they should fight to have it honored or reach a solution to buy them out if need be. My problem is squarely with Ald. Tom Tunney. I want Tunney to explain why he supports a dozen small ventures with a collective $150M economic impact over 20 years vs. one with an economic impact in the tens of Billions?

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    Tunney is simply getting his moment in the sun. When push comes to shove Rahm will step in, override Tunney and seek a solution that is the greatest net economic positive for the city.

  • There... Now that should make negotiations go whole lot smoother.

    Apparently one group has finally realized they don't have as much leverage as they might have thought. This smells of desperation to me.

  • In reply to Bill:

    Holding the title to a legally binding contract with 9 remaining years is not leverage?

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    here's a modest proposal:
    someone (leave the details of "who" for later) buys each rooftop a mini-jumbotron, or a very large LED screen TV, each one hooked up to a dedicated camera that transmits a closed-circuit view of the field from that position. The rooftop patrons get the exact same view as they would have if it were unobstructed, live, they get the open air, the ambience - but they also get a controller that lets them pan, zoom, freeze, replay. It's better than watching the game from across the street. The tech is not that hard, it's the cost. Let's say it's a million apiece - we have what, 6-7 rooftops? On a $300 mil project, an extra 6-10 million is just couch change. It could be paid for by Ricketts/cubs, or maybe ad revenue inserted in the live feed, or something too creative for my feeble brain to come up with.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Not too bad of an idea. I like it. Of course the rooftop owners should not be allowed to expand more. If they were allowed to expand to other buildings, they could suck off too many paying customers for the Cubs. And I think there are more than 6-7 rooftops. I think it is more like 16.

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    In reply to John57:

    i did a google maps satellite image, looks like 12 or 13 that I can count, and some of those are pretty tiny.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    But it doesn't matter what you or I think is a good idea, they are going to do what is best for the Cubs. And the rooftop owners are doing what is best for them. And what I see about the Cubs now is they are very sharp and very intelligent. This is good for obtaining and developing baseball talent and dealing with business issues. The current Cubs are not going to be making any more bad deals like the 2004 Cubs FO. I don't see the rooftop owners doing as well this time around. In fact they may go out of business in the next few years.

  • In reply to John57:

    Entirely different demographics IMO. But putting that aside, when the Cubs put a competitive team on the field (which is what this rebuilding thing is all about right?) there is always a massive surplus of demand... everyone gets fat.

  • In reply to untitledreality:

    Yes when the Cubs get the increase in revenue from being able to run their business as they see fit, the Cubs will be better able to put a competitive team on the field. The massive surplus of demand will then happen. But if the rooftop owners force them to move, I don't think the rooftop owners will be getting fat.

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    john thanks for posting
    "the other side of the story"

    Maybe Ricketts needs to fire Crane Kenney - the Trib exec hold over
    if he negotiated the deal and now they dont like it.

    I think they are just playing hardball trying to get the best deal they can
    now before they announce the TV deal b/c no one will feel "sorry" for them then.

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    So, about that move to Rosemont...

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    ...will never happen.

    A. Rosemont is a lifeless black hole. Attendance would take a massive dive in lean years and every single April for the rest of eternity.

    B. Im sure the Cubs would love the prospect of being a few hundreds feet off dead center approach at O'Hare. Shea Stadium 2.0!

  • The mess will continue.

  • First time poster - long time reader.
    I've been traveled 120 miles to see the Cubs back in 1950. What I see of the hallowed "Wriglyville" is that some opportunists have used somebody else's product to make a profit off of binge drinking and selling tickets to an event they have no rights or stake in. I love Wrigley, but have been driven to wanting the Cubs to move - BADLY.

    For my part, Crane Kenny and Alderman Tunney can go live on the rooftops, and stare down on a vacant ballpark. How would the Rooftop Pirates like it if the Cubs told them how to manage their buildings?

    Go Cubs! Pirates fail!

  • In reply to Sheboygan Frank:

    Thanks Frank!

  • The changing of the landmark ordinance agreement has nothing to do with their ability to begin renovation work. What does matter is the team being able to justify current capital expenditures by locking in future revenue growth from additional advertising. That new advertising revenue is dependent on the landmark ordinance restrictions currently in place.

    Its obvious how this is going to get settled. The rooftop owners want an extended contract term and the Cubs want more revenue. Therefore the Cubs will agree to extend the rooftop revenue sharing contract say 5 to 10 years and in return the Cubs will get a bigger piece of the rooftop operating revenue pie and all the income from new rooftop advertising signs.

  • In reply to Northside Neuman:

    Ding Ding!

  • In reply to Northside Neuman:

    There is ZERO chance the contract is going to be extended. This contract is a major thorn in the Cubs side. The revenue the Cubs will get from this agreement is peanuts to what they will make if they get what they want.

  • In reply to John57:

    John, the Cubs can't get what they want because they have a contract with the rooftops for 11 more years. They either negotiate a better deal now or live with what they have for 11 more seasons and then try and buy out the building one at a time. They have no choice legally, if they try and block the rooftops views they will get slapped with a lawsuit. End of story.

  • In reply to Northside Neuman:

    You are right the current contract has 11 more years on it. I am not disputing that. The Cubs obviously want to renegotiate it. That is why they are offering to pay the whole $500 mil for the renovations and hotel but for that $500 mil they want to eliminate as many of the restrictions on them as they can. If they don't get the restrictions lifted, they don't cough up the $500 mil. Then they start looking for alternate solutions like moving to a new location. If that is the alternate solution taken the rooftop owners get an unobstructed view to an empty park. Do you think that is what they want? The Cubs current FO is never going to extend the current contract with the current restrictions in place. End of story.

  • It is difficult to comment on a contract without being able to read it to see EXACTLY what it says. There are very few contracts that do not have a termination clause, and I assume that this one does also.

    The City of Chicago screwed the Cubs by making Wrigley Field a "Historical Landmark", essentially reducing the value of the property without compensating the Cubs for that loss of value. Unfortunately, there is nothing the Cubs can do about it.

    Except leave.

    If the City of Chicago refuses to lift the Landmark designation and allow the Cubs to do what they wish with their property, then move to Arlington or where ever and let Wrigley rot. Landmark designation does NOT require the owner to maintain the property. The increased revenue flows from parking, hotels, restaurants and other sources will more than make up for the cost of leaving Wrigley.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    The landmark designation only covers the sweep of the bleachers, the scoreboard, rear and front marquees...thats it. And it is fully amenable. Any work must simply be proposed to Landmarks and they will critique it before passing/dismissing the request.

    Wrigley Lakeview, is a cash cow. The Ricketts paid good money for that reliable revenue stream, there is ZERO chance they leave. (hence the attempts to purchase rooftop buildings, the McDonalds property, $10mm a year in renovations, etc etc)

  • In reply to untitledreality:

    Yes two years ago the Cubs attempted to purchase rooftop buildings. That failed. They have moved on. The Cubs have thought of a better idea now. And from what they have said there is a chance they move from their current location. They just want to run their business as they see fit. They do not want their business to be run as Tom Tunney and rooftop owners see fit.

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    Great article John. Thank you for posting. I just missed a Blackhawks goal by Nick Leddy while reading but it was worth it. Seems like there is a big enough piece of the pie for everybody so hopefully it gets settled. I never want to see the Cubs in the suburbs. IMO opinion that kills baseball in Chicago for everybody. Too bad that area where Meigs Field was located is too small. A new Wrigley would be great there.

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    Dear rooftop owners,

    You win. Your view will remain as is, unobstructed.

    We're moving. Enjoy your view of an empty park.

    Ticket ts

    Seems easy enough, right?

    Its nice that the rooftop owners have a profit sharing deal in place, but they must know that the 45 million to be paid to the cubs is a drop in the bucket compared to the profits to be made from a brand new state-of-the-art facility, especially if Rosemont (or any other town) is willing to DONATE land.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Sure... $45 million might be a drop in the bucket to the Cubs... how about saying goodbye to the $75mm+ they have invested in Wrigley since their purchase? How about the hundreds of millions of dollars Wrigley cost them in 2009 as a part of their acquisition of the Cubs? How about the $500mm+ a new stadium would cost in whichever buttf*ck town the suburb fan boys want to drive to would cost?

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    In reply to untitledreality:

    All costs easily offset, regained, or mitigated.

    #1. As the owners point out, the precedent recently set by the Dodgers for a $7B TV deal isn't going to hurt.

    #2. If they build in the suburbs, they will almost certainly look for corporate backing/naming rights.
    HELL, if they want to get cute they can approach Wrigley Inc. (Currently a subsidiary of Mars Inc. , the second largest privately held company ) about sponsorship. That alone could fund damn near a whole stadium.

    #3 You make owning prime real estate on the North side of Chicago sound like a BAD thing.

    #4 A new stadium could potentially bring enough that the difference would make eating previous renovation costs acceptable. Adding as many luxury suites as they'd like, charging for parking, reduced taxes, higher seating capacity... Etc. Really the list of way a new stadium could feasibly increase profits extends far past what I can come up with off the top of my head.

  • Signage on the buildings is at least better than signage in Wrigley, but it's still gonna be an eyesore. I wish the landmark commission had more clout in this argument. And if true, the fact that Ricketts proposed signage on buildings a couple years ago is a strong point.

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    Why wouldn't Ricketts look into purchasing a parcel of land, like a golf course, just outside of the city limits? Just looking at the map for instance, Bryn Mawr CC is huge and only 8 miles away. A completely modern Wrigley could be built, with replicas of the buildings on Waveland and Sheffield (shops/businesses instead of homes)...and plenty of parking. Further, the ballpark could be turned so the stadium allows for a sweeping view of downtown Chicago (albeit from a greater distance).

  • In reply to Ray A:

    That sort of idea seems excellent if it would actually be feasible to get it done. Many here have suggested a "new Wrigley" that looks about the same as the old, but with all the other modern needs of a first class organization. I'd be for that, especially in light of putting the screws to all the people trying to push the Cubs around. I'm pretty sure Ricketts and family are smart enough to get creative for a solution that solves the dilemna.

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    First of all, the Cubs aren't moving. They now own not only Wrigley, but other property in the area. Ricketts isn't going to make a move that resets the value of a giant asset down to zero. And it will be zero, because if you think the City is playing hardball now, wait until you see how they react when the Cubs leave. Wrigley will be untouchable for any kind of alternative use. The best Ricketts will be able to do is stop maintaining it and then the City can seize it as a neglected property. That's just not a smart business move for Ricketts, aside from arguments I've made elsewhere about attendance and branding issues for the Cubs.

    Right now, I suspect Ricketts is trying to figure the cost of breaking the contract (dealing with the legal action and eventual settlement, but increasing revenue through an added jumbotron or expanded bleacher seating) vs. dealing with the rooftops vs. what strong arm tactics will mean for future dealings with city government. Right now both sides are going to wage a PR war trying to pressure the other side into accepting a better deal. I don't think Ricketts wants to seriously piss off City Hall. But the rooftop owners know that if the Cubs break the contract, than the rooftops lose a huge chunk of their value. It's not guarantee that they would recoup the lost value *and* the lost revenue. Plus the rooftop owners want to maintain a decent relationship with the Cubs because they know the current contract will never be renewed. Their best option for getting out ahead on the property is selling to the Cubs. Which is why they've generally been quiet and let Tunney do the talking for them.

    And speaking of Tunney, he's behaving perfectly rationally too. The Cubs have no impact on Tunney's reelection. I used to run a small business two blocks from Wrigley, and I can say from experience that the local merchants (aside from the bars) are ambivalent about the Cubs at best. Many are openly hostile. So are many of the longer-term residents (otherwise known as the people who vote in aldermanic elections). Tunney, as a former restaurant owner in the area, knows all this perfectly well. I suspect he also knows the Cubs aren't going anywhere. So he can play all the hardball he wants. His constituents like it. He has little-to-no risk of losing the Cubs to another location. And in the end he knows it's not his call, so he doesn't have to be diplomatic in the interests of some future negotiation.

    My prediction is that the Cubs and the rooftop owners will renegotiate the contract to give the Cubs more revenue and/or shorten its length. It's possible the Cubs will end up buying out a couple of the owners. Everything right now is just positioning and drama for public consumption.

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    In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    I know where you're coming from, but I think it underestimates a couple factors. First of all, the Ricketts will do what is long-term most profitable to them. Wrigley and the land around it is a sunk cost. If profits in a different town will dwarf those in Wrigley over the next 15-20 years, you take the hit.

    The other issue is, local politicians are idiots. There is some mayor in some large suburb right now saying: "Man, if we just give the Cubs a stadium, think what it will do for business in our town..."

    And, finally, selling Wrigley to Reinsdorf is always an acceptable exit strategy.

    I do think, at the end of the day, the Cubs stay in Wrigley, but I don't think a move is 100% out of the question.

  • In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    Good insight. I guess Chicago is not Mesa and Ricketts won't be able strong arm, but he is not the Tribune either.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    It's not that Ricketts has no leverage. He just has to negotiate with future relationship with the City in mind.

    Mike, the purchase is a sunk cost, but this is an active asset, which means it's valuation is not. So yeah, Ricketts shouldn't take the value of improvements he's already made into account. But on the flip side, he can't ignore what effect his actions will have on the value of his existing properties.

    Some local politicians are idiots, sure. I don't know that it's a higher percentage than the general population :) But most city governments are really hurting financially and don't have great bond ratings. It will be hard to find a 'burb that will be willing and able to sink serious money into a publicly built stadium right now. Which is why Rosemont offered land, but - as far as I know - didn't say anything about helping build.

    Reinsdorf has such a sweet deal where he is, I would be surprised if he would give it up. It would be a major gamble, because he would further alienate his already-alienated fan base by moving to the North Side while hoping that Wrigley fans will be enough to put him in a better attendance situation. Possible, I guess, but he may have the same asset issues Ricketts does. I don't know how that stadium deal works, and what properties around there are owned by Reinsdorf, but whatever he does have is completely value-less without the White Sox playing down there.

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    In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    I don't think the Cubs will leave Wrigley either, but if Ricketts would just start the motions...ask about land, meet with mayors, discuss tax advantages of writing off Wrigley, triangle and the old McDonald's property, it would really turn the screws. Also, have an open forum and invite more than just Tunney's zombies. Let's hear from all the businesses in Wrigleyville that don't have seats on their buildings. Something tells me the pressure would be unbearable...maybe even to the point where Rahm steps in and settles it.

  • Fallacies aside, of which there are many obvious ones from both camps, I'd like to point out a few observations of mine on both sides of the debate.
    I grew up with the "Budweiser Roof" and the Torco sign across the street from Wrigley. So in my mind there is some ascetic/nostalgic value and a precedent (assuming the cubs never received any compensation) for advertising and taking advantage of the Cubs brand. In fact you could apply the same logic for any billboard you see anywhere. They are there for a reason IE. taking advantage of a "brand" which in this case is traffic via advertising. And this speaks to 2 issues:
    1) If I am driving by a billboard that is most likely taking advantage (in a much more real way) of a road that I helped pay for, should I not deserve compensation? In this analogy I do not think there is very much difference between the public and private sector or advertising vs. selling rooftop seats.
    2) "But then on the other hand I could melt the wax" oops I digress; But then on the the other hand, TV and Radio etc. receive money for being paid for the advertising of their brand.
    I feel both sides of the debate have some merit. And both sides are playing the hand they have drawn. There is a contract involved, albeit one that the current owners did not sign. But it sounds like they were well aware of it. The $ that the rooftops current contract generates for the Cubs IS "couch change".
    Ultimately I feel this issue is just a small part of the endgame we as cubs fans really care about - which is winning. The amount of night games, increasing revenue streams and improving the player amenities are what I think this is (aside from the new managements rebuild).
    Would I like to see the buildings covered with billboards; not really. Do I feel the rooftop seats add some ascetic value to my Wrigley field experience? I think it does, which is what happens so often when I seek the truth logically and come out the other end leaning the more opposite of where I came in.
    I think the Ricketts know what they are doing and will end up coming out ahead. Which is WINNING baseball in October.
    But this mental masturbation is healthy and "couldn't hurt might help".

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