It's time for Cubs to take the bat off their shoulder and take their best swing in rooftop negotiations

It's time for Cubs to take the bat off their shoulder and take their best swing in rooftop negotiations

Well, this is an interesting development.   Maybe a boycott won't be necessary after all.  In an exclusive, David Kaplan was able to get a hold of the contract language between the Cubs and the Wrigleyville Rooftop Association.  Here is the key clause:

6.6 The Cubs shall not erect windscreens or other barriers to obstruct the views of the Rooftops, provided however that temporary items such as banners, flags and decorations for special occasions, shall not be considered as having been erected to obstruct views of the Rooftops. Any expansion of Wrigley Field approved by governmental authorities shall not be a violation of this agreement, including this section.

Any expansion approved by government authorities?

Earlier today it was reported that the Cubs were ready to act on the RF sign.

In a statement reacting to today's earlier news that the Chicago Cubs have applied for a permit to build a large right-field sign at Wrigley Field,

The rooftops released a statement saying that they will sue.

But if the Cubs get permission, can they?  The language in Section 6.6 seems to indicate otherwise.  The Cubs have already received permission in many other areas and appear to be ready to do so again.

From what I have been able to gather from a 3rd party source, the Cubs have tried to be respectful to the rooftop concerns as they pursue what is best for their organization.  The Cubs have said publicly that they prefer an out of court resolution, but the rooftops seem to want to play hardball instead.

Maybe for the Cubs to begin to escape from their reputation as doormats, it has to start with ownership.    They've been at a competitive disadvantage long enough when it comes to maximizing revenue from their ballpark.   And if an agreement can't work out then it's time for the Cubs have to take the bat off their shoulder and take their best swing.

And, just in case, if you haven't done so already, please go to Facebook and "like" the Boycott Wrigleyville Rooftops page.  It's time for us fans to play some hardball too and at least make our stance known.  The first step is to put the Cubs on a level playing field when it comes to their ballpark, then it is up to the Cubs.  The fight to add revenue cannot end with the renovation itself.  When that is done, we expect that additional revenue to be invested in the club.

 

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  • Without seeing the entire contract it's hard to tell, but this sure looks like a winner for the Cubs. Wish he would have included more about the arbitration clause, if I'm the Cubs, I want to be in court and not before an arbitrator

  • I wonder if Theo would have come here knowing in three years he would be in a legal battle with rooftop owners.

  • I certainly don't think he expected it to be this drawn out.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It amazes me with the Ricketts family history that they could have entered into a deal structured like this one. First of all they overpaid by 300 million, according to industry rumors, with their $ and legal team, I am shocked they took on this deal. In my 30 years in the sales industry I wish I could have come across a couple of suckers like these guys. Not only did they enter into a deal with a horrible debt structure, they also signed a deal that has the future revenue limits this deal has. In the words of my first sales manager, "you gotta be dumb" to make this deal. It's time the Ricketts family "strap on a pair" and take on these rooftop owners.

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    It almost seems like the Cubs were set up to fail by those who would use them for profit.

    Totally agree. I've had enough. For two long the focus has been outside the baseball team. It's been about profit, marketing, and the "experience". I couldn't care less about those things.

    I only care about the Cubs having the best opportunity to put the best product on the field, and it's time that they stop letting everyone else get in the way of that.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You and I are on same wave length there.

  • But the agreement clearly says that only an expansion of Wrigley Field allows the Cubs to violate the view obstruction agreement. Since this is clearly not a proposal to expand Wrigley Field, seems to me the Roof Tops are in the right and can prevent the Cubs from erecting signage that obstructs a view as long as it does not involve an expansion of the stadium.

  • In reply to Fast:

    It depends on if they see it as an expansion,which they say is possible. And the city councel has called the signs and jumbotron an expansion.

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    In reply to Fast:

    Are the outfield signs a separate approval? Or are they incorporated into the entire renovation approval? Might not even matter, but I wonder if it could be argued that the signs are considered an expansion of wrigley field.

  • In reply to Fast:

    I think that's open to interpretation. I don't think it's clear that expansion is defined as narrowly as simply making the stadium bigger.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    We still dont have the full contract, or know what was said/defined in the negotiations leading up to the contract, so us interpreting these clauses is somewhat useless (especially given that the majority of us are not lawyers).

  • In reply to Andrew:

    This may shock you, but this isn't a law class or a court case. This is a Cubs blog.

    It is at the very least an interesting possibility that we can discuss. We don't need to be lawyers to do that. (though many have made note of this clause, including Julie DiCaro -- who is a lawyer.)

    As far as I'm concerned, pointing what everyone already knows is far more useless.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I suppose getting needlessly defensive when someone says that maybe there is more to this story than we can know from a few excerpts of a contract is another strategy...

  • In reply to Andrew:

    Why are you needlessly reading the comments section and commenting then if you feel this is all in vain?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The City did the Cubs a huge favor by calling the signs and integral part of the expansion. It doesn't mean an arbitrator has to accept the City's conclusion, but it sure doesn't hurt.

  • In reply to Fast:

    The Cubs have been very careful about calling it an expansion the entire time. They are expanding the outfield walls. As I understand it, the permit the Cubs received has it worded as an expansion as well.

  • In reply to Fast:

    "After looking at the wording that the Cubs have used consistently and that the City Council of Chicago also used and approved by a 49-0 vote, I believe it strengthens the Cubs' position against the Rooftops in a potential lawsuit,"

    This is the part of the article, it talks about how the city approved an "expansion" 49-0. That's could be a deciding factor in an arbitrators decision...

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    Interesting point.

  • In reply to Fast:

    First I will say that without the full document it is pure speculation. It is hard for me to believe this is the best the roof top owners were able to get.

    That said and in reference to fast's comments I disagree completely. The quote above says "ANY expansion of Wrigley Field". You left out any and it a very important word. Keep in mind the Landmark Status of Wrigley Field, even small changes need to be approved. The Cubs can make a very compelling argument that with the Landmark Status that the only reason to include the word any in the roof top agreement is to cover any possible change to the structure provided the Cubs got approval.

    I would love to read the entire agreement as it is hard to me the roof top owners legal team allowed language to be interpreted so broadly. Remember the burden would be on them to limit what the Cubs can do to preserve their sight lines. Leaving any wiggle room for the Cubs would be dangerous, and at first blush they left an empty dance floor.

    If this is as it seems, the Cubs should proceed, they are heavy favorites to win.

  • In reply to Fast:

    "Expansion" is a multi-dimensional term not limited in this case to the size of the ballpark's footprint. You can expand up, down or cantilever out. You can expand by contraction i.e. increase seating capacity without increasing square footage by installing narrower seats or expand the sticks in a pack of gum from 5 to 6, but reduce the size of a stick by 20%. They could expand the clubhouses and install batting cages without increasing the footprint by building under the playing field. Bottom line... "expansion" is a broad term.

  • I wonder if the reason the ricketts never though about moving is because they thought they had a good case ? Kap said they might be clear of penalty as well because it expired two years ago. And the mayor ask that they settle with out legal action is probably why the cubs tried to settle first.

  • In reply to seankl:

    What expired two years ago?

  • In reply to John57:

    Kap said that a penalty if they don't follow through with the contract might have expired two years ago.

  • While I believe the rooftops should wise-up and come to the table ready to negotiate in good faith, I don't see it happening.

    For a few months now I've felt the rooftops main goal was to do anything they could to stop progress on the project - not just to protect the views of a couple rooftops.

    The rooftops currently have a competitive advantage over the Cubs in a few key areas: restrooms, ability to offer audio / video beyond what Wrigley offers (replays, etc), and food + beverage. Once the rehab / restoration / expansion is completed, Wrigley Field will close the gap on all of these key areas and cut into what the rooftops believe is key to their success. I've heard the argument from many quasi-fans that they'd much rather spend an afternoon at a modern rooftop facility than dealing with some of the inconveniences of Wrigley.

    I don't think that the renovations will hurt the rooftop's business...in fact I think it's in everyone's best interest to see the Cubs win again. However, the rooftop owners have appeared to be very short-sighted throughout the process and they believe that the more attractive option sitting inside Wrigley Field is, the less people will want to pay a premium to sit on a rooftop.

    Either way...I can only hope this helps move closer to a resolution.

  • In reply to cowboy2024:

    I believe one of the changes made by MLB includes replay being allowed in stadium.

  • In reply to GZUS:

    Right - but currently the rooftops can offer much better audio / video capabilities to the fans...they can plaster as many flat screens as they want. They can have tv on the game, one showing stats from a laptop and another showing college football games. As the Cubs make improvements to Wrigley, they'll close that gap with the jumbotron, etc.

  • In reply to cowboy2024:

    But I already have that in my living room - at no charge. If I'm coming all the way from the South Side to Wrigleyville, I want to see the game inside the park.

  • In reply to midwestlefty:

    There's a big difference between watching in your living room and watching from a rooftop. I'd also rather be inside the park, but the rooftops are a pretty decent alternative. The view from a few of the rooftops is better than what you'll get sitting in the upper rows of a lot of stadiums around MLB (and closer to home plate).

    The rooftops provide a unique service and I'd like to see them packed again in the near future -- just not at the expense of the Cubs.

  • In reply to cowboy2024:

    I see what you are saying but also feel that the Cubs have several advantages over the rooftops. One wrigley can't be replicated. There is nothing like sitting in there as a Cubs fan. Two the rooftops are very expensive. I realize that includes food and alcohol, but they are still pricey, which leads to point three, the rooftops are strictly catered towards people 21 and over. My fourth point would be that it's hard to pay attention to the game. Now most people are going to rooftops for corporate events, bachelor parties, birthdays etc...and aren't really there to watch the game. But then you can start to see that the rooftops are catering to a certain segment of the audience.

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    Certainly, rooftops are not for everyone. But they do draw away customers that would otherwise prefer the luxury boxes that will be build inside the renovated Wrigley Field.

    But the big problem with the rooftops is not that they steal away potential customers, but that they prevent the Cubs from installing jumbotrons, higher bleachers, and other things that could substantially improve revenue stream to the Cubs.

  • as i stated earlier, i heard a similar comment from the guys on the score and the exact same thought, do they even have the capacity to get into legal battle with tommy boy and his family?

  • In reply to lokeey:

    Seems that way. I remember Ricketts saying they felt confident if they had to take this to court, though obviously that's the last resort.

  • what does anyone think about selling the naming rights to park for a few years to get revenue going as well?

  • In reply to lokeey:

    The Mars family now owns Wrigley's chewing gum. They may be willing to (and perhaps already are) pay a token amount for the naming rights, but they would almost surely be outbid if the rights were available, Perhaps the City and/or Landmark Committee would oppose renaming the ballpark, or perhaps the Ricketts are waiting until after the 100th anniversary. How does InBev Field grab you?

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    In reply to lokeey:

    I think they've been giving the corporate naming rights away for free since 1981. I'm amazed the Wrigley name still adorns the marquee. Of course, I'd give the Wrigley folks first crack and retaining it, but if they want to sit on their wallets, let the bidding begin.

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    Last year, the Cubs were the most profitable team in MLB with income of $32,100, 000. on revenue of $274,000,000 (4th highest gross revenue in MLB with the smallest stadium). They last won the World Series, as we all know in 1908. The World Series Champion Boston Red Sox was the second most profitable team with income of $23,900,000 on revenue of $336,000,000. The New York Yankees were the highest grossing team with $471,000,000 in revenue. They only had $1,400,000 in income due, in part to their bloated payroll and expenses in paying off the costs of their new stadium. They haven't won the series since 2000. Profitability and revenue are not the problem for the Cubs. The problem is and has always been cynical owners who extort loyal fans and local politicians who fear "losing" a franchise on their watch. These jumbotrons and naming right and economic exclusionary zones are public subsidies of billionaires. When we we the people wake up?

  • In reply to Bill Brenner:

    Using the data you just provided. Cubs revenue is $274 million and Yankee revenue is $471 million. They have almost a $200 million advantage on the Cubs. That is $200 million every year, year after year. That is why the Cubs need more revenue so they can compete with the high revenue teams. Do you understand now.

  • In reply to Bill Brenner:

    You left out one important part in that. The $32.1M is operating income and does not include interest payments. Considering how Zell forced the sale of the Cubs into a complicated loan, you can bet those interest payments would eat into the $32.1M by a substantial margin. Considering the Cubs have more debt due to the way Zell structured the deal than any other team in baseball, that interest would impact them more than any other team in baseball.

  • In reply to Bill Brenner:

    Also, how the hell are jumbotrons (built by the team with their own money) and naming rights (on property that the Cubs own) public subsidies?

  • In reply to Bill Brenner:

    Despite their profits, the Cubs have the single highest Debt to Value Ratio in all of baseball. This is an impediment to spending flexibility which solutions like jumbotrons and signage could help to offset. A search of Forbes magazine will corroborate this.

  • In reply to Bill Brenner:

    I haven't seen the books, but my understanding is that the profit of 32 million dollars is BEFORE carrying costs on the loans required to purchase the Cubs. The interest costs actually put the family in the red.

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    I would *love* it if the Cubs just put up a big sign in right field one month before the season and said "see what you can do to stop us".

    Based on the language in that contract (though, admittedly, I'm no lawyer) it sounds like the answer might be "not much".

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    I wish an insurable act of God would destroy Wrigley Field while harming none of the property around it. Then the Cubs could collect the insurance money and build a new stadium elsewhere in a place they wouldn't have to put with any of this BS.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I'm not a fan of insurance companies, but that seems like an awful lot of punishment for the insurance company to have to pick up the bill for.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    mjvz, I just want them out of that neighborhood. As long as they're there, it's always going to be something.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I know it was a joke. I just thought the inclusion you made of an insurable act of god rather than just an act of god was interesting.

  • The agreement between the Cubs and the rooftops started on
    Jan. 27, 2004.

    In 2006 the Cubs agreed to extend the outfield walls eight feet onto the sidewalks along Waveland and Sheffield to eliminate the need for sidewalk columns to support a 1,790-seat bleacher expansion.

    http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/22930553-418/cubs-wont-have-to-give-taxpayers-more-after-475m-for-wrigley-renovation.html

  • A) Baseball teams don't disclose financials, that Forbes article is educated guesswork. B) if I spent 845mm on an investment and it only returned $32mm per year, I'd be super pissed. I hope it's not that bad.

  • I'm sure it's helpful that Theo went to law school...

  • In reply to DemonBerryhill:

    The legal aspects are done by Crane Kenny. I doubt that Epstein is deeply involved in them. The reason to structure the company in this way is to allow the baseball side to concentrate on the baseball side.

  • Soon to be posted Craigslist ad:

    Spectator bleachers of various sizes for sale. Buyer must bring crane to pick up.

  • In reply to Greggie Jackson:

    Kenney?

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    Reads like the Cubs have the legal right to go ahead with their plans.

  • A couple of people standing on their rooftop was quaint and kind of cool.

    The current bleacher monstrosities erected out there now look tacky and lessen the charm of the Wrigley Field experience.

    The rooftop owners are so concerned with the neighborhood and protecting the landmark status of Wrigley itself, but the don't hold themselves to the same standards. They are hypocrites and just happen to peddle a product I have no interest in so I hope they lose and the Cubs are able to expand and put up enough signage to block all of the views so that fans no longer go the rooftops and then I hope the city forces them to tear down the bleachers up there.

  • This is cautiously optimistic news. The rooftop owners need to go. They lost their security blanket when Daley retired. Rahm is the game changer in the equation.

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    That 6.6 clause, if it is written the exact way Kaplan reported it and John posted above, strikes me as poorly written.

    The Cubs are clearly erecting barriers that obstruct views from the rooftops; this is a black and white violation. The clause also says that doesn't apply if it's part of an "expansion". Is there somewhere else the word "expansion" is defined, other than something approved by the city? Because if it's an "expansion", the Cubs can also clearly do whatever they want.

    I am really surprised the rooftop's atty back in 2004 didn't ask to define that more closely.

    Because the key principle here is whether this constitutes an "expansion" of Wrigley Field.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Yes. In the article the July 2013 that the city council approved 49-0, the resolution states:

    "Specifically, but without limitation, Applicant shall have the right to ***expand*** the Wrigley Field bleachers to install (i) a new video board in left field, which may include an LED sign, a neon illuminated sign above it and two light towers to assist in outfield lighting; and (ii) a neon sign in right field, which signage has been approved by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and, in addition to being part of the bleacher ***expansion***, and along with all other signage contemplated by this Planned Development, is integral to the ***expansion*** and renovation of Wrigley Field and the development and redevelopment of the Property as contemplated herein.”

    I'm sure the Cubs attorneys, knowing the verbage in 6.6, chose these words very carefully (as they did calling it a restoration). Article 6.2 states that the Cubs no longer have to compensate the rooftop for any instructed views for an expansion. Seems to be a good chance this (ahem) "expansion" gets done & the roofies risk failed litigation & walking away with nothing in 2023.

    At least thats how Im interpreting it.

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    In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    Most legal interpretations would seem to favor the Cubs, I doubt they would start construction if they felt that it was a loser for them. Still, some gray areas left open by the vague language.

    This also explains why the Cubs wouldn't break ground on the hotel or other elements that weren't directly connected to the signage, something I asked........because they can't if this signage is part of the overall "expansion". If they build out everything else except the signage, then you could argue it's not part of the "expansion", but just an add-on, which would be a violation of 6.6

    Anyway, that's my take

  • I get the jumbotron. And after having visited Fenway I believe the Cubs can install one and not have it take away from the atmosphere of the stadium. The RF video board was extremely well done. If they handle the jumbotron with the same care then I can live with that and I understand the amount of revenue oppportunities it opens up.

    I have one question regarding the RF sign that the Cubs are proposing though. From my understanding all it is is a sign that says "Wrigley Field". How does that increase revenue? We already don't get any money from Wrigley/Mars. Aren't we essentially just giving them more free advertising? My first impression when I saw the renderings for the sign was that it was basically just an FU to the rofftop owners. My second thought was that it was a just a negotiating ploy, somethig that in the end they could say to the rooftop owners... okay we won't build that sign as long as you stop fighting the jumbotron. Which is crappy business ethics, especially when negotiating with people with whom you have a valid contract. So is there something regarding that sign that I am missing?

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I believe the actual sign is for Budweiser. The "Wrigley Field" sign was just a mock up to show the size and what it would look like.

  • In reply to Zippy2212:

    Ah. I haven't been paying much attention to proposed changes. Must have missed that. Thanks. Not thrilled with a big Budweiser sign, but hopefully my eye will get use to it.

    At least the jumbotron will block the view of that awful rooftop advertisment in left center.

  • The important sentence in this clause in my opinion is, “shall not be considered as having been erected to obstruct views of the Rooftops.” As I recall, back before the Cubs and Roof Tops signed the agreement, the Cubs (lead by McPhail at the time) intentionally tried to block the views in order to get some compensation and that resulted in the current agreement. It seems that with the Jumbotron and RF signage, the Cubs have tried very hard not to block their views and have gotten the City to approve of an “expansion” for the express purpose of making the blockage minimal. So, while I’m not a lawyer, this terminology looks to be a key in the agreement and key to the Cubs’ argument that they are not intentionally trying to disrupt the RTO’s business.

  • In reply to Indy57:

    I disagree Indy, the second part modifies the first. The Cubs can't do this on their own, but the modifier is with government approval the can AND IT DOESN'T VIOLATE THE AGREEMENT. It even says including this section, which specifically refers to what you reference.

    Again, I would think there is more in the contract than this for roof top owners. Because it reads like if the Cubs get government approval than they can go ahead. I wouldn't want a legal doc that tied me to future government decisions with people I have no idea will be in those positions.

  • In reply to bleedblue:

    The RTOs were thinking that no way Chicago, a democratic stronghold, would ever try to help the republican paper, Tribune and the baseball team they owned. And they were right until Ricketts brilliantly offered $500 Million to pay for union jobs to "expand" Wrigley field. Now the mayor, aldermen, and the landmark committee are all on the Cubs side instead of against them. RIcketts and Theo are smart. It is nice having smart on our side for a change.

  • In reply to John57:

    The Tribune has a poll going today- 80% in favor of the Cubs, 12% for the rooftop owners and 8% for neither

  • In reply to Cuyler:

    Not as strong a preference as our blog here but still a pretty big difference.

    Not sure who would side with the rooftop owners except the rooftop owners and people who need to make a statement about how they have every right to run their business the way they want to. Of course, they can. And we have every right not to patronize them.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John- I think you're forgetting about White Sox fans! That's probably half of the 12%.
    I just thought it was great that the total number of votes cast here were on a par with the Tribune. Good job

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    The sign you have seen is just a mock up they did for rooftop owners. They have an agreement with Budweiser

  • People paying a high price to sit on a roof and eat and drink beer
    are not what being a true Cub fan is about

  • "...and the answer my friends are blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind..."

  • In reply to daddyo:

    Nice Pete Seeger tribute!

  • Growing up on the west side of Chicago it's possible to have plenty of sinners and saints in your crowd. One of my childhood friends lived on the NW corner of Sheffield and Waveland in the 70's. His job was fur coats at discount prices and we didn't care where they came from. Picture a handful of tough guys watching a Cubs game on the rooftop, cold April day, ladies furs on to keep us warm. Wish someone had a camera.

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