As we were watching the Royals jump out in front of the Giants in Game 2 of the World Series (and ultimately tie the series at 1), David Kaplan dropped a pretty significant piece of news on us. In short, the relationship between the Ricketts family and the rooftop owners is getting better, and the Cubs may buy some of those properties.
According to one of Kaplan's sources
“Despite years of acrimonious negotiations and public sniping that has pitted the two sides against one another, things have gotten much better. The Ricketts family has been amazingly fair, and Tom has been a man of his word throughout these latest discussions. He and his brothers and sister want the rooftop owners to get a fair deal, and Tom has been clear in his instructions to the rest of his team that he wants things handled that way. Now what they think is fair and what the rooftop owners think is fair could still end up being two entirely different things but I believe that a deal will get done before Opening Day.”
If Kaplan's piece is accurate, and there is no reason to doubt that accuracy, this clears some significant obstacles for the Cubs moving forward. Some or all of the threat of litigation from the rooftop owners would be removed, depending on the number of rooftops that the Cubs buy and if any of the potential remaining rooftops are blocked and threaten their own litigation. The threat of litigation has been present throughout the entire renovation process, which is what has prevented the work to getting to the point it is at now. While the Cubs have seemed to have a strong position since Kaplan also leaked the contract that the Cubs have with the rooftop owners, the Ricketts family had been reluctant to begin the project until this past May.
Removing the threat of litigation, to any degree, will be helpful to the timeline the Cubs have put forth to complete the renovation.
@BlackAces2014 If they buy enough of them or the right ones they could put up whatever signs the city approves.
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) October 23, 2014
Looking forward, the acquisition of some of the rooftop buildings would open new renovation streams for the organization. They could affix additional advertising to those buildings and operate them in their current capacity. As opposed to the small portion of revenue the Cubs are contractually owed, they would get the full share. The value of these buildings could become an unexpected source of income for the team, who would control a renovated Wrigley Field and would have income drivers in the improved area around the ballpark in addition to any of the buildings it buys. An even deeper look at the television deal that is being negotiated for the WGN games and looking to the end of the CSN deal in 2019 could mean a massive and steady increase in available cash flow for the club, increasing nearly continuously for the next five years.
All of this may be getting ahead of ourselves. As we have seen with the renovation, nothing comes easy when the ballpark and the surrounding area is involved. It has taken over a year and a half since the Cubs unveiled the renovation plans that the 2013 Cubs Convention for work to even begin. Kaplan's news, though, does allow for some optimism that the renovation itself, at a minimum, could be completed without a threat of litigation impeding the progress even further. And a deeper examination could mean Theo Epstein gets the big pile of money other executives don't want him to get.
As always, stay tuned...because this ain't over until it's over.