SBD/Issue 162/Facilities & Venues

Zell Rejects ISFA Wrigley Bid, Plans To Package Park, Cubs

Zell Rejects ISFA's Plan To Buy
And Renovate Wrigley Field
Tribune Co. Chair Sam Zell has rejected the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority's (ISFA) plan to "acquire and renovate Wrigley Field ... and now plans to package the Cubs" and Wrigley in a private transaction, according to sources cited by Spielman & Roeder of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Sources said that Zell has rejected the ISFA's proposal, which calls for at least $400M in renovations without raising taxes, because it "relies on a novel and untested financing plan: the sale of individual seats at Wrigley as if they were condominiums." The sources said that Zell, Cubs Chair Crane Kenney and their advisers have concluded that the plan, called equity seat rights, and "its tax ramifications would violate both" IRS code and MLB rules. Equity seating "requires fans to sign a long-term contract to buy a specific seat for a price that's either fixed or rises in an agreed-upon way." Spielman & Roeder note the proposed plan "could have driven away potential buyers of the franchise." Based on the sale of recent sports franchises, the Cubs and Wrigley Field together "could command $1[B]" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/13). Meanwhile, ISFA Chair James Thompson last week said, "There is no way to pass the plan with taxes. ... I don't think the people of Illinois, through their legislators, would support taxes for Wrigley renovation, as important as I think Wrigley renovation is. Now is not the time. It needs to be a no-tax plan if it's to have any success" with the state Legislature (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/10).

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