SBD/Issue 46/Facilities & Venues

White Sox, Bears Could Provide Obstacle To Wrigley Renovation

Bears, White Sox Could Be Denied Money
For Renovations Under Cubs' Wrigley Plan

The White Sox and Bears could end up "preventing the Cubs from scoring with their plan to use 35 years' worth of amusement tax growth to renovate Wrigley Field," according to Fran Spielman of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Sources said that the Cubs' plan "calls for a 2 percent hotel tax to backstop the Wrigley bonds when bonds used to finance" U.S. Cellular Field and Soldier Field are paid off in '21 and '31, respectively. If amusement tax growth is "not great enough by then to retire the Wrigley bonds, the Cubs intend to borrow from the hotel tax and pay it back by extending the life of the bonds," which "could force the city and state to forfeit amusement tax growth for even longer than 35 years." But if the Cubs "move to the head of the line, the Bears and Sox could be deprived of the money they may need to complete stadium renovations." The two teams are "withholding comment until they know more about the Cubs' financing scheme." But Spielman noted White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf opposed the deal to renovate Soldier Field "until he got something out of it -- the right to sell naming rights of the former Comiskey Park to finance continued renovations" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 11/13).

PR BATTLE: In Chicago, Ameet Sachdev reported Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts has a "public relations battle on his hands" after announcing the plan Thursday. Ricketts Friday tried to "calm the uproar." In several radio interviews he said that Cubs fans "are on the hook, not the at-large taxpayer on the South Side, in Peoria or in Carbondale." Ricketts: "The dollars are only coming from people who buy Cubs tickets, and only the increase over what they pay today. ... The increases (in the amusement tax) won't exist unless we fix up the park." He added, "It's easy to get upset about headlines or editorials, but you just got to dig a little deeper and understand what's really going on here" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/13). But also in Chicago, Rick Telander wrote, "Didn't we just come through the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression by buying crap that people such as the Rickettses told us was hot stuff?" Telander: "If the bond scheme these Cubs owners are trying to foist on us ... does pass, it's the devil's work. The Rickettses have revealed themselves. They might love the Cubs, but they love other people's money more" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 11/14). Comcast SportsNet's Paul Sullivan: "You know how the state is right now -- it's a big budget crisis. It's bad timing on their part. On their behalf, they do feed a lot into the amusement tax, so they might deserve some of that money. But I don't see how this is going to fly" ("Chicago Tribune Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 11/12).

CUBBIE HOLD: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in his first public comments on the plan Saturday said that the Ricketts family "might need to look at a different way to fund improvements at Wrigley Field." Daley: "I can't rule it in or out. It is a good proposal, but like anything else we have to see what effect this has on the revenue, and that's very important, especially when you're looking at nickels and dimes" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/14).

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