SBD/April 9, 2013/Facilities

Ricketts Says Cubs Are "100 Percent Committed" To Renovating Wrigley

Ricketts said renovations could be underway this fall if a deal is reached soon
Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts yesterday said the organization is "100 percent committed" to seeing the $500M Wrigley Field renovation project through and winning a World Series at the iconic ballpark, according to ESPN CHICAGO. He said, "It's a process and we're 100 percent committed to it and we want to see it get through." The Cubs want to "put up a JumboTron in left field and at least one more sign in right field which has upset some rooftop owners." The club and rooftop owners "signed a 20-year contract in 2004 that protects their view of the field in exchange for 17 percent of their revenue going to the Cubs." Ricketts said, "It's a fairly involved and kind of a nutty contract. But ultimately as we look at what we want to do in the outfield we're going to be sensitive to a lot of those issues and as we get forward and can start talking about how those plans are going to look, I think people will realize that." With an April 1 deadline already passed, Ricketts said that there is "still time to begin the five-year renovation plan this fall if a deal is reached soon." Ricketts: "We're not trying to throw ultimatums around" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 4/8). Ricketts was asked if he was disappointed or surprised a deal has yet to be reached. He said, "I don't look at it that way. The fact is that everybody is working hard, it’s been very productive discussions, things are moving forward. We’re just looking forward to keeping the ball rolling” ("Sports Talk Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 4/8). 

CONFLICT OF INTEREST: In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer writes a "significant and potentially costly tension appears to be rising within" the Cubs organization. It is a "business-vs.-baseball issue that threatens to prolong a rebuilding process already testing the patience of many fans," with ownership yesterday admitting that its "baseball-spending timeline hasn’t been its focus during efforts to secure an agreement for Wrigley renovations." How fast can Epstein and Exec VP & GM Jed Hoyer expect to "have their baseball budgets ramped back up to big-market levels once the five-year project is under way?" Ricketts said, "Well, a lot of the stuff we’re doing with the park is non-revenue-generating. I’m not sure when all of it comes online. We’d have to think about sequencing, and, frankly, I haven’t been focusing on that lately." Wittenmyer: "Not focusing on when a baseball department that has had budgets siphoned for much of the last four years will get its promised injection of new revenues? Isn’t that what this was supposed to be about?" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/9).

DIFFERENCE OF OPINION: In Illinois, Barry Rozner writes of Ricketts, "Why he never considered moving is beyond me. Why he never even threatened is baffling. Why he still refuses to use that leverage is a travesty." The truth is the ballpark "could use more than the $300 million worth of work the Cubs intend to spend to bring it into the new millennium." Ricketts would be "better served spending twice that much and building himself a Wrigley replica in the suburbs, replete with all the surrounding taverns and restaurants -- all owned by Ricketts" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 4/9). In Chicago, Mark Potash writes the rooftop owners "don't seem to be getting the benefit of being the 'little guy' in this dispute." They might be "heavy-handed in their attempt to maximize an investment -- just as the Cubs are doing." But "let the record show they are not 'poaching.'" They were "there first." The contract the rooftop owners signed with the Cubs to share revenue "implicitly allows them access to the views of Wrigley Field from their buildings" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/9).

THE NIGHT TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME: In Chicago, Paul Sullivan notes the Cubs currently are "capped at 30 night games, and speculation is they would like 41 to 50." Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said that more night games "would 'be nice,' but mostly because it would add to TV revenues, not for the players' body-clock adjustments." The Cubs have an "opt-out clause in their WGN-TV contract after 2014." Epstein said, "It really would help from a revenue standpoint with a (new) TV deal" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/9).
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