SBD/May 2, 2013/Facilities

Ricketts Clarifies Comments On Cubs Leaving Wrigley Field; Emanuel Says No Threat

Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts said the team is losing out on $20M in advertising revenue

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that he "does not believe there’s a serious threat the Cubs will leave" Wrigley Field after Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts yesterday acknowledged that moving to a new ballpark is a consideration should the team's planned ballpark renovations not be approved, according to Esposito & Spielman of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Ricketts' comments came at a City Club breakfast meeting, but Ricketts family spokesperson Dennis Culloton later said that Ricketts did not go to the meeting "with the intention of playing his ultimate trump card." Culloton said that Ricketts "simply gave an honest answer to a question on the mind of just about every Cubs fan." Emanuel said of the $300M renovation deal the Cubs and the city agreed to last month, "There’s now certainty around what they needed: There will be a jumbotron in left field. There will be signage in right field. Things that they think are necessary. There will also be signage in the plaza. That’s why I wanted to do a framework and they wanted to do a framework so a lot of questions were answered prior to that." But Emanuel has "left it to the Cubs to sell the finer points" to Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney and his constituents in the area surrounding the ballpark. Ricketts said the Cubs are "sensitive" to concerns from the rooftop owners. He added that his organization plans to "meet with them in the coming days." Ricketts said that the Cubs are "losing out" on about $20M annually in advertising revenue without the outfield signs (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/2).

MIXED MESSAGES? In Chicago, Dardick & Sachdev in a front-page piece note Ricketts following the speech clarified his comments, saying, "The fact is we are committed to try to work this out." Ricketts: "We've always said that we want to win in Wrigley Field, but we also need to generate the revenue we need to compete as a franchise." Ricketts later appeared on WMVP-AM, saying, "I think everything is going to be fine. There is so much at stake for the city, for the neighborhood, for the team, for the fans that everyone has enough incentive to make sure we do this the right way and get it done" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/2). Ricketts said, "We’ve said it since day one: We want to win the World Series and we want to win the World Series in Wrigley and we’ve been very committed to the preservation and improvements at Wrigley. But that said, there’s also a question of whether or not we can actually put up revenue-generating video board and signage in our own outfield. If we can't, then at some point we’ve got to look at other options. But I don't think it's there. I think that we are going to be able to work this out and we'll be able to move forward” ("Sports Talk Live," CSN Chicago, 5/1). Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said, "Everyone is on record as saying their goal [is] to stay here and win here. ... Tom loves Wrigley Field. He doesn't wake up in the morning thinking about moving. He wakes up thinking about winning here. But winning does come first" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/2).

TRYING TO GAIN SOME LEVERAGE
: In Chicago, David Haugh writes under the header, "It's About Time Cubs Played A Little Hardball." Haugh asks of Ricketts' comments regarding a potential move out of Wrigley, "What took so long?" Ricketts "told the City Club of Chicago what he should have shouted from the rooftops of Wrigleyville months ago" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/2). Also in Chicago, Rick Telander writes, "Dropping the glove now allows Ricketts to ratchet up the suspense, gamesmanship and consequences of the negotiations." It is a "dangerous ploy because the PR game could easily turn against the Cubs." Telander: "You don’t bring out the nuclear bomb unless you’re willing to use it. Or the other side thinks you are. Or just the sight of it scares everyone into bomb shelters" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/2). The Chicago Sun-Times' Rick Morrissey said, "I’m surprised that he didn't do this a month ago, two months ago.” Morrissey said the Cubs are "being held hostage in a way" by the rooftop owners. Telander said, “You have to have an alternative. If you are negotiating and you don't have an alternative, then you have no leverage whatsoever. The Cubs are essentially screwed by that contract with the rooftop owners" ("Sports Talk Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 5/1). In Illinois, Bruce Miles writes, "I found the timing odd for Ricketts' threat to move the Cubs." The "threat card" is one Ricketts "should have played months ago or when he bought the team, and he could have done it subtly, without coming off as a heavy." Now, many see yesterday's comments "as an empty threat" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 5/2). MLB Network's Kevin Millar said, "This is a PR scene you got to do. You got to sit there and say, ‘Listen, I got to do this or I’m going to move.’ But it ain’t going to happen” ("Intentional Talk," MLBN, 5/1). 

NOTHING DOING: In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer writes, "The fact is, nobody's going anywhere" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/2). CBS Sports Network's Doug Gottlieb: “The Cubs aren’t going anywhere. That’s a bad use of leverage” ("Lead Off," CBSSN, 5/1). FOXSPORTS.com's Jon Paul Morosi asks, "What are the odds the Chicago Cubs will move from Wrigley Field?" It is "about as likely" as former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Cubs fan Steve Bartman "sharing ceremonial first-pitch honors before Game 1 of this year’s World Series at the Friendly Confines" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/2). ABC’s Josh Elliott said, “We may see a unicorn run through the studio today. It’s about as likely” (“GMA,” ABC, 5/2).

UP ON THE ROOF: ESPN's Pedro Gomez reported there is "hardly anybody" on the side of the rooftop owners. Gomez: "Mayor Rahm Emanuel is with the Cubs on this. The majority of Cubs fans are with the Cubs on this. The problem is, if you go to court, this could stick four, five years in the courts. All of a sudden, you're just waiting and waiting" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 5/1). A CHICAGO TRIBUNE editorial states, "We'd like to see a deal that preserves the rooftops." They are "part of the fabric of Wrigleyville, far more in character with the neighborhood than all those banners and screens and billboards envisioned for what might as well be called Ricketts Square." The Cubs are "asking for a lot," so "surely they don't expect to get it all" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/2).

TIME TO START FROM SCRATCH? FOXSPORTS.com's Sam Gardner asks, "Would a fresh start at a new stadium necessarily be the worst thing?" Gardner: "Maybe it would; maybe it wouldn’t. There’s certainly something to be said for history, after all." But at the evidence that Wrigley is the "source of the Cubs’ demise is somewhat overwhelming" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/2). NBC Sports Network’s Dave Briggs said of Wrigley Field, “I say blow it up.” SI’s Chris Mannix said, “I would say it too. I’ve never been to Wrigley, but I live in Boston. I’ve been to Fenway about 100 times, and I’m good with getting rid of Fenway too. I like good open seating, comfortable seating, I like new amenities.” Briggs said there are "too many freeloaders, too many problems in Chicago," to renovate Wrigley as the Red Sox did with Fenway Park a decade ago (“The Crossover,” NBCSN, 5/1). But NBC’s Brian Williams noted there "aren’t that many cathedrals of baseball,” and Wrigley Field is one with “its old-school baseball” ("Nightly News," NBC, 5/1). 

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