Cubs' Kenney Reveals Contract Extension As Players Grow Frustrated Over Wrigley Delays
Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney on Saturday revealed that he "has signed a five-year extension" through '19 as team execs hope "to win city approval of the latest revisions to their Wrigley Field renovation plan," according to Paul Sullivan of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Kenney's announcement during an interview with WSCR-AM "seemed to catch the Cubs off guard." Cubs VP/Communications & Community Affairs Julian Green said the team signed him to the extension "several months ago." The timing of the announcement "was unusual, with Kenney admitting to mistakes in the Cubs' communications with City Hall over the proposed revisions." Team Chair Tom Ricketts "has firmly been in Kenney's corner, sticking with the polarizing executive despite criticism from fans and the media." Kenney "has been the Cubs' front man for the last several years on the Wrigley renovation plan" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/1). In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer wrote the revelation of Kenney's extension "isn’t so much news as it is another reminder of the upside-down priorities of an organization that has made baseball look like an afterthought since hiring Theo Epstein to run that side of the operation" in the fall of '11. Kenney's "fingerprints are on every delay, gaffe, back-step and public-relations flub in the Wrigley renovation process." Sources said that the five-year deal "was done close to six months ago." The length of Kenney’s extension "roughly coincides with the expiration of both the CSN portion of Cubs’ local TV rights and the financing restrictions placed on Ricketts ownership by Tribune Co." in the '09 leveraged-partnership sale of the team (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/1).
A DEFINING SENTENCE: In Chicago, Jared Hopkins reported the contract between the Cubs and rooftop owners "runs a mere 10 pages, but as the two adversaries prepare for a possible legal battle, they have begun to focus on one sentence that could determine the future of historic Wrigley Field." The sentence in the contract states, "Any expansion of Wrigley Field approved by governmental authorities shall not be a violation of this Agreement, including this section." Those 20 words in Section 6.6 of the contract "are being cited by team executives as a factor in their favor should the rooftop owners sue the club over changes that would block rooftop views of games." Attorneys for the rooftop owners -- "both in 2004, when the contract was signed, and today -- argue that the sentence was meant to refer to expansion of the bleachers, not other parts of the 100-year-old ballpark." Legal experts agreed that Section 6.6 "might help the Cubs prevail in a legal battle," but they also cautioned that the language -- "in fact, much of the entire contract -- is too vague to make a clear prediction about winners and losers." Five legal experts, including people familiar with sports law, were shown the contract, and they all "pointed to several key sections in trying to assess who might prevail in a legal battle." Among the items that "caught their attention: Ballpark additions 'to obstruct' the rooftops, such as windscreens, are prohibited, but there is no such agreement for revenue-generating signs; the contract doesn't forbid the Cubs from expanding the bleachers; and there are enough ambiguities throughout to keep a full roster of lawyers very busy" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/1).
SORE SUBJECT: Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo on Friday admitted that he and his teammates "are tired of management telling them the long-awaited renovation, including a 30,000 square foot clubhouse, is about to begin." Rizzo: "They told us again that 'they're going to get approved, they're going to get approved,' so I know a lot of guys are not happy about that. It's kind of strange because we get excited about it. ... I know they're working their tails off. But, again, it got shut down and it's kind of a bummer because we all thought it was going to happen, and now it's just wait-and-see, like everyone else." In Chicago, Paul Sullivan wrote Cubs execs were "in damage control mode over the latest Wrigley setback" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/31). The SUN-TIMES' Wittenmyer wrote just "wake the Cubs when the new clubhouse and batting cages are done," as they are "tired of all the politics, snafus, false starts and broken promises over Wrigley Field renovations" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/31). A CHICAGO TRIBUNE editorial states the Ricketts era "has been defined by endless bickering over plans to upgrade the deteriorating ballpark, and team officials say the losing is likely to continue until that argument is resolved." It is "too bad the parties couldn't come to terms," as those rooftop bleachers, "visible whenever the TV cameras pan the skyline over the outfield, are an undeniable part of Wrigleyville's charm." But the 100-year-old ballpark "is crumbling." Its amenities "are hopelessly dated," and Ricketts "should be allowed to make the necessary changes to run his business" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/2).