With a self-imposed deadline of April 1 to reach a deal with the City of Chicago on a plan to renovate 99-year-old Wrigley Field just four days away, what happens if Alderman Tom Tunney and the Wrigleyville community do not come to an agreement that the Ricketts family finds acceptable?
While Tom Ricketts has publicly said he is committed to trying to reach an agreement that keeps the Cubs in their iconic ballpark, sources connected to City Hall told me this week that they are very concerned that if a deal is not reached by Monday that it could throw the whole process into chaos. Rosemont mayor Brad Stephens told me again on Thursday evening that he is watching the negotiations closely, and if a deal is not reached he wants to meet with Ricketts as soon as possible.
“I understand Tom Ricketts wanting to do all he can to make Wrigley Field work long term. He should listen to Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago and hear what they are proposing. However, if the Cubs are unable to reach a deal by Monday I would like to meet with Tom Ricketts as quickly as Tuesday morning," Stephens told me. "They cannot be held hostage by the community. The people in the Wrigleyville area must understand that the Cubs are the economic engine that drives the neighborhood. Wrigleyville doesn't make the Cubs, rather the Cubs make Wrigleyville. You don't have to be very intelligent to see that."
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Since word broke on Comcast SportsNet last Monday, Stephens has had time to think and told me he is more excited than ever at the prospect of having the Cubs call Rosemont home.
"We are a pro-business suburb that understands that a great deal for the business owner is a good deal for our town. Twenty years from now we will look back if this deal happens and say that a great deal for the Cubs was also a great deal for Rosemont," Stephens said. "The Ricketts family is being forced to deal with government interference in trying to run their business. We will let them run their franchise without any government interference.
"They can build a 'Cubs Island' out here by putting a new stadium on the land that we will give them. They can develop all of the bars and restaurants they want in and around the property and bring in tremendous amounts of revenue for the Cubs. If they want they can put their own rooftops up behind the outfield walls and make all of the revenue from those as well. And I can guarantee you that those rooftops won't try to stop them from doing whatever they want to do to their ballpark at anytime.
"I'm willing to give them a piece of something I don't have right now. Whatever monies they generate for Rosemont is something that we currently don't receive because we don't have the Cubs. So why wouldn't I do all I could to make them a very attractive deal? If they get a great deal for their franchise by moving their stadium to Rosemont and I get the benefits of 3 million fans coming into our community, that is a win/win situation for both sides. I am willing to negotiate on the taxes that they pay and I will make them a tremendous deal."
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Recently, the Lakeview Citizens Council sent a letter to Mayor Emanuel regarding the Cubs' proposed expansion, and a look at some of the key points of the letter shows how tough a situation the Ricketts family is facing.
March 13, 2013
The Honorable Rahm Emanuel
City of Chicago
121 North LaSalle Street, 5th Floor
Chicago IL 60602
Re: Proposed Wrigley Expansion
Dear Mayor Emanuel,
Game and Event Concerns
In regards to night games and concerts at Wrigley Field, we continue to advocate for limiting the increase in night games to a thirty three game total and four concerts as outlined in our recommendation to Alderman Tunney in April 2012.
This proposed increase provides the Cubs more flexibility in scheduling night games with national networks and permits adding two additional concerts in lieu of two night baseball games.
In regards to adding Friday 3:05 starts and Saturday night games, we are very concerned about the effects on businesses throughout Lake View. Many restaurants and entertainment venues in Lake View are not part of the Wrigley Field economic engine. Changes to Friday and Saturday games will not only create a burden on residents with the increased traffic and parking during rush hour, but also harm these businesses that will lose patrons avoiding the area during prime weekend hours. As many of these owners are aware, weekends drive an overwhelming majority of sales. Even businesses that benefit from the economic engine could suffer if sales decrease due to the time changes. These businesses generate a substantial portion of sales during the baseball season, allowing many to operate year-round. Negative effects will force some of these businesses to shutter and could turn Wrigleyville into a desolate area with closed businesses during the offseason. The rush hour conflict and impact on local business were two of the reasons the ban on Friday 3:05 and Saturday evening games was implemented.
In addition, the Lakeview Citizens Council also sent a letter to Tunney, whose 44th Ward includes Wrigley Field and the Wrigleyville community -- and some of the key points of that letter are jaw-dropping.
The Honorable Tom Tunney
Alderman, 44th Ward
City of Chicago
1057 W. Belmont Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657
Re: Proposed LVCC Positions and Recommendations of Record Regarding Night Events/Concerts at Wrigley Field
Dear Alderman Tunney:
Based on the definition of “events” under Chicago Municipal Code Section 4-156-430(a) (“athletic contests at night and on weekday afternoons; restrictions”), “night events” are defined in this letter as
events which accommodate more than fifteen thousand (15,000) patrons at Wrigley Field and which take place between the hours of 8:00 p.m.– 8:00 a.m. during the Major League Baseball season and are not
Major League Baseball games. LVCC recommends events under fifteen thousand (15,000) patrons or outside the MLB season no longer qualify as night events. The maximum number of night games which are currently authorized under the Wrigley Field Neighborhood Protection Plan is thirty (30) night games.
Each year, the Cubs initially schedule approximately twenty-seven (27) night games. They set aside up to three (3) night games each season to allow for MLB or a national television network to reschedule a day game to a night game, so there are not more than thirty (30) total night games. LVCC recommends flexibility with respect to the Cubs being allowed to initially schedule thirty (30) night games total, with the potential to allow MLB or a national television network to reschedule up to three (3) day games as night games for up to a total of thirty three (33) night games each season.
LVCC recommends the Cubs have four (4) night events at Wrigley Field without restriction each year (i.e., there is no restriction as to the day of week the event is held). If the Cubs hold more than four (4) night events, not to exceed a total of six (6) night events, the Cubs will be required to eliminate a night game from the current or next year’s schedule, depending on the time of the baseball season, for each additional night event beyond the four (4) allotted night events.
A financial contribution from the Cubs to the Lakeview Community will be made to offset any inconveniences experienced by residents and businesses of Lakeview. The Cubs shall make a financial contribution
for each of the four (4) additional night events using the following formula: a minimum of seventy-five thousand dollars ($75,000.00) per event with a maximum of two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000.00) per season.
These funds are to be spent on identified community projects that will be determined on an annual basis upon mutual agreement of LVCC and the Cubs. The goal is to identify a series of projects that can be completed within the calendar year.
So, in short, the community wants $75,000 per event for "inconveniences experienced by residents and businesses of Lakeview." Will those business give a piece of their increased revenues to the Cubs when they bring 3 million people into the neighborhood each season? No chance. Reading these letters in their entirety shows just how intractable the community has been in their positions. You can read them at eastlakeview.org and it will give you a much more informed look at what is keeping these negotiations from being completed and a renovation plan from moving forward.
I love Wrigley Field and I would love to see the Cubs stay in the ballpark that I fell in love with as a child. However, with the deadline for getting a deal done just four days away, things are getting very interesting. If the Wrigleyville community does not realize the urgency of the situation they may get more than they bargained for and we may be watching the Cubs play somewhere other than Wrigley Field.