With negotiations between the City of Chicago and the Chicago Cubs in "extra innings," as one person close to the talks characterized them, sources told me Wednesday that a new deadline of the Cubs' home opener -- which is this Monday -- has emerged.
Several stumbling blocks to a deal still remain, with Alderman Thomas Tunney of the 44th Ward recently asking the Cubs to consider building a very large parking garage north of the stadium that would help to ease the parking problems that plague the Wrigleyville area.
"They have a big lot, a cemetery lot, that if you look at Google is as big as the stadium," Tunney told the Chicago Tribune. "Can they build on that? Building is expensive, I understand that, but it's also part of the neighborhood concerns."
"They're exploring all their options here," Tunney said when asked if Cubs officials are amenable to building a garage at Clark and Grace. "And I think primarily from the combination of certain additions in the community and a more robust remote parking plan."
Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for the Ricketts family, declined to discuss specifics, but said that “parking has certainly been a topic the team has been working hard to resolve.”
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I learned Wednesday that the cost of a major parking structure which could accommodate a significant number of cars would be very expensive, but is something that the Ricketts family is willing to fund if, and only if, they get a majority of the concessions that they desire regarding renovations. Those include signage, a jumbotron and a significant number of additional night games and concert dates.
Additional sources today also told me that Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to at least move talks along to the point where the Cubs would feel comfortable enough in announcing that they are definitely staying at Wrigley Field and that construction will begin on the first phase of the renovation plan at the conclusion of this season. However, the hope of Rosemont officials is that if there is no deal by this Monday, they would hear from the Ricketts family regarding a meeting to discuss their offer of a large parcel of land and greatly reduced political red tape as soon as Tuesday.
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In addition, sources who have spoken to the mayor's office confirmed to me tonight that Emanuel's office wants this negotiation brought to a positive resolution quickly because of the huge amount of money that is at stake for the City of Chicago.
"Rahm is a very smart guy and he knows that they are looking at more than just the 17 million dollars in amusement taxes that the Cubs pay," a source told me. "What about the hundreds of millions of dollars that the Cubs and Wrigley Field generate from out-of-towners who plan summer vacations around a trip to the iconic ballpark and stay in Chicago hotels and patronize Chicago businesses? The Cubs' economic impact is enormous. They are the third-largest tourist attraction in the state and that isn't because they have such a good team or because they have rooftops overlooking the park.
"Wrigley Field is what they have marketed for years and it is the attraction that draws so many people to Chicago every season. Rahm knows that and that is why he wants to balance the needs and desires of the Cubs, the infrastructure improvements that are essential in the neighborhood and he also wants to be on board with a plan that will create a lot of new jobs in a city that desperately needs an economic boost."
There is also speculation that some in Cubs ownership/upper management including Ricketts' siblings -- Peter, Todd and Laura, who are all on the Cubs' board of directors -- have grown tired of the political hardball that they believe Tunney has been playing and they are urging Ricketts to open discussions to see what options are viable for the Cubs to consider before they agree to any deal with the City of Chicago.
"Tom Ricketts has no idea what is out there and he is doing a disservice to his team and his ownership group if he doesn't at least listen to other municipalities that are interested in luring the Cubs to a new stadium," a well-placed political source told me Wednesday.