MESA, Ariz. – Alfonso Soriano will be long gone by the time the Wrigley Field rebuild is complete. He’s not sure about the rest of his life. But right now he knows he wants nothing to do with baseball in retirement.
This renovation plan is supposed to fuel the next $136 million megadeal. But at the age of 37 – and about to begin the seventh season of his eight-year contract – Soriano won’t be around when the Cubs start spending like a real big-market team again.
Soriano has seen some of the designs, but doesn’t really care about luxury suites and party decks and LED boards at Clark and Addison. His focus would be on the one issue central to players constantly readjusting their body clocks.
“Every year they try to (get) better facilities for us,” Soriano said Tuesday. “It’s very important, but more important is to try to not have too many day games. That’s the biggest (issue). Whatever they do with the field is fine. But most important for me – and I think for the other players – is moving some day games to night games.”
Soriano reclined in the chair in front of his locker before the second-to-last game the Cubs will play at HoHoKam Stadium, closing their 17-year run on Center Street. A new Mesa complex by the Loop 101/202 freeway interchange is part of the same baseball/business intersection on the North Side.
The Cubs have already punted on more night games in 2013. A city ordinance limits them to 30 per season. If Soriano was “Boss,” the Cubs would schedule the opposite: “30 day games and 51 night games is perfect.”
That’s one of several moving parts as the Cubs continue negotiations and try to finalize a deal with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Tom Tunney and the Lakeview community before Opening Day.
Whether it’s a hard deadline or not, chairman Tom Ricketts has said that he won’t green light the $300 million project until all the details are solidified. If the Cubs are going to begin construction in October – and not lose another building season – they say they’ll need to order materials and put plans in motion by April 1.
In the public-relations battle, the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association issued a statement to the media on Tuesday, pointing out that the Cubs don’t need approval to begin updating their clubhouse. That phase one would impact the big-league club in 2014.
The press release also identified president of business operations Crane Kenney and executive vice president of community affairs/general counsel Mike Lufrano as drivers of the 20-year contract the Cubs signed with the rooftops in 2004 before the Ricketts family bought the team.
The rooftop lobbyists say they’ve spent some $50 million to upgrade their facilities, collectively paid the Cubs approximately $25 million in royalties and projected $45 million in kickbacks over the next decade.
You would think the Cubs would have reached an understanding with their rooftop partners, City Hall and the 44th Ward before going all-in and unveiling their plan inside a packed ballroom at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. But they wanted to make a splash and win the Cubs Convention news cycle.
Insiders haven’t disputed the $450 million swing: The Cubs went from getting $150 million in help from the city – until team owner/family patriarch Joe Ricketts and his anti-Obama “Super PAC” went viral last May, infuriating Emanuel. Now they’re paying $300 million and still waiting for approval to get more night games, concerts, street festivals and advertising signage.
Still, the Cubs are making a reasonable argument, even while working on the art of the deal. Wrigley Field is already a huge economic engine, and the new revenue streams are supposed to juice a perennial contender.
But with a timeline that’s expected to last five offseasons, Soriano won’t see the payoff. This will be for the young players who look up to and listen to Soriano, like Javier Baez and Jorge Soler.
“It’s very good for the people that are coming,” Soriano said. “But for me, I think I’ll be done.”
Soriano smiled and laughed when he was asked if he would come back to sing the seventh-inning stretch at the new-look stadium: “No.”
The Cubs are still waiting to hear “yes.” Maybe this will be like super-agent Scott Boras and his first-round client waiting until the last minute before making a deal at the signing deadline (or not).