While the Cubs sound ready to finally green-light the $575 million Wrigleyville project, chairman Tom Ricketts says the team hasn’t set a groundbreaking date yet.
Ricketts doesn’t seek the media spotlight, but he made an appearance before Friday’s game against the Atlanta Braves and spoke with reporters during batting practice. This was less than 24 hours after the Commission on Chicago Landmarks unanimously approved the latest version of the Wrigley Field renovation plan.
“Things are starting to move forward,” Ricketts said.
In terms of stagecraft, this felt like the Cubs putting the W flag on the center-field scoreboard. But Ricketts wouldn’t get into specifics about a construction timeline, and there’s still the looming threat of a lawsuit from the rooftops owners.
“We’ll reach out,” Ricketts said. “We’ll talk to everybody, and I’m confident there will be a solution that works.”
The Cubs are in the middle of a 20-year, revenue-sharing contract with the rooftop businesses. The City Hall hearing approved seven signs going up above the bleachers, which would impact the views from those party decks. The rooftops owners are now signaling a willingness to compromise on an earlier proposal — a video board in left field and another sign in right.
Ricketts was asked if the Cubs would continue to engage the rooftop owners — or if that window of negotiations had already closed.
“We’re always talking with those guys,” he said.
The Ricketts family has been trying to find a way to preserve Wrigley Field for the next generation since entering into a leveraged partnership with Sam Zell’s Tribune Co. in 2009. (That deal that included a stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago.)
The Cubs scrapped an amusement-tax plan, angered Mayor Rahm Emanuel during the 2012 presidential campaign and scouted minority investors to help privately finance the project. Even the size of the bullpen doors — and how it would impact the landmarked bricks-and-ivy concepts— became a recent hot-button issue.
“I was confident that everyone has an incentive to work together to save Wrigley Field,” Ricketts said. “Obviously, we’ve always had a very long-term perspective. So a lot of short-term setbacks or friction in the process— we just kept it in perspective and just tried to take the high road and keep moving forward.
“We’re in a good spot now. We’re looking forward to getting things rolling.”
While the Cubs celebrate Wrigley Field’s centennial, the commission also approved new light towers, additional bleacher seats and bullpens that would be built underneath the bleachers. The team hopes to have an upgraded clubhouse and new training facilities ready by Opening Day 2016.
“Wrigley’s still Wrigley — they would have to knock this whole thing completely down,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The improvements would just add to it, kind of bring us into the modern era. But I don’t think you can ever take away the reality that you’re still in the throes of a very historic ballpark.”