As the Chicago Cubs' quest for a fair stadium refinancing deal continues to drag on with the Wrigleyville community throwing up roadblocks to slow down the settlement process, a new and potentially viable option to Wrigley Field has emerged.
|A mock-up of the proposed 25-acre plot of land offered up by Rosemont mayor Brad Stephens for use by the Cubs should they choose to vacate Wrigley Field. Click here for an enlarged view (Google Maps)|
Rosemont mayor Brad Stephens told me this morning in a CSN Chicago exclusive that he is willing to give the Cubs and the Ricketts family a 25-acre parcel of land in the village that is a prime piece of real estate large enough to accommodate a new ballpark as well as parking and anything else the Ricketts family would desire to have as a part of the new complex.
“The Chicago Cubs are being held hostage by the neighborhood as they look to run their business. We are willing to offer them a tremendous opportunity if they are interested. Bring the bricks and the ivy and we can get a deal done, ” Stephens told me this morning.
The Cubs have looked to renovate 99-year-old Wrigley Field since the Ricketts family purchased the team from the Tribune Company in October 2009. The ballpark is in major need of a complete overhaul and after going through a number of possibilities for financing the renovation project, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts announced at the Cubs Convention in January that he is willing to fund the project estimated at $500 million.
However, in return for no public monies, Ricketts is asking that the city agree to relax some of the restrictions on the stadium that limit signage as well as the number of night games that can be played. Currently, the Cubs are capped at 30 night games while the major league average is 57. Increased signage and more night games will increase revenue dramatically, which would help to pay for the costly rehab of a ballpark that is Illinois’ third-largest tourist attraction.
|A map depicting the 12.7-mile commute from Wrigley Field to the proposed site of a new Cubs ballpark in Rosemont. (Google Maps)|
44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney, whose ward includes Wrigley Field, has been a major impediment to getting a deal done and Rosemont’s mayor believes Tunney is losing sight of the big picture.
"Tunney is trying to appease everybody, but he is losing sight of what the engine is that drives the economy of the community," Stephens told me. "He says that this is one of the richest families in America, but he has to realize that he has to do business with them. Rosemont is very pro-development and we understand that a good deal for the business is a good deal for the community."
Currently, the Cubs pay an amusement tax of 12 percent, (Rosemont's amusement tax is 3 percent) which amounted to $17 million going into the city and county coffers in 2011. In addition, signage restrictions, caps on night games, the rooftop owners and limiting concerts and street festivals costs the Cubs approximately $75-100 million.
Financial Restrictions on the Chicago Cubs
• Revenue generated by the rooftop owners: $24 million – 17 percent = $4 million (The Cubs receive 17 percent of revenue)
• Signage restrictions: $20-30 million
• Amusement taxes paid in 2011: $17 million
• Addt'l. night games (Avg. in MLB is 57): $1 million addt'l. per game = $27 million
• Street Festivals and more concerts: (Could have naming rights if a consistent number is allowed each season) = $10 million estimate.
Add in the potential for some form of naming rights for the new Wrigley Field expansion (not the ballpark itself) and marketing experts that I spoke with believe that could generate a minimum of $4 million per year.
Additional revenues could come in a variety of ways including vastly improved concessions, which are unavailable currently at Wrigley Field due to space restrictions and an improved team could significantly raise the value of the Cubs' future TV negotiations.
Total revenue the Cubs fail to receive per year could approach $100 million.
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“Rosemont is very pro-development and we have a long history of experience dealing with big business," Stephens said. "From my position, you have a wealthy family willing to pay all of the costs of a major renovation project, which will bring a tremendous number of jobs to the community.
“However, they are not getting cooperation from the neighborhood. Even if the Cubs get a deal done now, what will happen when they need something else a year or two years down the road? This will not be the last time the community or the alderman will be difficult to deal with. The Cubs will never have those kinds of problems if they move to Rosemont."
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Tom Ricketts was unavailable for comment but Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for the Ricketts family issued this statement:
"Since Day 1, the Ricketts family has been working tirelessly to develop a championship organization and to come up with a plan to preserve Wrigley Field and invest in the neighborhood. The family appreciates the expressions of interest from Rosemont and others, however the current focus is to work toward an agreement with the City of Chicago."