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Ricketts: Time to talk Wrigley Field public funding again

Chicago CubsIf it’s spring, it’s time for Tom Ricketts to once again call for public funding of renovations to Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.

It’s been a constant theme for Ricketts since buying the Cubs and the historic ballpark: that Wrigley Field needs work, and the public should pick up at least $200 million of the cost. The ballpark does indeed need some TLC, despite Ricketts putting some money into renovations before the 2011 season; the 100th anniversary of the Friendly Confines is set for 2014, and Ricketts would love to see some improvements by then. From the Chicago Daily Herald:

“We need to improve it. When everyone is in their chairs, they’re pretty happy. When they have to get up to get in line for the washroom or food, then some of the shortcomings step up and you can kind of see them. So it’s definitely our goal to preserve the park for the next generation of fans, as well as improve the amenities for the people who come today,” he said.

“We definitely have a lot of dialogue with a lot of elected officials, and I think it’s all moving in the right direction. When we’re able to come up with something that works for everyone, it will be out there, and I hope everyone will be supportive at that point….

“There’s 30 teams in baseball, and there’s really two ways that you finance your stadium. One model, which about 25 teams use, is that you have a public agency build and provide you a stadium and you pay rent and expenses and some sort of amusement tax. The five other teams use a different model where they cover all of their expenses, but they don’t pay any taxes. Believe it or not, Chicago has a hybrid model where you cover all of your own expenses, remain totally private and pay the second-highest taxes in the league.”

Ricketts’ math is fairly off; yes, the team pays property taxes on Wrigley Field, which is par for the course for privately owned MLB ballparks (and many privately owned MiLB ballparks, for that matter). The Red Sox paid $2.26 million in Fenway Park property taxes in 2010, for instance, and the Dodgers and Giants pay property taxes on their facilities. But the Yankees and Mets don’t pay property taxes on their ballparks — they negotiated that in the public-funding debate over Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, respectively.

Coming up with a funding plan will be difficult. There doesn’t seem to be any great appetite for any public takeover of the ballpark, and using public-facilities monies to benefit the private ownership isn’t resonating with the public, either. Diverting some amusement taxes back to the ballpark may have some merit, but with state and city finances seriously squeezed, it’s hard to see any public official shrinking local government spending to benefit the Cubs.

RELATED STORIES: Want to buy a chunk of Wrigley Field? Dream on; Gammon rips Wrigley Field, defends Ricketts; Mayor Rahm: No to city aid for Wrigley Field; Poll: Voters oppose public funding of Wrigley Field renovations; State funding of Wrigley Field renovations dies as Assembly adjourns


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