We’re not entirely sure Bud Selig will be able to patch things up between the Ricketts and Chicago politicians, but he reportedly will take a crack at lobbying for public money toward Wrigley Field renovations — holding an All-Star Game as an enticement.
The Chicago Cubs ownership, led by Tom Ricketts, wants to spend $500 million on improvements to venerable Wrigley Field: $300 millio on internal and infrastructure improvements, and $200 million for the so-called “triangle building” adjacent to the ballpark. To that end, Ricketts has proposed $150 million in city/county amusement taxes generated by the Cubs go back to the team and the ballpark.
It was a plan that had the backing of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and some influential politicians — until it was revealed that family patriarch Joe Ricketts (whose original family trust put up most of the money for the Cubs) was looking at a scorched-earth advertising campaign targeting President Barack Obama and Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The damage was immediate: Emanuel, the former Obama chief of staff, refused to return Tom Ricketts’ phone calls, local politicians decried the perceived dirty politics in the proposed ad campaign (especially when it involved two popular Chicago figures in Obama and Wright), and fans questions why they were giving up tax revenues if Joe Ricketts had $10 million available for such a nasty ad buy — one so nasty that even Mitt Romney argued it should be dropped. Just listening to the pitch was one of the dumbest things Joe Ricketts could do.
Since the break between Emanuel and the Cubs, not much has changed, and the Cubs’ funding proposal is dead as a doornail. Still, that’s not stopping Selig from looking at some sort of involvement. He’ll pull out a standard reward: the awarding of an All-Star Game to Chicago if Wrigley Field renovations receive public funding. It is not an unsubstantial carrot: an ASG can bring in tens of millions of dollars to a city, and generally speaking the larger the city the greater the reward.
But the Ricketts family inadvertently hit several nerves in this fiasco, and some of the opponents of financial assistance for the Cubs are going to have extremely long memories about the issue. Also, quite bluntly, there’s been absolutely no groundswell of fans rising to support public money for Wrigley: committing public tax money to improve a private facility is a hard sell even in the best of times. Besides, it’s very questionable whether the Cubs actually need public money: the Boston Red Sox proved that private money invested in a private ballpark will pay in dividends. The condition of Wrigley Field was no secret when the Ricketts bought the team and the ballpark (at a very attractive price, we may add — well below what the combo was worth, as we saw with the sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Dodger Stadium), and asking a Chicago politician to go out a limb in these circumstances may be a hard sale for Selig.
RELATED STORIES: Cubs: Following the Fenway Park recipe for renovations; Ricketts family political activity threatens to scuttle Cubs reno plans; WSJ: Tear down Wrigley Field now!; Chicago politics at play: Tunney vs. the Cubs; Cubs reno plan draws harsh criticism from key alderman; Cubs funding request: $500M in Wrigley Field improvements; Emanuel plan for Wrigley renovation: set aside landmark status; Illinois guv: No public money for ballpark renovations; City, Cubs finalizing terms of Wrigley Field renovations; Ricketts: Time to talk Wrigley Field public funding again; 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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