The silliness over the economics of Wrigley Field reached a new low with Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens offering Chicago Cubs ownership 25 acres free of charge for a Friendly Confines replacement.
The land, located at Balmoral and the Tri-State Tollway, is actually a pretty attractive site for a developer: it’s next to busy stretches of highway and is served by the Blue Line.
But the offer reeks of publicity stunt more than anything else. Building a new ballpark in Rosemont would surely cost more than a billion dollars in this day and age, and there’s no guarantee the Cubs would maintain the same attendance and sponsorship support out in the burbs: how many Cubs fans would want to fight rush-hour tollway traffic for a baseball game? You put up with Wrigleyville traffic because, well, it’s Wrigleyville.
Our old college classmate David Kaplan comes down solidly in favor of the plan, arguing the Cubs are missing out on $100 million annually by staying at Wrigley Field. (Numbers are not his strong point; Rick Reilly was soundly mocked when he estimated the team was missing out on $75 million annually by staying in Wrigley Field, and Kap doubles down on the crazy. For instance, Kap argues the Cubs could make more money from new signage and charge rooftop owners more money. Don’t see how you can block views and then charge more! Also, he argues the Cubs could demand more for TV rights for night games, but given the Cubs are part-owners of the team’s cable network, cable money is just a shell game, moved around to avoid MLB revenue sharing.) Given that the Cubs are one of the most profitable team in the majors and one of the most leveraged, adding another billion dollars of debt to the existing half-billion of team debt may not be one of the smartest moves for Cubs ownership. Even Bud Selig would be forced to intervene in this situation.
So let’s write this off for what it is: a silly idea that has no chance of happening. Let’s just say the Cubs aren’t avoiding a move to Rosemont because of the cost of land.
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