The Chicago Cubs are moving forward aggressively with Wrigley Field renovations, cutting off negotiations with rooftop owners and expanding the scope of the project.
Chairman Tom Ricketts announced the new plan, which will be presented to the city’s Landmarks Commission June 5. It calls for an expansion of Wrigley Field seating, plenty more signage and other expansions past what has already been approved by the city. Among the highlights:
- A new videoboard is pitched for right field. The already approved videoscreen in left field would be reduced to 3,990 square feet. In addition four more 65-square-foot LED signs would be added to the outfield area.
- Additional 92-foot-tall lighting stanchions, presumably patterned after the existing Wrigley Field lighting, which would cut down on shadows on the playing field. This means, of course, more light pollution in the area and will impact the rooftop owners.
- The addition of 300 bleacher seats and 300 more SRO spots. Sitting beneath the new bleacher/SRO area: relocated bullpens.
- The outdoor plaza, which has already been approved, would sit atop a 30,000-square-foot clubhouse.
“During the political process to accommodate rooftop owners, we tapered the plan to move forward with a sign in right field and a video board in left. But in the months since, the rooftop owners have made clear that, despite the city approval and our clear contractual rights, they plan to file lawsuit to try and stop our renovation and expansion plan,” Ricketts said in the video message. “We’ve spent endless hours in negotiations with rooftop businesses. We’ve gotten nowhere in our talks with them to settle this dispute. It has to end. It’s time to move forward. I have to put the team and the fans first. So today, we are going forward with our original plan. We are proposing a master plan to expand Wrigley Field and to have several signs in the ballpark.”
As you might expect, the rooftop owners don’t agree: there is a contract between the Cubs and the rooftop owners covering accessibility and revenue sharing, and it’s this agreement the Cubs want to change. (It’s been reported that any city approval of renovations would trigger a clause in the contract allowing changes to the agreement.) In a statement, the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association blasted the plan:
“The Ricketts family’s decision to unilaterally end negotiations with their contractual partners is another refusal to accept any of the proposed win-win solutions that could have funded the modernization of Wrigley Field and enhance the team’s competitiveness. In fact, it appears their zeal to block rooftop owners who pay them millions of dollars a year in royalties knows no bounds. Unfortunately, this decision by the Ricketts family will now result in this matter being resolved in a court of law.”
Negotiations have been hard and heavy in recent weeks, per the Chicago Sun-Times:
Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, tried desperately to forge a deal with the Cubs and rooftop club owners who share 17 percent of their revenues with the team.
At one point, he thought he had a deal to move the scripted sign in right field to the top of one of the rooftop buildings. But, when the rooftops made a similar demand about the video board in left field, the talks fell apart and O’Connor was never able to put them back together.
“At one point in time, everybody thought we were there. And it turned out we were wrong. There’s so many individuals and disparate interests, it just became apparent it wasn’t gonna move any further,” O’Connor said.
The original Wrigley Field renovation plan, which was approved by the city, was pegged at $500 million; no word as to the cost of these additions.
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