Worst. Idea. Ever!
By Benjy Lipsman in News on Dec 13, 2007 5:28PM
Every time we think the state's government can't get any worse, they somehow find a way to surprise us. Unable to reach a deal that'll adequately fund the CTA and its crumbling infrastructure, they think they want to buy yet another fixer-upper piece of property.
The State of Illinois is supposedly interested in buying Wrigley Field, which is for sale along with the Cubs following billionaire Sam Zell's takeover of the Tribune Co.
The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, which was created in 1987 for the purpose of building U.S. Cellular Field, would purchase the 93 year old park and lease it to the new Cubs ownership.
Of all the stupid ideas from all the stupid politicians we've heard...wow. If we understand correctly, the would have to come up with a few hundred million dollars to purchase the stadium and pay for the extensive renovations the crumbling park needs. Then they'd make money by renting it to the Cubs? And possibly by selling naming rights?
The Trib article states that the park would likely retain the Wrigley Field name even if naming rights were sold. And how's that? By extorting millions from the gum maker? Or by slapping some unwieldy name upon the stadium like "Boeing Ballpark at Wrigley Field"? Selling a sponsorship for the upper deck to provide free tickets, as Mark Cuban suggested, we'd support. But selling naming rights to finance a government takeover? Lame...
Furthermore, what happens if the Cubs new ownership finally decides it's time for an actual modern ballpark? While the State and the Cubs' new ownership would presumably sign some sort of long term stadium lease, what happens if the Cubs decide to bolt at the lease's conclusion? That'd be some white elephant on the hands of the state.
We also have an issue with the state subsidizing billionaires. The deal would likely help the Tribune Co. maximize the sale value for the Cubs and related businesses, which benefits Zell more than anyone. And the future ownership would certainly have an easier time finding funding for a $700 million purchase than for a $1 billion one.
And how do state taxpayers benefit by owning Wrigley? While we're highly skeptical of public financing for stadiums to begin with, it's not even like the team's threatening to leave Chicago and a new park would provide jobs or keep revenue and tax money in the local area. It seems like it's nothing more than a trophy property that the state can ill afford to acquire. How about trying to sell naming rights for the El lines instead?