Cubs Strike Out, Taxpayers Hit By New Pitch

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Dec 2, 2010 5:40PM

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Photo by fatalysis
It seems that the proposal from Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts to fund renovations for Wrigley Field that would have allowed the Cubs to keep all marginal growth in amusement tax collection on Cubs tickets is DOA after the Illinois Legislature failed to address the issue during its fall veto session.

So now what's the latest idea for funding Wrigley's rehab? How about extending the geographic boundaries for the current 1% restaurant tax that's in place to fund McCormick Place's expansion. Currently, the tax applied to restaurants as far north as Diversey, but an extension of the boundaries could bring in additional revenue to fund work on the ballpark.

Excuse me, but this proposal is even worse for the taxpayers! At least with the last one, Ricketts' half-truths made it seem that Cubs fans were footing the bill. In reality, the loss of tax revenue would've required additional taxes or fees from elsewhere, or service cuts. But this latest proposal is 100% explicit that the local residents are picking up the tab for billionaires to remodel.

Ricketts spokesman Dennis Culloton said ''The key is to save Wrigley and create thousands of jobs in a public-private partnership. ... It's just a matter of coming up with the exact plan." We still don't buy it. The jobs created would be shorter term construction jobs while the remodel takes place -- not permanent jobs. How many more people will be required to run a ballpark that is no larger than the current one? How much can the Cubs expand their roster with well paid players once they have a larger locker room? How many more fans/customers will really come into the city from beyond its borders to just eat at a Cubs-themed restaurant that's open when the park is not? It's more likely a game of jobs "musical chairs" than jobs growth, as the Cubs suck in more revenue at the expense of neighboring small businesses.

The funding for McCormick Place makes more sense because it's city owned and adding more trade shows and events does mean a larger stream of out-of-towners and a permanent growth in jobs to run the facility, as well as in the restaurants, hotels and stores these visitors spend their money. Wrigley is owned by billionaires who have money, own a profit-generating business in their baseball team and have the means to borrow funds in the private financing market. The Rickettses knew damn well the state of Wrigley Field when they bought the Cubs, so they should've factored into their offer pricing in the costs to fix up the park, too. It's not like we can buy a house and then ask the city for money to update the kitchen because it'll create jobs. With all the financial strains on the city's budget to pay for critical things like police and schools, now isn't the time to be handing over city funds to the Cubs.