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Wrigley Renovation Deal Expected By Cubs Home Opener [UPDATE]

By Chuck Sudo in News on Apr 5, 2013 1:30PM

Photo Credit: Erwin Araos

Sources told the Sun-Times, CBS 2 and the Tribune that a long-awaited agreement between the Chicago Cubs and its neighbors that would allow the club to begin its long-stalled renovation of Wrigley Field could be announced by Monday’s home opener. For the first time Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) the main roadblock holding up a deal, sounded optimistic a deal would be reached.

Tunney, who earlier this week spoke of all the “moving parts” the parties needed to agree on in order to reach a deal, told the Tribune editorial board Thursday he thinks “we can get there before (Monday).” The one moving part that doesn’t seem to have been nailed down is additional parking around the ballpark. Tunney and neighbors want the Cubs to build a new parking structure after the team scrapped its proposed “triangle building” in favor of an open-air plaza at Clark and Waveland. The new proposed site of a parking area would be gravel cemetery lot at Clark and Grace the team already owns. The Cubs would also foot the bill for added police protection on game days in exchange for the city lifting the 30-games-per-season cap on night games, allowing the Cubs to schedule as many as 40 night games a season and book more concerts at Wrigley Field.

The parties are even close to a deal on signage inside the ballpark. Tunney, for the first time, said he agreed to let the Cubs erect a giant video scoreboard in left field that would “minimally” impact the views of rooftop clubs in the vicinity and for signage inside the ballpark so the Cubs can finance its ballpark renovations with revenue from advertising and sponsorships.

The remaining obstacles, besides that video screen in left field, are outside signage that could potentially restrict the views to the playing field from the other rooftop clubs and a luxury hotel proposed by the Ricketts family. Tunney, who received 10 percent of his campaign contributions from the rooftop clubs since he was elected alderman, has shifted his message in recent weeks to expressing the concerns of the larger Wrigleyville community. Some may still say that Tunney helped negotiate the deal, but the week’s developments indicate he finally recognizes he was fighting a losing battle. Even though the Cubs were nowhere near threatening to flee Clark and Addison for Rosemont or another suburb offering them free land to develop, Tunney — and the rooftop club owners — have been fighting a losing battle.

The Rickettses proposed the renovation deal in January which would allow them to privately fund a $500 million renovation of Wrigley Field, if the city relaxes landmark status on the ballpark so that they can maximize their revenue potential. In addition to raising the money to renovate the ballpark, the Cubs are one of nine teams in violation of Major League Baseball’s debt service rules and, under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement with the players union, cannot borrow to pay existing debt. The Cubs are in violation of the debt service rules even though they’re the fourth-most valuable franchise (and most profitable) in MLB.

The big winner in all this if a deal can be reached will be Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who first proposed relaxing Wrigley Field’s landmark status a year ago before talks stalled after reports Ricketts family patriarch Joe Ricketts was looking to finance a campaign to smear President Barack Obama ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

Update 1:55 p.m: The Wrigleyville Rooftops Association released a statement a few moments ago threatening to take any renovation plan that blocks their view of Wrigley Field to the courts. Murphy's Bleachers owner Sue Murphy, spokesperson for the group, said they support the Cubs plan but that exact plans for outfield signage "have not been provided" to the group.

"We reserve judgment until said proposals are publicized, however we are deeply troubled that 16 small businesses were not party to talks where their contractual rights were at stake. Rooftop owners reserve the right to use any and all means necessary to enforce the remaining 11 years of our 20-year contract. We support a renovated Wrigley Field, but the neighborhood and its businesses should be partners in the debate as we have over the last 30 years."