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Cubs Say Enough, Moving Forward With Wrigley Renovations

By Chuck Sudo in News on May 22, 2014 2:25PM

The Cubs and the owners of the rooftop clubs surrounding Wrigley Field have been in a stalemate for months over the ballclub’s proposal to erect signs around the Friendly Confines that could restrict the views of the field currently enjoyed by the rooftop clubs. Although City Council approved the Cubs Wrigley Field renovation plan last summer the team has not moved forward with the plan unless they received assurances from the rooftop club owners there would be no lawsuits filed to keep the signs from being erected.

That all changed Wednesday when the Cubs released a letter and video to fans informing them they were moving forward with the renovation plans. In the video, principal owner Tom Ricketts essentially said if the rooftop owners want to go to court to preserve their views, the Cubs will put up more signs and will submit a revised plan to the city. In other words, perfectly adult behavior.

The new proposal calls for four additional 650 square-foot LED signs and a 2,400 square-foot video scoreboard in right field; 300 new seats; new outfield lights that would reduce shadows; moving the bullpens from their current spots against the grandstand walls to under the bleachers which would require removing bricks and ivy so pitchers can see the game; and expansions of both the Cubs and visitors clubhouses.

Ricketts said “the time to build a winner is now” in the video, which may be a cold comfort to fans who sat through a 13-inning loss to the Yankees Wednesday. But he added he can no longer wait for assurances from the rooftop owners that they’ll accept the team’s terms.

"I'm not saying Wrigley Field is the reason the Chicago Cubs haven't won a World Championship in more than 100 years," Ricketts said. "But I am saying it's time to invest in Wrigley Field and to do the things our competitors do."

The video scoreboards are one of the linchpins in the Cubs’ $500 million renovation plan as Ricketts and team officials have consistently said the revenue from advertising related to the scoreboards will finance the renovations and allow Team President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer to sign better players. The rooftop owners counter any blockage of the views into the ballpark would violate the terms of the revenue-sharing contract they have with the team. Ryan McLaughlin, spokesman for the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association, said the latest shot from Ricketts guarantees a legal battle.

“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,” the statement said. “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.”

Sarah Hamilton, spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, said in a statement, "Like all Cub fans, the mayor doesn't want to wait for next year, and if this proposal helps the Cubs get closer to a ballpark renovation this fall — and the jobs and neighborhood investments that come with it — it's worth taking a look at." Emanuel has said the Cubs and rooftop owners need to reach an agreement that would allow the ballclub to begin the renovations.