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Rooftop Owners Sue To Keep Jumbotrons Out Of Wrigley Field

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 13, 2015 9:00PM

Image credit: Chicago Cubs

The owners of the rooftop clubs surrounding Wrigley Field must be able to read the writing on the proverbial wall by now. The rubble that in a couple months will be brand new bleachers is the first sign they’ve lost their fight with the Cubs over Wrigley Field’s renovations. The Cubs hold every advantage: they have the backing of the city; they’re gobbling up property around the ballpark, including buying some rooftop clubs; and they have the time to simply wait until their revenue sharing contracts with the holdout clubs expire.

So why are the rooftop clubs continuing to fight for the right to have unfettered views of a playing field in a ballpark their customers ignore anyway? The owners of two rooftop clubs have gone to court hoping to get a restraining order preventing the Cubs from erecting a Jumbotron and advertising signage that may obstruct their views of the Friendly Confines. The owners of Lakeview Baseball Club (3633 N. Sheffield Ave.) and Skybox at Sheffield (3627 N. Sheffield Ave.) filed the lawsuit in federal court last month accusing the Cubs of violating the 20-year deal the club signed with the rooftop owners and said the Cubs created a “life-or-death situation.”

The owners, led by Edward McCarthy, said in the suit, "Simply put, without views into Wrigley Field there is no rooftop business — a fact that the Cubs organization has frequently pointed out while trying to strong-arm the plaintiffs and others into selling out." The lawsuit also claims Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney, the man-child responsible for the original rooftop deals, boasted of having an alderman in their pocket—none other than Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Council floor leader, 40th Ward Ald. Patrick O’Connor. The Cubs and O’Connor refuted that allegation.

“No one controls me in terms of my professional work,” said O’Connor, who handled negotiations between the team and the rooftops at the behest of the mayor. “I’m not going to lose any sleep over it, because there’s a half-billion dollar project going on right now in Wrigleyville.”

A top mayoral aide, who asked to remain anonymous, called the suggestion that O’Connor was controlled by the Cubs “laughable on so many levels I don’t know where to begin.”

Where to begin? The rooftop owners accusing the Cubs of having O’Connor carry their water seems to be the height of hypocrisy, given all the money they’ve thrown at 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney over the years and the interference Tunney ran to delay the renovation plan before it was approved.

As for their claim the bleacher renovations and erecting all those signs would result in the end of their business? That’s true, to an extent. But it would be the final stage of what has been a slow death. The rooftop clubs’ fortunes have been in a decline parallel with the Cubs, as bad teams and the ballclub’s patient implementation of their rebuilding plan has resulted in declining numbers at Wrigley Field and the rooftops.

Last November, Fifth Third Bank filed foreclosure lawsuits against two rooftop clubs, Wrigley Field Rooftop Club and Sheffield Baseball Club. They weren’t the first. Lakeview Baseball Club faced foreclosure in 2010 before being bought two years later.

The Ricketts family bought properties with rooftops at 3639 N. Sheffield Ave., 3643-3645 N. Sheffield Ave. and 1032-1034 W. Waveland Ave. So this attempt at a restraining order is a “life-or-death situation” as much as it is “delaying the inevitable.”

The group hopes a judge will hear their request and issue the restraining order next Wednesday. If that happens, the Cubs’ bleacher renovations would be delayed further.

[Tribune, CBS Chicago]