Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 10/25/14
Wrigley Field is falling apart. The Ricketts family, which bought the Cubs for $845 million in 2009, has a plan to spend $300 million of their money to renovate the 98-year-old ballpark. There will be structural upgrades, improved clubhouses, new underground batting cages, upgraded luxury suites and club facilities, more and better concessions and restrooms, and a new patio area in left field to serve the new upper deck. The Cubs also want to add new LED signage and billboards in the outfield. The classic Wrigley look will remain the same: the brick, the marquee outside the ballpark, the ivy and the old scoreboard. Cubs blog Bleacher Nation has conceptual drawings, which you can view here. The Rickettses are prepared to spend an additional $200 million to develop a hotel across the street from Wrigley, an office building and an open-air plaza to be used for neighborhood and family activities. The open-air plaza will be developed in a triangular-shaped plot just west of Wrigley on Waveland and Clark avenues. Neither the Cubs nor the Ricketts family are asking for a dime of public money. Instead, they expect the renovation plan to add significantly to public coffers. Julian Green, the Cubs’ vice president of communications, has said 800 new construction jobs will be created to complete the project and 1,300 new permanent jobs will be created with the new hotel, the office building and the open-air plaza. Green also estimates that, once completed, the new Wrigley complex will generate an additional $12 million in sales and property taxes for Chicago — plus an additional $3 million in sales tax for Cook County and an additional $4 million in sales tax for the Illinois. Overall, Green said the renovation will result in an additional $1.2 billion in economic activity and taxes during a 30-year period. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? A privately-funded stadium project that will benefit the city, county and state in the short and long term? Not so fast. The Rickettses need city approval for the project, and the approval process is gridlocked by Alderman Tom Tunney. Who’s Tunney? He’s the man who represents the neighborhood surrounding the ballpark, known as Wrigleyville. More specifically, he represents the Wrigley rooftop owners who oppose the renovation plan. In the past 10 years, the rooftop owners have given $140,000 in political contributions to Tunney. Many of you have seen a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. You’ve experienced the neighborhood. And you know about the rooftops on Sheffield and Waveland Avenues — 17 buildings that sit so close to Wrigley Field that you can watch a Cubs game from the roof. But you may not know that the rooftops are big, big business. The 17 buildings once housed apartments but have been completely renovated into state-of-the-art, luxury clubs with names like Sheffield Baseball Club, Ivy League Baseball Club,  Wrigley View and Wrigley Field Rooftop Club. Here’s a promotional video for the Skybox on Sheffield: In 2002, the Cubs sued the rooftop owners for copyright infringement. The Cubs argued the rooftop owners were violating the Cubs’ copyright in the game action by charging guests to watch the game. Two years later, the Cubs and the owners signed a 20-year agreement under which the owners pay the Cubs 17% of gross revenue in exchange for the Cubs’ official endorsement of the rooftops. Green, the Cubs’ spokesman, estimates the team receive between $3 million and $4 million per year from the rooftops. That puts the rooftops’ collective gross revenue between $17.6 million and $23.5 million each season. To put that in perspective, the Oakland A’s made only $28 million in ticket sales in 2011, according to Forbes. Part of the Wrigley renovation plan includes new billboards and other signage that would obstruct the views from the rooftops. The Cubs say they need new and better advertising space inside the ballpark that TV audiences can clearly see. The Rickettses have conditioned their private financing of the Wrigley renovation on the ability to add revenue streams from the new billboards and signage. The rooftops owners claim any new signage would violate the 20-year agreement and Wrigley’s landmark status. Instead of new signage inside ballpark, the rooftop owners propose adding new LED billboards to the rooftop clubs themselves, with all of the advertising revenue going to the Cubs. They even produced a video promoting their plan and shared it with the press back in January. You can see the video here. The Cubs responded by urging the rooftop owners to engage in direct talks with the team — and not in the press. The two sides appear to be at a stalemate. And what of Wrigley’s landmark status? In 2004 — the same year the rooftop owners and the Cubs inked their 20-year deal —  Chicago added Wrigley to its list of city landmarks. The landmark ordinance “grants landmark protection to the ballpark’s essential contours: The exposed steel columns and beams that frame its exterior walls, its exterior roofs and roof lines, the portion of the upper-deck roof facing the playing field and the uninterrupted ‘sweep’ of the grandstand and bleachers inside.”  What exactly “uninterrupted sweep” means is anyone’s guess. The Cubs understand it’s broad enough to preclude their proposed billboards and other signage inside the ballpark. Hence the need for city approval, and the muscle-flexing by Alderman Tunney. There’s another piece to the puzzle. The Cubs want to increase the number of night games at Wrigley to 41 per season. Under another city ordinance, the Cubs are currently limited to more than 30 night games. Night games typically generate more revenue than day games because fans arrive earlier  and spend more money on ballpark concessions. As with the proposed new billboards, the additional night games are key to the Ricketts family’s decision to privately finance the renovation. But the addition of more night games raises the ire of the neighborhood bars: They benefit from day games because fans leave Wrigley when the game is over and head to the bars for more merriment. And Tunney claims more night games would erode the “quality of life” for neighborhood residents. It may also erode the pocketbooks of his political contributors. The decision-maker is Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Cubs reportedly vetted details of their plan with the mayor’s top aides before releasing it to the public in January. According to a Cubs source, Emanuel favors the Cubs’ plan and is working behind the scenes to get Alderman Tunny’s agreement. When and if Tunney’s agreement can be had — and under what conditions — remains to be seen. There’s been a great hue and cry over the shenanigans leading to the Miami Marlins’ new publicly financed ballpark. The backlash grew stronger after the team’s most recent fire sale, which left Giancarlo Stanton as the only marquee player in Miami. And yet little national attention has been paid to the Cubs and the Rickettses’ plan to use $300 million of their own money to complete a top-to-bottom modernization of Wrigley — on top of the $200 million the family will spend on the other upgrades. All the Rickettses want in exchange for the $500 million investment is to be able to use Wrigley Field in a way that maximizes revenue for the team. Like nearly every other franchise in the majors. At this point, there doesn’t appear to be much MLB can do to help the Cubs. The local interests opposing the plan have the ear of the neighborhood politician. For now, the Ricketts family has taken the threat of leaving Wrigley off the table. But if this saga continues to drag on, the threat may be put back on the table. At that point, the rooftop owners, the alderman and the mayor will be left holding the bag.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Adrian Peterson ends holdout, returns to Vikings

Albert Pujols: Angels are not 'the Mike Trout show'

Steve Nash: Curry's shooting 'greatest there's ever been'

Chicago Bulls agree to deal with Fred Hoiberg

Russell Westbrook wins Spirit award, pokes fun at himself


Mark May removed from ESPN's ‘College Football Final’

Mark Sanchez backs off dismissal of Tim Tebow

SEC to block transfers with domestic violence, sexual assault history

LeBron James playing through sprained wrist

Justin Hunter on Mariota: He's a real good quarterback

Louis Murphy: Jameis Winston reminds me of Tim Tebow

If you love speed, you'll love the 2015 Stanley Cup Final

The Chicago Bulls and the culture of fitting in

Biggest X-factors for Cavaliers and Warriors in NBA Finals

Shaq: I'd take Kobe over LeBron because of 'killer instinct'

NBA should have 'legacy contracts' for long-time players

Atlanta Hawks unveil new logo

WATCH: UAB fans celebrate football reinstatement

Video/audio from aftermath of Jon Jones’ car crash released

Josh Hamilton comeback could be best MLB story of 2015

Lil Wayne goes after ref during anti-violence charity game

UConn created trophy for 'rivalry' series with UCF

Giancarlo Stanton eats a Kit Kat like a savage

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The Bulls and the culture of fitting in

X-factors for Cavs and Warriors

Pujols: Angels not 'Mike Trout show'

Adrian Peterson returns to Vikings

Chicago Bulls agree to deal with Fred Hoiberg

NBA should have 'legacy contracts' for long-time players

Atlanta Hawks unveil new logo

UAB fans celebrate football reinstatement

Sanchez backs off dismissal of Tebow

Gronk responds to critics of his antics

Bruce Jenner reveals new identity

Report: UAB bringing back football

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.