Tagged: Wrigley Renovations

WRIGLEY WATCH: Whining Whiners Whine About Renovation

Honestly, there isn’t much I need to say….

First, major credit goes to Julie DiCaro, who one week after a well placed first pitch, threw another strike on the neighbors this afternoon…

There was some complaining about a pedestrian bridge…

Which is kind of ridiculous because…

And the neighbors are a little nervous about what will come of the neighborhood…

Because…

I like it when these write themselves.

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WRIGLEY WATCH: Relocation Threat Getting More Real

It appears as though the Cubs are not totally sold out to the idea of staying at Wrigley Field, after all.  Yesterday afternoon, and rather quietly, I may add, there was some chatter about the Cubs looking at moving to DuPage County if the deal with the city of Chicago should fall through.

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin seems to be all for the idea.  From the Chicago Tribune:

“We have learned that the Cubs have become particularly disappointed, disenchanted, unhappy with the progress of their negotiations with the city.  About 10 days ago I learned from people with the Cubs organization and the family that owns the Cubs that they would like us to consider putting a proposal together, that the game has changed in some respects, that this is not a long shot that they would leave Chicago.”

Cronin from the Chicago Sun-Times:

“They feel hurt, disappointed and offended. They believe their future — even if they’re able to strike this deal now — will be uncertain and based on the whims of political and government leadership.”

And Cronin from the Daily Herald:

“They are so disappointed, discouraged and unhappy with their treatment from the city of Chicago leadership that they are now open — genuinely open — to the idea of relocating and rebuilding a replica of Wrigley Field somewhere outside of the city. DuPage County is a place where they are interested in moving.”

If it it “not a long shot” that the Cubs ownership has decided to start exploring their options because of the long and ridiculous process with the city,  then it stands to reason that there may be a problem with the framework of the deal that was agreed to. For their part, the team, and spokesman Dennis Culloton are saying nothing has changed, again from the Tribune:

“Tom (Ricketts’) focus and the focus of the Ricketts family is to achieve the Chicago framework.  So there are no plans at this time to listen to any other presentations.”

After Tom Ricketts made the public threat to explore other options if the deal that was agreed to fell through, it is quite clear that the team is at least willing to follow through with the threat and explore their options.  Also listed in the articles as a potential relocation suitor was Arlington Heights.

The team was not thrilled with the way the final bill to expand the number of night games played out, having issue with the cap on Saturday night games and the control the city took over rescheduling rained out games.  If there are significant alterations to the deal as it relates to what the Cubs can do to Wrigley Field or the surrounding area, that could be the nail in the coffin for the Cubs staying in the city.  From Chicago Business:

Team sources say they fear that a hotel to be built on the west side of Clark Street may run into trouble winning city approval, and that the team’s plan for a left-field Jumbotron and other signage will be nickled and dimed down.

In addition, a source close to the team tells me that Mr. Tunney recently phoned Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to tell him that the alderman would be pushing for changes the team wouldn’t like.

As has been the case with this story from the very beginning, politics is the one thing that nobody can predict, and it seems as though this may be the last straw.  It’s been my opinion from the very beginning that the Cubs should look elsewhere.  It is unfathomable that the team should have to work this hard to spend a half of a billion dollars to renovate their dump of a ballpark.  I love Wrigley, but the place needs to be repaired, modernized, and updated in a lot of ways.

Maybe the only answer left is building a modern replica in a suburb…like DuPage County.

WRIGLEY WATCH: He wouldn’t move, would he?

For the last day, the general agreement among fans and the media is that Tom Ricketts is bluffing.  There have been comments ranging from “The Cubs without Wrigley are the White Sox,” to, pretty much, “LOL.”  Nobody seems worried that Tom Ricketts might actually be the owner to leave Lakeview.  It seems in part because of how much he loves the ballpark.  It also seems that the PR blitz afterward was to walk back to rhetoric of moving.  After all, you can’t “remain committed” to fixing up your fixer upper park AND be willing to move away from it, can you?

The reality of the his comment is that the Cubs can leave Wrigley.  And if this deal falls through, the odds shift to about 50/50 that they will.

I don’t have any insider knowledge of the thinking of the ownership.  All I have is what the media has reported.  And what has happened since the Ricketts’ bought the majority of the team.  The fact that this card hasn’t been played until this point tells me that Tom Ricketts and his family are committed to renovating Wrigley Field. It also tells me that their patience is not unlimited.  He’s been fighting this battle since he took control of the team in October, 2009.  Since then, he’s managed to work out a new complex in Mesa and get a baseball academy in the Dominican ready to open.  The last domino to fall is Wrigley Field.  But the hurdles at Wrigley are much, much different than the hurdles in Arizona and the Dominican.  In Chicago, he’s got neighbors and “hand out” politics at play.  Honestly, at this point, can anyone give a good reason why the team has to fight to spend a half of a billion dollars to fix its own park?  It’s preposterous by any measure that they should have to work this hard to spend that much of their own money.

So why not order the Code Red?  Maybe training just isn’t enough.  Maybe it takes an ordinary rag stuffed into the mouth of some unsuspecting neighbors.  And maybe, while the Cubs deflect the negativity of what Ricketts said yesterday, he gets a little more upset with the fact that nobody seems to understand that he’s the one who makes the call, and it doesn’t matter that he has to eat breakfast 500 yards from a bunch of neighbors who want to kill him.  At some point, Ricketts is going to be on the stand, and he’s going to scream on the top of his lungs that he’s going to take his team to the ‘burbs if he damn well pleases, and there is nothing the neighbors, the mayor, or the alderman can do about it.  Unless they decide to play ball…

“A Few Good Men” references aside, the most powerful person in this battle is Tom Ricketts.  I tweeted this morning that it was a mistake to think a man who is in a family that is worth north of $2 billion would resign himself to nothing but the emotion of loving Wrigley Field.  That family did not get that wealthy by making emotional decisions.

Calling Ricketts’ bluff might be a mistake.  He has all of the cards.  The entire deck.  So if he wants to pull out all four aces and drop them in Rosemont, Naperville, or any other suburb willing to give him a sweet deal on land and public financing for a new park, he very well can if he wants to.  And it is absurd to think he won’t, merely because he can’t.

 

WRIGLEY WATCH: The Threat to Move

My feelings on the Wrigley Renovation have been pretty simple…either make Wrigley work, or move on.  Based on today, it seems that Tom Ricketts is at that point, too.

There was a lot of information released last night, including the renderings of what the agreed upon deal will actually be.  I think I speak for everyone when I say it was nice to get a visual idea of what the video board and signage will be.  With Tom Ricketts having a news conference today, a lot of information came out, which, for the most part, I came across tweets by Patrick Mooney and David Kaplan.  So I’m just going to share it with some of my own thoughts, with quotes being attributed to Tom Ricketts.

  • “We have tried to minimize the impact on the rooftops.”         I think this is a pretty intuitive statement, since the team and the rooftop owners have a revenue sharing agreement place in future for the next decade.  There’s not really a lot to add to this, other than Ricketts acknowledging the rooftops means they’ve mattered to the process, in spite of the rooftop owners claims of not being included.
Ariel Representation of Proposed Plaza Outside the Park  Photo: http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2013/05/the-wrigley-renovation-press-conference/#image/4

Ariel Representation of Proposed Plaza Outside the Park
Photo: http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2013/05/the-wrigley-renovation-press-conference/#image/4

  • “We anticipate increasing spending on the baseball side as soon as we know what we can do with this plan.”  and “We need this revenue to compete. That is a fact.”         These are pretty significant statements.  They say that the Cubs are not going to spend significantly more on the on field product before the plans are finalized, but will once they know they have the additional revenue streams in place.  The unrest about waiting until the renovation is complete flies out the window, you would think, with the comment about spending as soon as they know what they can do with the plan.  It certainly appears that all the team is waiting for is some certainty in what revenue will be coming in as the renovation progresses, which allows them to spend more money on the Major League product.  It also says that the team thinks its current revenue is what is holding back the front office from fielding a more competitive team at the moment.  While not mentioned here, Ricketts did mention that they were building a minor league system, and I think that’s important, too.  As those players come up, they are going to earn more money.  Not only will the revenue help the team bring new players in, but will allow them to retain the talent they’re developing for the long term.  It’s worth a mention, because teams like the Rays have produced a lot of talent over the course of the last few years, and have not been able to retain much of it because of their midsize market (which is basically what the Cubs are working at right now), and because of the lack of revenue that their ballpark brings them.
Night View of the Proposed Video Board Photo: http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2013/05/the-wrigley-renovation-press-conference/#image/4 via Chicago Cubs

Night View of the Proposed Video Board
Photo: http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2013/05/the-wrigley-renovation-press-conference/#image/4 via Chicago Cubs

  • “We are very confident in the legality of our signage plan. We are not making a threat to move. The fact is we want to win in Wrigley Field.”; “Keep my talk about moving in context. We want to win at Wrigley. We also need to run our business.”; and “Moving is not a threat. It is a fact that if we don’t have outfield signage we cannot make the financials work. That’s it.”          I am pretty surprised by these comments, which were the first of their kind, at least to my recollection.  I, and none of the other blogs, reporters, or writers I follow for information, have recalled an instance where Tom Ricketts has said publicly that moving to another location is on the table.  There is a lot of buzz about whether it was substantive or not.  At this point, I would figure, it almost has to be.  The renovation of all of the facilities has been one of the priorities of this owner since taking over, and if the team and the city can get this close to a plan to improve Wrigley, it stands to reason that it may be time to explore other alternatives if this deal doesn’t work out.  I think this is Tom Ricketts’ “put up or shut up” call to the neighborhood.  And, as I’ve said before, it is long overdue.  He cannot wait around forever to have only a few more restrictions than every other team, as opposed to the current load of oppressive ordinances and rules that inhibit the Cubs from playing on a level field with the rest of the league. If this deal falls through, the Cubs, in my view, will be forced to look elsewhere.  In the long run, that may be their best option because a new location outside of the city would eliminate all of the ordinances, regulations, and restrictions on signs, night games, and renovations that affect the historic landmark designation of the park.
  • In a piece from David Kaplan this afternoon, Ricketts said that naming rights and seat licenses are not in the immediate plans because of fans coming from all over to see “Wrigley Field.”  From a fan’s perspective, that’s great news, and if I were a season ticket holder, the seat license news would also make me happy.  For the time being, the Cubs seem intent on raising revenue through sponsorship and using corporate partners in the proposed plaza and outfield signage.  All of that to me seems like a good way to do it, as long as it’s possible.  I doubt he’s slammed the door on the idea.  This post by Kaplan comes from an interview which will air at 5:30 CDT on CSN Chicago.

Last night there was some chatter about making Wrigley “old.”  To me, none of the renovation drawings and proposals seem to do that.  They don’t make it old again.  Hell, it’s already old.  The falling concrete, worn paint, and small concourses being topped off with troughs in the bathroom make it old.  What the renovation does, in my eyes, is leave the charms that we all love about the park…the ivy, the scoreboard,  the intimate feeling of the park…intact with some more modern amenities that every other team has.  Nothing I’ve seen ruins Wrigley.  In fact, from what I’ve seen, it’ll make Wrigley even better than it is now as a park to watch a ballgame.

Today was an important day in the history of the Chicago Cubs.  It is either the first day of a new era of baseball at Wrigley Field for our children and, potentially, grandchildren to enjoy.  Or, it is the first day of the end of the Wrigley Field era in baseball.  Either way, this day is an important one for the Cubs and us, as their fans.

(h/t to John Arguello and Cubs Den for being the place where I found these images in one place)

WRIGLEY WATCH: The Fat Lady Isn’t Even Warming Up Her Voice

Oh, it’s not over.  Not by a long shot.

Call me a cynic, but I’m not buying the self congratulatory press conference from Monday.  I’m not buying that the public process is a formality that won’t yield a significant change to what is expected to be done.  I’m not buying any of it until the last details of the renovation are finished and the job is declared done.

Why, you ask?  Well, the rooftop owners want their piece of the pie.  That’s why.  And it’s fair.  The Cubs did negotiate a deal with the rooftop owners that allowed them to be contractual parasites.  Maybe parasites is the wrong word, although the fact that their business of selling the Cubs’ product is parasitic, in a sense, maybe that’s not the right word, since they don’t seem to like it.  Maybe the rooftop owners are the bugs that live on farm animals, and eat smaller bugs living on the same animal.  That seems to be a more fitting analogy.  The Cubs and the rooftops are after the same “food,” in any event.  It seems curious that the Cubs last regime would sanction others to directly compete with the team for business…but that’s another issue entirely.

“We are partners, so there is a business relationship. There is no question about that. I am part of the community too. Let me be clear, we want the Cubs to do their renovation and we want them to win the World Series. The first step of their renovation is to do their clubhouses and training facilities. They should go ahead and build them because that is the main reason they have given that they are not competitive.” Beth Murphy, via ESPNChicago.com

I take a ton of issue with this entire quote.  First, I dismiss the partnership notion off-hand.  They’re not.  They have an advantageous location in relation to the park.  No more, no less.   If they were true partners, they should be chipping in a little extra to help shore up the end of game relief problems.  Second, competitive facilities are an issue in attracting players, but the biggest reason the Cubs are not competitive is because they don’t have equal footing with the other 29 teams in ad revenue, night games, and concessions because of their woefully outdated ballpark.  The clubhouses and player facilities are an issue, but they are not the single greatest disadvantage the Cubs have when it comes to their ballpark.  That notion is absurd on its best day.

Photo: myfoxchicago.com

Photo: myfoxchicago.com

My personal favorite argument about the park and the increased signs is not the “don’t mess up Wrigley” stuff.  My personal favorite is the “The Cubs are the most profitable team in baseball” BS.  The profit is almost a nearly perfect subtraction from the big payrolls run up by the previous ownership group.  It’s a false narrative.  And it’s not relevant to the ballpark discussion.  The fact that the Cubs made money does not change anything about the fact that their ballpark still puts them at a revenue disadvantage and continuing to exist under the thumb of the city’s ordinances makes it tougher on the Cubs than on any other team in baseball.  Making money or not isn’t relevant to that fact.  Even with the deal that was announced, 40 night games is still a restriction, and it is a restriction that will cost the Cubs money in TV revenue.  Let’s face it…people don’t want to (or can’t because they have jobs) sit down and watch that much day baseball.

My point is that this deal is far from done and, as fans, should be treated as though it was never acknowledged.  There is too much that can happen to mess it up.  At this point, I would still bet even money that nothing happens in beginning the project this off-season, and that we’re far from the end of all of this.  We should hope that all of the public hearings and talk about the plans are a formality and the plans move forward and Mr. Ricketts’ promise of a championship is delivered.

We should also hope that he still has the cell phone numbers of mayors in the suburbs, just in case something happens to stop the deal in its tracks.  We’re talking about the Cubs here, folks…which is to say anything is possible, and we probably won’t like it.

Rainy Day Theater

For a day without a game, there sure is a lot of drama surrounding the Cubs today…

  • For starters, David Kaplan has an interview posted on CSN with Theo Epstein that will air tonight at 10 PM.  For those that don’t live in Chicago or don’t get CSN or don’t want to click the link, the short of it is: they’re sticking to the plan.  Bleacher Nation has a number of great quotes posted from the interview if you want a little more depth.  My two cents remain the same.  This is the right way to do it.  In an era with free agency yielding weaker classes, draft slotting, international spending limits, etc, it’s going to be tougher to get good overnight, so trading veterans when the team is out of it, developing a stockpile of talent, and making them a cohesive team that grows together and learns to win together is the best way to be a contender for a long time.  There was some great action on Twitter and the linked BN post’s comment section from people who want the checkbook to flop open, but none of it is realistic.  The good news is that as this season wears on, we should see improvement, and going into next season, the team could play winning baseball.  I’ve said before that last season was as much fun watching the Cubs as I’ve had since 2008…because we could see players get better and what was building.  The last two months were brutal by design.  The long term value of getting Jackson, Vitters, Rusin, and the
    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    other youngsters up was off the charts, though.

  • I Tweeted a few moments ago that I hope the goat’s head that was sent to Wrigley today was actually allowed in the park.  It would be silly to renew the curse on a rain day.
  • Patrick Mooney and Bruce Levine both have posts about Starlin Castro out today.  I keep saying when that kid grows up, he’s going to be really good at baseball.  It’s still true.  The best part of both stories is that it seems like Castro himself wants to meet his off the charts potential.  There is no debate about how good he can be.  For those who forget, he’s 23.  He is a week YOUNGER than Jean Segura, who was in town with the Brewers this week, and Segura didn’t make his way to the majors until the Brewers got him in the Zack Greinke deal and they were basically giving up on the season.  Castro, in his fourth season, is a legitimate 20/20 threat with great range (ask Carlos Marmol about this), and want to.  Not a bad deal.
  • Hooray for not having a deal!  Sort of.  Lots of sources for the information from last night’s meeting about the renovation that was closed to media, but Bleed Cubbie Blue does the math for the alderman.  I’ve said all along that the Cubs should explore the suburbs.  A number of different stories have said Tom Ricketts’ siblings agree.  I think if the city had a credible reason to believe the Cubs would pack their balls and bats and go to Rosemont, they’d be a lot more willing to cough up some night games.  It’s good to know the Cubs and the city have some agreement on 40 games and four concerts.  I’m with the crowd that says the Cubs should get the six flexible dates for TV on top of the 44 night events that have been agreed to.  Mostly because the Cubs are willing to pay for all of this themselves.  At some point, the neighbors need to suck it up and know who butters their bread…and it’s not the alderman or the mayor, in spite of what those individuals think.
  • Last night, I had a tweet (among the others with his truly not good stats) that I think David DeJesus saw, “.@David_DeJesus3 needs to go. Bottom of the order. Bench. Somewhere. He’s awful. #Cubs  After that point, he went 3-3, which caused me to say, “Remember all that stuff I said about @David_DeJesus3 earlier tonight? David, I’m so, so, so sorry. Seriously. My bad. Do you need a maid?”  While I am not easily swayed, DDJ was terrific last night in the clutch.  And I’m sorry I doubted him.  Until the next time I do it.

The Giants are in tomorrow afternoon to start a four game series after smacking the Rockies around a little bit.  Let’s hope they got all that hitting out of their system and Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner miss the plane to Chicago and can’t get flights to anywhere but Milwaukee (which is where they play starting on Monday).  Hopefully, the Cubs can manage to win their now nine game homestand, but that won’t be easy with the Rangers following the Giants.

 

 

WRIGLEY WATCH: Chicago Is Giving the Cubs Every Reason to Leave

“Ald. Thomas Tunney, 44th, said Thursday that he would not sign off on a deal unless it included more parking, better police protection and “aesthetic” assurances sought by Wrigleyville residents and businesses — all issues that have yet to be settled.

Reminded that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing for an agreement, in part because the Ricketts family that owns the Cubs is not asking for any government funding, Tunney replied, “Yeah, but it’s not going to be on the backs of my community, sorry.”

The Rickettses have maintained that a deal needs to get done by Opening Day in early April so they can line up the contractors and materials needed to fix up their aging ballpark, but Tunney dismissed that concern.

“You’re talking about one of the wealthiest families in America,” the alderman told a throng of City Hall reporters pressing him on the issue. “End of statement.”

That load of political BS was from the Tribune, where Alderman and Professional Extortionist, Tom Tunney, made it clear that he wants his hands filled before he does the right thing.  None of it makes sense, however, when you break this bit of complete stupidity into pieces:

  • I can see how parking is an issue, especially since I come down from Wisconsin for trips to Wrigley.  With that said, parking is not going to get much better than it is with the current location of the ballpark.  It just isn’t.  You can’t have a park in the middle of a neighborhood and expect that you can just make parking appear.  I would assume the hotel that is being proposed for the McDonald’s property would have some parking.  I doubt it’ll be sufficient for a full park’s attendance, but it would probably be better than what is there now, and even if it’s not, the DeVry University remote parking is an affordable and good option for nights and weekends.  Police protection is on the city.  Period.  As far as “aesthetic assurances,” I am with all of those who say that the ballpark isn’t aesthetically pleasing now in the concourse area, but the renovation would enhance it.  I know the alder-crook is talking about the roof top owners who line his pockets politically.  As far as residents and businesses go, somebody should get the pulse of the property and business owners’ feelings about the Cubs leaving.  Their businesses closing and property value plummeting wouldn’t be ideal for any of them, which would be the result of the Cubs moving out of the neighborhood.
  • The same logic applies when he talks about the renovation being “on the backs of [his] community.”  That community is nothing without the Cubs and Wrigley Field.  I can’t imagine that they want to see a half billion dollars of private improvement to their cash cow packing its bags.
  • Lastly, he is right about the wealth of the Ricketts family.  It begs the question, why push it?  They are wealthy, and they are proposing to sink $500 million into the ballpark and surrounding area.  All of the work they propose would be paid for out of their own pockets.  Sounds like a sweet deal for the city.

For those who haven’t been paying too much attention, Tom Ricketts announced a partnership with the Chicago Athletic Club, and that a state-of-the-art fitness center would be built in the Sheraton Hotel proposed for the McDonald’s property across from Wrigley (very well discussed on the Bleacher Nation Blog).  The grand total in improvements to the park and area is half a billion dollars.  WITH NO PUBLIC FUNDING AT ALL!

I continue to be a proponent of the Cubs actively and seriously considering options in the suburbs.  This is exactly why.  When coupling this statement with Tunney trying to extort repairing a train stop and building a park on

Photo: Chicago Cubs Conceptual Image of Renovated Wrigley Field

Photo: Chicago Cubs Conceptual Image of Renovated Wrigley Field

the back of “one of the wealthiest families in America,” it appears that there is no deal to be had.

The best leverage to broker a deal with the city has to be actively looking for other places to build a ballpark and hotel/ health club structures.  While the mayor wants to have a deal done, he is, at least at the moment, unwilling to step in and make the deal happen.  It seems unlikely that he will.  I’ve noted in the past his political differences with the Ricketts family.  I can’t imagine that he is enthusiastic about jumping up to help.  Looking for alternatives to Wrigley Field solves the problem.  Either the city realized it has a gold mine with the potential to bring even more money and even more jobs to the existing location, or the Cubs get a modern ballpark without the headaches of the Chicago political fist-pounding.

The new location could still house some of the Northwestern University sports that have been discussed, and could be a modern magnet for concerts and other revenue streams that are limited by the current location.  The Cubs would also get the value of a normal slate of night games, which would increase the value of their upcoming television contract, which is another source of revenue.  The sale of Wrigley Field to the state, to a private investor who thinks it’ll be cool to own a team-less 100+ year old symbol of baseball history, to whoever offers the most, would be a nice chunk of funding to drop into the construction of a new park.  The only downside to a new ballpark is that it will not be Wrigley.  As I have noted in the past, if Yankee Stadium, Tiger Stadium, and others can be replaced, so can Wrigley.

My first preference is for the Cubs to remain in Wrigley, of course.  At this point, though, all of us, as Cubs fans should warm up to the idea of watching a competitive team at “SOLD NAMING RIGHTS” Park in, say…Schaumberg…or Naperville.  They would still be the Chicago Cubs, after all…but without the grief and political thuggery that go with the actual city.