Over the weekend the Chicago Cubs announced plans for a massive $300 million renovation of Wrigley Field that, in their estimation, would take five offseasons to complete.
At the same time, the Cubs stated their willingness to pay for the entire renovation project themselves, which hasn't been the case when renovation talks came up in the past, but needed the city to cooperate with lighter restrictions when it comes to signage in and around the ballpark in order to increase advertising revenue, and also the number of night games they’re allowed to play.
The Chicago Tribune’s article on Saturday noted that Cubs owner Tom Ricketts planned to keep the lines of communication open with Mayor Rahm Emanuel in order to reach a resolution that benefited both the Cubs and the city of Chicago. I think it’s safe to say Emanuel received and was pleased with the team’s message based on his comments Wednesday, but he also made a point to acknowledge how much backpedaling the Cubs have had to do from their original demands.
“When I first started this discussion, the Cubs wanted $200 million in taxpayer dollars,” Emanuel told reporters. “I said, ‘No.’ Then they said, ‘We’d like $150 million taxpayer dollars,’ and I said, ‘No.’ Then they asked if they could have $100 million in taxpayer subsidies, and I said, ‘No.’ Then, they asked about $55 million in taxpayer subsidies. I said, ‘No.’ The good news is after 15 months, they’ve heard the word, ‘No.’
“So, we’re at a point where there will be no taxpayer subsidies for a private entity,” Emanuel said. “That said, Wrigley is important to the neighborhood and to the city — or at least a part of the city that likes to go there — and I want to ensure that it continues that kind of important role that it plays in the North Side, which is why I’m also pleased that they’re also putting a hotel up. So, I asked all the parties involved to finish this up.”
So Emanuel stood his ground and forced the Cubs to change their gameplan. Now what will the city do in terms of honoring the wishes for lighter restrictions? When pressed for an answer on the front Emanuel had little to say on Wednesday, but his office has made it clear earlier this week they're in favor of the Cubs exploring new avenues to generate revenue and have urged them to work with the neighborhood and rooftop owners to make it happen.
Emanuel did add:
“We all have a stake in getting it done. It is not done until all the parts fall in place. There are other things that are necessary to do that. There are 1,200 jobs at stake in buliding and refurbishing Wrigley. But, I want to be clear, I said from the beginning and now it’s absolutely clear and underscored — there will be no taxpayer subsidy in the refurbishing of Wrigley. But, all the parties have a role to play to see it through to the end, and I intent to help do that.”
So let’s just make sure we’re clear on where everything stands as of Jan. 23.
1. As Emanuel reiterated at least half a dozen times, no taxpayer subsidies will be granted.
Got that. That's not going to change.
2. Wrigley Field is very important part of the city of Chicago.
We knew that.
3. The gap between the two sides when the Cubs originally made the proposal 15 months ago is essentially closed at this point, and with everybody involved seemingly motivated to get a deal done, it should only be a matter of time before some sort of agreement is reached and the project is green-lighted. That said, nothing is official until it's officially official, so we'll continue to keep an eye on those developments.
In case you missed it over the weekend, here’s another look at the Cubs planned renovations in the form of illustrations.
Needless to say, if you’re a fan of the Wrigley Field Cam on Earth Cam, it's looking more and more like you’ll have something interesting to watch over the next few winters.