This could be your chance to buy a piece of the Chicago Cubs and assist in the renovation of iconic Wrigley Field. If you are a millionaire several times over, anyway.
Patrick Mooney at CSN Chicago reports that Cubs ownership is looking into bringing in minority investors so the team can afford a $500 million project to update Wrigley and add attractions to adjacent properties to the park. Almost a year ago, the Cubs announced the Wrigley deal, which was supposed to be financed entirely by the Ricketts family, the team's sole owners. But they've needed to stall because the owners of rooftop buildings across the street from the ballpark — who, incredibly, have a legal say — haven't agreed to some of the changes because they might affect views of the park.
As Mooney writes, it's turned into a pretty fun little Chicago drama, as long as you don't care that no construction is happening:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is said to be getting antsy as Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts continues to negotiate with the rooftop owners after already missing one offseason of construction.
Emanuel wants the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the groundbreaking, the image of hard hats, concrete and steel. Ricketts wants assurances the team won’t get sued before green-lighting the $500 million Wrigleyville project, which would also include a new hotel across the street from the iconic marquee. The roofies want their piece of the action, clinging to a revenue-sharing agreement with the team that runs through 2023 and trying to block the Jumbotron.
It's possible that opening up the team to non-voting investors — like the Mets did in the wake of the Bernie Madoff mess — would give the Cubs the cash they need to make the rooftop owners happy and start breaking ground. It's also possible the Ricketts family just doesn't have enough money to make the renovation happen in the first place. Other major league teams, such as the San Francisco Giants, have literally dozens of owners. Or they're owned by huge corporations. The Ricketts family, whose fortune was made by the creation of Ameritrade, is rich — they're just not that rich.
Further, because of the debt-heavy nature of their deal to buy the team from Sam Zell, the Cubs already are under payroll restrictions. And the Cubs roster reflects this: In 2010 the team's payroll was $147 million. This season, it will be $89 million, with the team paying out about $75 million to players still on the roster. The same restrictions will be in place — if you can believe this — until 2019.
Yes, the Cubs are building perhaps the best farm system in the league, with the likes of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Albert Almora on the verge of reaching the majors. But team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are going to have to sit out most of the big names in free agency for the next several seasons. Fixing the ballpark comes first. If it comes.
So here's your shot to help put a giant TV in Wrigley Field, to give the ballplayers some elbow room in the clubhouses, to build a hotel across the street from the ballpark — to make over Wrigley and give the Cubs a fighting chance to spend money on players like a big-market team would. It all could mean their first World Series victory since 1908. Wouldn't that be worth a few million of your dollars?
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