The Chicago Cubs might own Wrigley Field, but they don't fully control the ballpark's $300 million planned renovation. A disagreement with the owners of rooftop buildings across Waveland and Sheffield avenues has been stalling progress on changes to Wrigley, which were to include new advertising signage and a large video scoreboard in the bleachers area.
They're just the kinds of additions that could block views of Wrigley from the buildings. Not only have negotiations broken down over placement of the signs and scoreboard, but there's also a new defamation lawsuit the rooftop owners have filed that names the Cubs as "a respondent in discovery." The suit might be a distraction — the main defendant doesn't work as an advisor for the Cubs anymore — but team officials look at it as the first legal step to block the signs and scoreboard.
There's also another factor, the significance of which was missed in an earlier post The Stew did about Wrigley renovations: In a contract that runs until 2023, the Cubs have an agreement with their neighbors that gives 17 percent of rooftop revenues back to the team. And language in that contract also reportedly gives rooftop owners sway regarding changes to Wrigley that might affect the rooftops. Things such as views being blocked.
The Cubs and the rooftop owners appear to be partners, legally.
It's up for dispute how much the relationship is parasitical and how much it's symbiotic. The Cubs — well, Wrigley Field — are the main attraction. But it's easy to see how the rooftop buildings, with their own grandstands and club-like accommodations and atmosphere, help sell the team and ballpark.
Without the Cubs, there would be no rooftops. But without the rooftops, Wrigley Field and the Cubs wouldn't be as cool. Or as profitable.
From Rick Telander's column in the Chicago Sun-Times:
Nothing is going to be accomplished at Wrigley until the rooftop owners agree to it, until they’re satisfied with the altered views, etc.
The Cubs have a problem. Moving to a new ballpark is ludicrous. Eminent domain — taking over the buildings on Waveland and Sheffield for the public good — will never happen.
So we have lawsuits and anger and possibly years of delays ahead. Maybe stuff will never happen at Wrigley.
“They agreed to it,’’ George Loukas said of the contract.
Who is George Loukas? He’s a real-estate man who owns the Cubby Bear at the corner of Clark and Addison, plus buildings at 1032 W. Waveland, 3643 N. Sheffield and 3609 N. Sheffield — all with rooftops.
The Ricketts family knows all-too well who George Loukas is. But they should re-introduce themselves to their partner, so they can figure out a way to make a deal. Wrigley Field's not getting any younger.
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