Cubs should put Wrigley threat back on table
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts answers questions concerning Wrigley Field before a spring-training workout last weekend.
In purchasing the Cubs, Tom Ricketts made plenty of mistakes — not the least of which was needing to buy the team in the first place.
But once he spent a chunk of the family fortune, Ricketts should have immediately threatened to move the team out of Wrigley Field without concessions from the city. Instead, he said the team would never leave.
So much for leverage.
No public funding for rebuilding a dying park, no help with the rooftop owners, and a constant fight with landmark restrictions.
Ricketts gave it all away with one careless remark.
Well, Ricketts has finally figured out that he won't get any public help with his rebuild, and he shouldn't. If you can afford $900 million to buy a team, you can afford to fix up your own flippin' house.
But as for rooftop owners and landmark status, Ricketts should now scream loud enough for everyone in Wrigleyville to hear that if he doesn't soon get some cooperation from the mayor, the aldermen and anyone who has a hand out that he's going to start searching for suburban properties.
Seriously, this is ridiculous.
Does anyone pouring over the details of the landmark status really think the new Cubs owners are going to dramatically change the face of Wrigley Field?
Of course not. It's just another way to hold up the process until everyone involved can get what they want out of the deal.
The Cubs aren't going to destroy the look of Wrigley Field. Not only do they respect the history of the yard, they also understand that the look of Wrigley Field is why people go to see Wrigley Field. Despite what Ricketts says, it is a museum and it's the main reason people want to view it before it collapses.
At the same time, Ricketts has every right to maximize revenue in a facility that is already severely limited. If that means he wants more night games, festivals, billboards, concerts — or August ice rinks and a February circus, for that matter — the city should allow it.
Standing in the way is also an absurd contract with the rooftop owners signed by previous Cubs ownership. After years of allowing the buildings across the street to steal and sell the Cubs' product, ownership figured something was better than nothing and signed a 20-year deal in 2004 to allow the rooftops to sell tickets in exchange for 17 percent of gross revenues.
That deal has a long way to run and neighborhood politicians and businesses all have their palms flat to the sky, waiting to see just how much more is in it for them.
Until they get what they want, the mayor and all in the middle of it will hold the Cubs hostage, making renovations impossible and delaying their plans.
Yes, Ricketts made a huge mistake not threatening to leave right out of the box, but with all the tactics currently deployed against him, he's got more than enough ammo to play that card.
The Cubs have plans in place to begin renovations after the season, and they ought to put a deadline on getting cooperation from the city in all of these phony negotiations.
They ought to tell the mayor that if he doesn't straighten this out by Opening Day, the Cubs will start looking for a nice tract of suburban land to build a Wrigley Field replica, complete with restaurants, bars, highway access and public transportation.
There's a nice, big hunk of land where Arlington Park currently sits, and with the state doing all it can to kill horse racing in Illinois, that sounds just about perfect. The Cubs could build all manner of "neighborhood" entertainment on the premises and keep all the revenue for themselves.
Wrigleyville acts like it can't believe someone dropped a ballpark in the middle of a cute little section of the city, even though it's been there for 99 years.
The residents sometimes pretend like they hate having the park anywhere near them.
Ricketts ought to say that if you don't like the Cubs as a neighbor, and you want to make it impossible for the Cubs to conduct business there, fine.
Enjoy your neighborhood without the Cubs.
•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.
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