Ricketts cautiously confident about Wrigley Field deal
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Despite reports that a deal was close with the city of Chicago to renovate Wrigley Field, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts was playing safe with the media Monday.
Speaking before the Cubs' home opener, Ricketts expressed confidence a deal would get done and that the Cubs could begin embarking on their self-financed five-year plan to renovate the nearly 100-year-old ballpark.
"I think we're moving forward," Ricketts said. "We're committed to getting something done with the city. The mayor (Rahm Emanuel) has been terrific. The alderman's (Tom Tunney) been very productive. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the process to get something done. Just got to keep working through it.
"I think it's going in the right direction. I think we've worked through a lot of issues over the weekend. I'll just leave it at that. I'm not going to put a time frame around it because there is kind of a public part of the process that has to happen."
During the team's fan convention in January, Ricketts and Cubs business president Crane Kenney unveiled plans for a $300 million renovation that would include redoing the seating bowl and clubhouses and adding revenue-generating items such as increased signage and an electronic scoreboard. The Ricketts family also would like to build a boutique hotel across the street from the ballpark.
At the time, the Cubs said they needed the city to ease some of the landmark restrictions on the park. Of late, they've had to contend with the neighboring rooftop owners, who have contracted with the Cubs to charge fans for watching games, with part of their revenues going to the Cubs.
The rooftop owners have complained that any signage or new scoreboard that blocks their views violate their contract.
"It's a really awkward contract," Ricketts said. "But I think we'll be OK. I think it's a process. We're just working through the process. There's going to be public hearings that have to go forward. We just have to start making sure that we check all the boxes that one needs to get a major development done in Chicago.
"I'm not sure what all the objections are, buy we're sensitive to things that affect the neighbors and we want to be responsive to issues that the neighbors have."
Cubs baseball president Theo Epstein has stayed out of the stadium conversation, but he acknowledged that improvements such as a bigger clubhouse and better training facilities could only help the team. For those reasons, Ricketts said, those are high on the to-do list.
"A lot of the stuff we're doing with the park is non-revenue-generating," Ricketts said. "We haven't decided what sequence all of it goes in. I think our highest priority, honestly, is the clubhouse. As you guys know all too well as people who have seen other people's clubhouses, it's way below standard. One of the things I've said since we got here is if we want to have a first-class organization, we can't have second-rate facilities. That will be a high priority for this off-season."
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