Ricketts drums up support for Wrigley Field funding in Naperville
Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts says it has become customary for fans to introduce themselves to him using both their names and ages.
"I don't think there's anyone in the world that has as many conversations as I do where a complete stranger walks up and tells me how old they are," Ricketts said Monday in Lisle. "And it generally goes something like 'Mr. Ricketts, nice to meet you. I'm 93 years old, and I need to see a World Series before I die.' At that point, all I can say is I want to win before I die, too, and we're working really hard at it."
A key to achieving that goal, he said during an appearance Monday before the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, is the preservation and improvement of 98-year-old Wrigley Field. Ricketts made his pitch for support for the team acquiring $200 million in public funds to make that happen.
"We need to improve it. When everyone is in their chairs, they're pretty happy. When they have to get up to get in line for the washroom or food, then some of the shortcomings step up and you can kind of see them. So it's definitely our goal to preserve the park for the next generation of fans, as well as improve the amenities for the people who come today," he said.
"We definitely have a lot of dialogue with a lot of elected officials, and I think it's all moving in the right direction. When we're able to come up with something that works for everyone, it will be out there, and I hope everyone will be supportive at that point."
He said he believes "people are starting to get" that Wrigley Field is in a unique situation regarding the way it is funded, and he's confident a solution can be found. When it is, he urged everyone to contact their local politicians for support.
"There's 30 teams in baseball, and there's really two ways that you finance your stadium. One model, which about 25 teams use, is that you have a public agency build and provide you a stadium and you pay rent and expenses and some sort of amusement tax," Ricketts said. "The five other teams use a different model where they cover all of their expenses, but they don't pay any taxes. Believe it or not, Chicago has a hybrid model where you cover all of your own expenses, remain totally private and pay the second-highest taxes in the league."
As for the coming season, Ricketts said he is more optimistic than most as the team enters its first season under the direction of new President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and Manager Dale Sveum.
"What I see on the field coming up this year and years to come is a team that's better prepared, a team that's going to play hard and a team that's going to treat every game like it matters," he said. "Everyone that is a Cubs fan should be excited about our future, be excited about this team. We're headed in the right direction and we're going to get you there."
Ricketts is also scheduled to speak at a multichamber luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Bobak's Signature Events in Woodridge.