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Lawmakers To Decide On Funding For Wrigley

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Fans of the Chicago Cubs take pictures of the main entrance to Wrigley Field before the Opening Day game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field on April 12, 2010. (Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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UPDATED: November 16, 2010 12:50 p.m.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) - During their lame duck session starting Tuesday, lawmakers will consider whether to help out with renovations for Wrigley Field.

The Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs and the 96-year-old ballpark, wants the State of Illinois to sell bonds to pay for $200 million in improvements.

The proposal calls for using 35 years’ worth of amusement tax growth to pay off the bonds. The increased amusement tax would be generated by higher Cubs ticket prices.

Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports, Tom Ricketts held a news conference in front of the historic park on Tuesday. He was flanked by union members, who he said need the jobs that would be created by the rehab project

Despite a lack of support among key political leaders, Ricketts said the borrowing plan would not raise taxes.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s John Cody Reports

And all agree that upgrades are warranted, because Wrigley Field is very old, and every year needs lots of work just to stay open. Today, netting keeps loose concrete from falling into the stands.

But both Mayor Richard M. Daley and Gov. Pat Quinn dismissed the idea, saying the city and state have more serious problems to worry about.

The mayor said he likes the concept of a stadium renovation plan that would keep the Cubs at Wrigley for at least 35 years, and free up the money the Ricketts family needs to develop a triangle building next to the ballpark that was promised to Wrigleyville residents in exchange for a bleacher expansion.

But Daley said he’s not about to saddle his successor with a deal that requires Chicago taxpayers to forfeit 35 years of amusement-tax growth needed to bankroll basic city services.

“That would deny the next mayor — if I sign the agreement and say, ‘Go ahead’ — of the revenue they need to balance the budget,” Daley said Monday. “And government needs money in order to balance budgets.”

Daley said he has other ideas on how to bankroll the Wrigley renovation without burdening taxpayers, but he declined to give specifics.

Quinn said he, too, is “very skeptical of the whole thing” and plans to put the plan “under a microscope” at a time when the state budget is drowning in as much as $15 billion in red ink.

“We have top priorities in Illinois right now that must be dealt with,” Quinn said, adding that the Ricketts family’s proposal “would not be a top priority for me.”

Despite the discouraging comments by Daley and Quinn, the Cubs aren’t about to throw in the towel on the Wrigley renovation plan, according to Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for the Ricketts family. Culloton said team officials “respect our elected officials and will continue meeting with them and their staffs” to explain how the team’s proposal “will create $200 million in additional private-sector investment, create 1,000 construction jobs” and hundreds of permanent jobs.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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