CHICAGO (CBS) – Wrigley Field is almost 100 years old and is in need of a major renovation – and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts doesn’t want to foot the bill alone.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, in December, the Illinois General Assembly never addressed a plan to use 35 years worth of amusement tax growth to finance a $200 million renovation of the ballpark.
So now, Ricketts is reaching out to Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, and the issue may now boil down to how much Emanuel cares about Wrigley Field and the Cubs.
Greg Hinz of Crain’s Chicago Business reported Wednesday that Emanuel and Ricketts met for 10 minutes a few weeks ago, and Ricketts made a presentation about rebuilding the ballpark.
No deal was reached and no commitments were made, Crain’s reported.
Ricketts told Crain’s he “understands” there has been debate over how to pay for the renovations.
Ricketts did not tell Hinz what kind of plan he has in mind, other than that he still hopes to renovate Wrigley Field with a combination of public and private funds.
The proposal that Ricketts issued last year would freeze the city’s revenues from amusement taxes charged on game tickets at Wrigley at 2009 levels. The increased revenue would have gone toward paying off bonds that would have been issued for improvements.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said in November that he was “not against” the project, but expressed skepticism about a plan that would take tax money away from “increasing the number of police officers hired or new street lights or sewer lines.”
But state lawmakers never took up the issue.
U.S. Cellular Field and Soldier Field both received public money for construction and renovation, respectively.
Ricketts did tell Crain’s that he would not threaten to move the team if no public funding is secured, as White Sox have done in the past.
In 1988, the White Sox were on the brink of moving to St. Petersburg, Fla., after state lawmakers failed to secure funding for a new stadium to replace old Comiskey Park. But at 11:59 p.m. the night before the deadline, Gov. James Thompson secured the votes to finance the new Sox park.
Ricketts told Hinz the Cubs would not go “down this path.”
Regardless, some Cubs fans are not thrilled about the idea of using public funds to renovate Wrigley Field.
“For most people, they can’t even afford to go to a professional sports game anyway, but you want to ask the fans, and you want to ask the people for money?” said Cubs fan Barry Lloyd.
And how much help does the franchise actually need?
The annual Forbes MLB team valuations showed the Cubs are doing very well. They finished in fourth place, at an estimated value of $773 million – behind the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But Ricketts is not backing down. He told Crain’s he is prepared for a long war of schmoozing with public officials.
Right now, the team is spending upwards of $10 million a year to maintain the stadium, which was constructed in 1914.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.