Ricketts Again Wants You To Pay For Wrigley Work

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.

  • Dean

    The headline is a little misleading. It should read, “Ricketts wants those who go to Wrigley Field to pay for renovations” since they are the ones paying the amusement tax.

    I have no problem with these types of use fees for stadiums. This should be the model for any public financing of sports stadiums.

    Also, it’s pretty disingenuous of Tunney to be skeptical about using “tax” dollars for Wrigley Field. If Wrigley did not exist, his ward would be nothing but a downtrodden afterthought.

    • kev in skokie

      Agreed Dean. And, it’s not like Wrigley isn’t in dire need of repair. As a lifelong Cubs fan I gotta say, the place is a dump. It may look amazing on tv, and it does, but the actual experience is beyond bad. From the terrible food, to the steep incline of the ramps, to the seats behind poles, to the smell of urine EVERYWHERE, I’d rather sit at home and let them send in another busload from Iowa.

  • Just Saying

    A little decieving-
    “U.S. Cellular Field and Soldier Field both received public money for construction and renovation, respectively.” —-The public owns both buldings.

    SO much for Cubs people saying they don’t pay attention to the SOX —

    “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. “

    • Denver Deadite

      Saying that the public owns both stadiums means nothing though, since the public gets little if any say in how the buildings are run.

      After all, the Bears don’t want turf in Soldier Field, and therefore, there is no turf and we get to ‘enjoy’ the worst field in the NFL.

      But would Wrigley being handed over to the State make a difference? People still wouldn’t want to pay for it.

      The real problem is that everybody nationwide allowed this to happen in the first place. Too many cities basically gave free stadiums to billionaires, instead of making the billionaires pay for them.

  • Joe

    Kev & Dean are idiots. The state is 8 billion in debt, & paying interest on outstanding loans to pay for K-12 & Medicare bills months overdue. Who cares if we recoup the money in 35 years. Illinois does not have the $ now & will not have it for years to come. The key point in this article is Rickett’s plan of “schmoozing with politicians”.

    Hey Kev & Dean, If a government has less money coming in than coming out, it is not fiscally responsible to spend money on sports entertainment.

    • Dean

      Joe you jumped to a conclusion on how I felt about this particular plan. The exact financing structure that Ricketts first proposed likely wouldn’t work because it does pull too much money forward. That was not the point I was trying to make.

      My point is that the amusement taxes paid for by those attending various sports venues are the dollars that should be made available to the teams/venues when they are looking for public dollars. If that’s not enough, they may need to raise the fees/tickets prices. I believe those who use the venue should be on the hook for the costs and not every taxpayer.

  • Larry Horse's water trough

    How much does a damned bulldozer cost? Why are trying to save the world’s biggest urinal?

  • crash corrigan

    Did the Rickets family somehow forget how to make millions/billions? He could be such a hero if it was self-financed. I believe that’s how it was done in Boston, the model Ricketts wants to follow, so he says. If times are too tough for millionaires to borrow from their friends, think of how the rest of us are!

  • Larry Jones

    The Black Hawks, White Sox, and thye Bears all receive public funding and last time I checked those owners are all rich folks, Its not fair to give those team some public funding and then say no to the Cubs.

    • Liz o

      Fair is something that comes along once a year with ponies, midgets and Larry Horse’s water trough.

      Life isn’t fair. That makes life fair.

    • Hagrid's Beard

      In what way do the Hawks Sox and Bears get oublic funding that the Cubs do not? I for one am curiuos. Do the Bulls and Sting(sorry FIRE) get this public funding?

      • Hagrid's Beard

        Public not Oubic– doggone fat fingers !!

  • calleroftheshow

    Raise your own capital privately. Charge whatever prices you want for tickets. It is your business Mr. Ricketts. Figure out what you can ‘get away’ with charging. Don’t be looking for taxpayers to pay for Wrigley. Look for that money from your own investments and customers. You bought the package, now you figure how to pay for your wants. In the meantime, keep the stadium up to code minimum and get over it. If you don’t like it, move the team to the Suburbs. If he didn’t have the money in the first place, then he shouldn’t have gotten involved. He can buy the car but can’t afford the gas and maintenance.

  • Draglines Beer Belly

    Use social networks and start a “SAVE WRIGLEY” fund if Wrigley is so important and in dire need of renovations. With the massive number of Cub fans around the Country, there is money to be made. Ricketts, please stop using this as another excuse of why you cannot put a winning team together. Players do not want to come here because the NL Central has been a joke and you have certain players and contracts that make the majority of MLB gag. Make minor improvements rather than an overhaul and stop the practice of giving horrible contracts to bad players. Do you know what will get you guys a lot of money? WINNING. Winning will get you a lot of money that you can use for repairs, statues, mental health awareness days, and Ricketts and Rahm bobble head dolls.

  • http://jayhill.wordpress.com Jay

    Typical Sox-centric headline, and, for the most part, typical Sox-centric comments. The article is a joke.

  • http://jayhill.wordpress.com Jay

    PS – I am convinced every single one of you is Dan Bernstein using different aliases.

    • Larry Horse's water trough

      I’m convinced you’re an idiot.

    • Hagrid's Beard

      I think this is Julie Swieca (sp?)

  • Marti

    Ricketts bought the facility knowing exactly what it was – he and he alone should be responsible for its upkeep. When I buy a 65 T-Bird I don’t go back to Ford and say “Ford Motor, you fix it so it’s new and I don’t want to pay for it.” Ricketts is looking for a win win for himself.

  • SWL

    Never mind that the state is busted and will be in the red forever. Ricketts will get his money, you’ll see. The renovations will be overblown as usual, little will be done and Wrigley will remain a urine smelling dump.

    It might be that Wrigley needs so much money for renovations that they might as well build a new stadium!

  • Cubs Fan

    Just sell the White Sox HAHAHAHA they suck anyway

  • me

    Let them move the Cubs. Send those bums somewhere else and use our tax money to pay for a good team if anything!!!

  • FrankAndBeans

    have you seen my baseball?

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live