CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cubs were once one of the most reliable moneymakers in baseball, but they have now found themselves in Major League Baseball’s financial doghouse.
The Chicago Tribune’s Bill Shaikin and Phil Rogers reported Friday morning that the Cubs have turned up on a list of financially suspect franchises.
The Cubs have found themselves on a list with the infamously cash-strapped Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets, as being out of compliance with MLB debt rules. Also on the list are the Baltimore Orioles, the Detroit Tigers, the Florida Marlins, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Texas Rangers, and the Washington Nationals, the Tribune reported.
No information is available about why exactly the team is in such serious debt. The Cubs’ roster is only worth $120.4 million in guaranteed salaries, compared with $469.3 million for the New York Yankees and $207.8 million for the White Sox, the Tribune reported.
The newspaper said the Cubs are likely in debt trouble because of the complex financing involved when the Ricketts family bought all but a small share of the team from the Tribune Company in 2009. The deal also included Wrigley Field and Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
The Cubs declined to comment to the Tribune on the issue, and referred questions to MLB.
LISTEN: Joe Ricketts talks about when his son Tom approached him with the idea to buy the Cubs
Joe Ricketts, the father of team chairman Tom Ricketts, said back in 2010 that he wasn’t keen on purchasing a sports team. But once Tom told him that the Cubs traditionally sell tickets whether the team wins or loses, the elder Ricketts agreed to pursue ownership.
However, every season since 2008, the average attendance at Wrigley Field has dropped. The average attendance in 2008 was 40,743, so far in 2011 it’s 34,818.
In recent months, the Ricketts family has been looking to secure tax dollars for some of its efforts – specifically those involving upgrades at Wrigley Field.
In March, Ricketts reached out to Mayor Rahm Emanuel – who had yet to take office at the time – to discuss a plan for renovating the ballpark with public and private funds, according to published reports.
Ricketts also issued a proposal for using tax funds for Wrigley upgrades last year. The proposal would have frozen the city’s revenues from amusement taxes charged on game tickets at Wrigley at 2009 levels, and 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.