By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) I’ve never had much sympathy for the rooftop owners across from Wrigley Field. Even during last Cubs season, when all they had was A View to a Kill.
That’s because when you really boil it down, the rooftops’ business model is no different than someone setting up lawn chairs behind a drive-in movie theater’s back fence and then inviting people to come over to eat, drink and watch the theater’s films.
For a price, of course.
With all that said, however, I do like the rooftops and enjoy everything that they add to the ambiance and vitality of game days Wrigley Field. Wrigleyville wouldn’t be the same without them, and I don’t at all want to see the clubs wither away like so much dead ivy.
So, my hope is that the Chicago Cubs figure out a way to play ball with the rooftop owners.
On Monday afternoon, the long-running game between the Cubs and rooftop club owners continued when team executives met with some of them to chat about advertising signs. Team spokesman Dennis Culloton told the Chicago Tribune after the confab that the two sides met for about two hours at the team’s offices without any representatives from the city or alderman’s office in attendance.
The discussion was described by Culloton as “progress,” which is better than what the Cubs were saying last Friday when the rooftop owners held a news conference during which they pleaded that the team not obliterate their buildings’ views of the Friendly Confines by putting up a slew of billboards along the back of the bleachers.
As a lucrative peace offering, the rooftop owners proposed constructing electronic advertising signs on their buildings and giving the Cubs and the city 100 percent of the revenue. I thought that idea sounded pretty reasonable, although the Cubs didn’t respond quite as kindly on Friday. They instead told the rooftop owners to stop negotiating through the media.
Apparently, though, a weekend can work wonders. During Monday’s meeting, Culloton said there was “a lot of time spent getting some information about what they were proposing on Friday. Everyone from the Cubs side said it was a good meeting. There was a lot of sharing of information. And both sides are going to be getting together later this week for more talks.”
For the past 30 years, the Cubs and the rooftop owners have argued more than they’ve talked. Since the early days of Wrigley Field, the rooftops along Sheffield and Waveland have served as gathering places for free views of the game. But until the 1980s, there were usually only a handful of people perched out on the rooftops, watching from rickety folding chairs while sipping cans of Old Style.
When the Cubs’ popularity began to explode in the 1980s, however, the rooftops owners took advantage and began to construct permanent seating structures and charge admission. The Cubs, rightfully so, didn’t much like the rooftops pirating their product. They eventually filed a lawsuit and in 2004, the club owners agreed to hand 17 percent of their gross revenue over to the Cubs.
Now they want to hand over 100 percent of advertising signage revenue as long as the Cubs don’t block them out completely. I hope that the Cubs take what looks like a pretty sweet deal, which not only would protect the rooftops’ views of Wrigley Field, but also would protect Wrigley Field’s view of the rooftops.
Sometimes looking out at the people along Waveland and Sheffield is more entertaining than watching the Cubs on the field.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.