By Dave Wischnowsky-
(CBS) So, Rosemont wants the Chicago Cubs? Well, sure it does.
After all, it’s about to lose the DePaul Blue Demons.
And that should tell you something.
On Monday afternoon, CSNChicago.com’s David Kaplan broke the story that Rosemont mayor Brad Stephens has offered the Cubs a 25-acre parcel of land in his northwest suburb that could fit a brand new ballpark, scads of parking and “anything else” the Ricketts family would want to be part of a new baseball-themed complex.
“The Chicago Cubs are being held hostage by the neighborhood as they look to run their business,” Stephens told Kaplan, referring to the team’s ongoing battles with the rooftop owners, 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney and City Hall over revenue and proposed renovations.
“We are willing to offer them a tremendous opportunity if they are interested,” Stephens continued. “Bring the bricks and the ivy and we can get a deal done.”
This morning, in other Rosemont-related news, the Chicago Tribune reported that DePaul has ruled out the United Center as a possible home for its men’s basketball team and is now turning its attention toward building a new stadium near McCormick Place.
The Blue Demons have played their basketball in Rosemont ever since 1980 when they abandoned the aging 5,308-seat Alumni Hall in Lincoln Park in favor of the new 17,500-seat Rosemont Horizon, now known as Allstate Arena. At the time of that move, DePaul was fresh off a 1979 Final Four appearance with legendary coach Ray Meyer and star Mark Aguirre, a Windy City native. Entering the ’80s, the Blue Demons owned Chicago – and then they left it, foolishly moving their games 15 miles from campus.
By forsaking its city roots, DePaul lost Chicago’s imagination. After following a disastrous 3-23 season in 1996-1997 after which head coach Joey Meyer – Ray’s son – was fired, the Blue Demons lost Chicago’s attention for good. They’ve never really gotten it back.
But now DePaul basketball is planning a return to Chicago in the hopes that the city will notice it again. The Cubs, as they consider their options in regards to upgrading their baseball operations, would be wise to look at DePaul’s move to Rosemont as a cautionary tale.
No matter how much greener the cash might theoretically appear on the other side.
On Monday, Kaplan reported the Cubs fail to receive as much as $100 million per year due to signage restrictions, amusement taxes, lost night games, street festivals and concerts, revenue generated by the rooftops and no stadium naming rights. Last week, ESPN.com columnist Rick Reilly estimated that such restrictions cost the Cubs $73 million per year, while saying that if he were a Cubs fan he’d “want Wrigley laid flatter than Wrigley gum.”
What both Kaplan and Reilly failed to recognize, however, is just how much money Wrigley Field generates for the Cubs and how responsible the ballpark itself is for making the team so rich and famous. The Cubs sure aren’t rich and famous because they win.
Just a guess, but nearly 3 million people wouldn’t trek to Rosemont to watch a 101-loss Cubs team, yet those people still came out to Wrigley Field last summer. Mayor Stephens said that the plot of land in Rosemont could offer the Cubs “anything” that the Ricketts family would want, except for, you know, authentic personality and charm.
And you can’t really put a price tag on that.
Now, I personally think that the city needs to cut the Cubs some slack in regards to renovating Wrigley Field. And if Rosemont offers the Ricketts family some leverage in negotiations with City Hall and the rooftops, then they’d be foolish to not at least consider using it.
But the Cubs shouldn’t start thinking for one second that Rosemont is actually a viable option – no matter how much money a new ballpark can supposedly “add.” Because, one needs to also factor in how much money abandoning old Wrigley would cost the team. And that’s just almost impossible to gauge.
Some people might think that by leaving Wrigley Field for suburbia the Cubs could finally kill their curse. I think it’s more likely that they’d kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
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.