By Sam Zuba-
(CBS) Like it or not, the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association has every right to protest the Cubs’ new renovation plan.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts is reportedly ready to finalize paperwork on a $500 million renovation plan for Wrigley Field that would expand clubhouses, secure foundations and provide more room for signage and an electronic scoreboard in the outfield, but it’s not quite that simple.
The Cubs and the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association have a minor contractual issue.
Actually, it’s a major issue. For that, you can thank Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney and executive vice president of community affairs Mike Lufrano.
In 2004, it was Kenney and Lufrano who successfully negotiated a 20-year contract with the rooftop owners centering around two essential components: First, the Cubs would receive revenue sharing from the rooftops owners’ yearly profit. Second, the Cubs agreed to protect the rooftops’ view of Wrigley Field for the duration of the two-decade-long agreement.
Essentially, the Cubs would be paid a percentage of the money made by the rooftops, while simultaneously agreeing to not make any changes to Wrigley Field that would inhibit the rooftops’ view of the ballpark.
Mind you, this contract was signed in 2004 when Wrigley Field was 90 years old. It was blatantly obvious at that time the ballpark would soon need to undergo a massive facelift.
Agreeing not to make any changes that would inhibit the rooftops’ view for 20 years when Wrigley Field would soon need a complete and total makeover is beyond short-sighted – it’s downright irresponsible. The fact that Kenney and Lufrano are still collecting a paycheck from the Ricketts family should raise more than a few eyebrows among Cubs’ faithful.
Because of this contract, the Ricketts family has a mess on their hands. Because of this contract, the Cubs’ plan to emulate the Red Sox’s model of adding signage to an old ballpark has hit a major snag. Because of this contract, the Cubs are still dealing with the same type of “Cubbie” garbage that 29 other Major League Baseball teams wouldn’t dare be associated with.
Still, a report surfaced Thursday afternoon that an official announcement on an agreed renovation plan could come as early as Monday when the Cubs play their home opener against the Brewers. But someone forgot to tell the rooftop owners about the “agreement,” prompting the association to push back, threatening legal action if they determine their contract has been breached.
“We reserve judgment until said proposals are publicized, however we are deeply troubled that 16 small businesses were not party to talks where their contractual rights were at stake. Rooftop owners reserve the right to use any and all means necessary to enforce the remaining 11 years of our 20-year contract,” Beth Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Bleachers and spokesperson for the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association said in a statement. “We support a renovated Wrigley Field, but the neighborhood and its businesses should be partners in the debate as we have over the last 30 years.”
Whether or not the rooftop owners have a right to control the face of Wrigley Field is irrelevant. The fact is they do have that control because the Cubs gave it to them. Complaining and droning that they’re getting rich off the Cubs’ product means nothing – the Cubs agreed to this deal. No one forced them.
I’m looking at you, Crane Kenney and Mike Lufrano.
While I detest the idea of 16 small businesses ultimately throwing a wrench in the Cubs’ long-term goal of winning a World Series, I have to side with the rooftops owners.
They have every right to protest this plan. The contract the Cubs entered into is ridiculous, and those who spearheaded the endeavor must be held responsible.
Sam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com. Before earning a degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, he spent two summers covering the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago Cubs for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @SamZuba and read more of his columns here.