Reporting Sam Zuba
By Sam Zuba-
(CBS) When the final out was recorded in the Cubs loss to the Brewers in Monday’s home opener, the city of Chicago was still waiting.
Not waiting on a World Series or even a winning season, but waiting for that elusive official announcement from the club on an agreement with the city to renovate Wrigley Field. Ultimately, it was a lose-lose type of day at Wrigley Field.
Not only did the Cubs fall 7-4, but the fan base was forced to wait yet another day to see what’s in store for the future of Wrigley Field.
Despite early reports that an announcement on the five-year, $500 million deal would come Monday, as Wrigley Field emptied after the game, no announcement had been made.
“Like I’ve been saying, I think we’re moving forward,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said before the game. “We’re commited to getting something done with the city. The mayor has been terrific. The alderman has been very productive. Hopefully this is the beginning of the process to get something done. We just gotta keep working through.”
Ricketts wouldn’t specify when a deal would be done, only offering that things were progressing and he felt “optimistic” a deal would eventually be completed.
“I don’t use time frames anymore,” he said. “All I know is we’ve committed to working exclusively with the city to try and push this forward, working with the mayor’s office and with the alderman.”
The Cubs are working with the city to relax some of the landmark status protections surrounding Wrigley Field. The club is looking to add more night games, increase parking, put up more signage in the outfield and add a large, electronic scoreboard in left-center field.
The curveball in these negotiations is the 11 years remaining on the 20-year agreement the Cubs entered into with the Rooftop owners in 2004. In exchange for revenue-sharing from the rooftop owners, the Cubs agreed to not inhibit the rooftops’ view of the ballpark until at least 2024.
The Wrigleyville Rooftop Association released a statement Friday threatening legal action if the Cubs infringed on the contract.
“I think we look at it all as one big issue,” Ricketts said of the contract with the rooftop owners. “We want to understand what we have in the park and outside of the park at the same time. … I really haven’t paid attention to the posturing (by the rooftop owners.) At some point when we’re ready, we’re going to come out and talk about it. I think it’ll all work out.”
While Ricketts didn’t say how the Cubs could get out of the contract, he said he felt comfortable the two sides could come to a mutually beneficial outcome.
“It’s a really awkward contract, I don’t know if anyone has ever looked at it, but I think we’ll get there,” he said.
When and if a deal is reached between the Cubs and the city, the team’s first order of business will likely have little to with increasing revenue at the ballpark, anyway.
“We haven’t decided in what sequence it all goes in,” Ricketts said of the five-year plan. “I think our highest priority, honestly, is the clubhouse. As you guys know all too well as people who’ve seen other people’s clubhouses, it’s way below standard. One of the things I’ve said since I got here is that if we want to have a first-class organization, we can’t have second-rate facilities. That would be a high priority for this offseason.”
Though the Cubs and the city failed to reach the deadline imposed by Ricketts, the Cubs chairman is confident things will work out.
“We’re working really hard,” he said. “We’ve solved a lot of the issues. From my perspective, we’re very committed to the mayor and very committed to the city, committed to the alderman to keep pushing forward and get this all behind us. I’m optimistic. I think everything is heading in the right direction and I’m optimistic.”
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.