Abbatacola: Blame Tom Ricketts
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By Matt Abbatacola-
(CBS) Oh, poor Tom Ricketts. All he wants to do his fix his broken toy and the big, bad politicians of Chicago won’t let him.
I’m sorry, when did the narrative on this story change?
If you’re angry at the city, your displeasure is aimed in the wrong direction. Do you hate Tom Tunney? Could you pick him out of a lineup? I doubt it. Hell, do you recognize the Cubs’ lineup on most days? No.
Wanna punch the mayor in the nose? Do you feel like he’s just blocking Ricketts from spending his own money out of spite? Well, you’re wrong.
How many times in these past few weeks have you uttered the phrase, “Those damn rooftop owners?” Wrong again.
Do you want to blame someone for the fiasco that is the “Wrigley Field Renovation Project?” There’s only one person to blame – Tom Ricketts.
Let’s go back to November of 2010 when Ricketts first unveiled his plan to use $200 million in state bonds to help renovate Wrigley Field.
“This is not a new tax, not an increased tax and a tax only paid by people who come to Cubs games and buy Cubs tickets,” Ricketts said “Taxpayers are being asked for nothing.”
The Chicago Tribune’s editorial page called the proposal a “lopsided arrangement under which taxpayers assume the costs and risks to upgrade a privately owned stadium for one of baseball’s most profitable franchises – at a time when the city, county and state are worse than broke.”
It was at a time when Gov. Pat Quinn was about to face a budget shortfall of $15 billion. Not to mention the fact that the Cubs went to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan before they even spoke to the governor. Add the fact that Mayor Daley was on his way out and wanted nothing to do with this project – Ricketts picked the worst time possible and presented the worst plan possible to achieve a “partnership” with the state in renovating Wrigley Field.
On top of all of that, Ricketts had the necessary money in his own pocket to renovate Wrigley Field. He never needed state funding to repair and remodel the now 99-year-old building. I applaud him for trying, as Wrigley is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Illinois – he just went about all wrong.
Now on to the obstacles that he is facing: rooftop owners, landmark status and politicians – they were there when he bought the team. The state, city and fans shouldn’t be held accountable because a wealthy guy bought his kid a baseball team and the kid didn’t have the business foresight to see the problems he would encounter. It’s no one’s fault that the passion Ricketts had as a new owner in MLB was fueled by the romantic landscape of meeting his wife and living across from the ballpark but his own.
And Ricketts’ biggest mistake? Destroying the only leverage he had – leaving Wrigley Field.
“That’s not an option for the Ricketts family,” he said “We’re staying at Wrigley Field.”
It’s a charming ballpark full of falling concrete and urine stains.
Good luck, Tom, and welcome to the big leagues.
Matt Abbatacola is the executive producer of The Boers and Bernstein Show. You can follow him on Twitter @MattAbbatacola.