CHICAGO (CBS) — In a video message released early Thursday on the team’s website, Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts announced the franchise is now moving ahead with an even more ambitious renovation plan for 100-year-old Wrigley Field.
Ricketts has grown tired of the legal wrangling with rooftop owners, who have opposed plans to erect large signs and a video board in the outfield. The club now wants to place additional signage in the outfield, which was part of its original larger plan and would be an additional revenue source.
The Cubs also want to increase capacity by about 600 (300 seats and 300 standing room-only spots), expand both clubhouses (the Cubs’ is currently 11,000 square feet, and while the approved renovation plan called for a 19,000-square foot space, the team has its sights set on 30,000 square feet now) and relocate the bullpens from foul territory to a spot under the bleachers.
The alderman who represents the area does not support the sudden move by the Cubs owners and said he opposes the increased signage. Ward 44 Ald. Tom Tunney says he supported the compromise plan previously worked out with the Cubs.
“Tom Ricketts stated in 2011, ‘We’ve always talked about three goals: Win a championship, preserve Wrigley Field and be a great neighbor.’ The ‘great neighbor’ goal is missing from this latest proposal and needs to be respected,” Tunney said in a statement.
The Cubs plan to submit a revised expansion plan to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, Ricketts said. If approved, he added they are prepared to begin construction.
“We’ve spent endless hours negotiating with the rooftop businesses,” he said in the video. “We’ve gotten nowhere in our talks with them to settle this dispute. It has to end. It’s time to move forward.
“I have to put the team and the fans first. So today we are going forward with our original plan.”
If this more ambitious plan is approved by the city, it would place more pressure on the rooftop owners to reach an agreement with the Ricketts family, as the new signs could further block rooftop views into Wrigley Field. Negotiations between the Cubs and rooftop owners have gone nowhere in the past year after city officials approved the team’s $500 million plan to restore the ballpark and surrounding area.
Ricketts’ proposed plan is bigger than the compromise plan that has been approved by City Council. To previously appease the rooftop owners, the Cubs agreed to only a 650-square-foot sign in right field and a 5,700-square-foot video board in left field. Those were part of a $300-million renovation of the ballpark, while the Cubs also were given the go ahead to build a hotel, plaza and office complex nearby at a cost of $200 million.
On pace for their fifth straight losing season and with attendance dipping, Cubs officials have said increasing advertising revenue would allow the team to invest money in better players.
The battle will almost certainly have to play out in court.
Ryan McLaughlin, a spokesman for rooftop club owners, whose revenue-sharing agreement with the Cubs has nine more years left, issued a statement.
“The Ricketts family’s decision to unilaterally end negotiations with their contractual partners is another refusal to accept any of the proposed win-win solutions that could have funded the modernization of Wrigley Field and enhance the team’s competitiveness,” the statement said. “In fact, it appears their zeal to block rooftop owners who pay them millions of dollars a year in royalties knows no bounds. Unfortunately, this decision by the Ricketts family will now result in this matter being resolved in a court of law.”