By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) At Wrigley Field, the Cubs played 13 innings against the New York Yankees on Wednesday afternoon.
That’s a long time, but it may be nothing when compared to what Chicagoans could be forced to endure if the Cubs’ bitterly contested battle against the rooftop owners ends up going to court.
Because that’s a game that won’t end any time soon – and just like against the Yankees, the Cubs could easily lose it, too.
This morning in a video posted on his team’s website, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts unveiled his latest proposal to finally get the Wrigley Field renovations underway while basically daring the rooftop owners to sue him. In response, the rooftop owners said they’ll do just that.
“Unfortunately, this decision by the Ricketts family will now result in this matter being resolved in a court of law,” said Ryan McLaughlin, spokesman for the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association.
And that truly is unfortunate. Because anyone who thinks that a trip to court will help expedite a resolution to the endless war between the Cubs and the rooftops doesn’t know much about court.
In fact, once you factor in the legal wrangling that will lead up to court and the inevitable series of appeals that are sure to follow any decision, the Cubs’ agreement with the rooftops might expire in 2023 before the legal case wraps up.
I’m only half-kidding.
That’s why I urge the Cubs to seek a financial solution to this saga, instead of a legal one. On that topic, Crain’s Chicago Business columnist Greg Hinz reported this morning that, according to a source, the conversation between the Cubs and the rooftop owners at one point reached discussions of a buy-out. However, there was no agreement as the rooftops reportedly wanted $250 million, while the Rickettses were prepared to pay only $50 million, Hinz wrote.
If true, that leaves a lot of middle ground in which the two parties could seemingly find an agreement. But instead of seeking that financial compromise, the Cubs are planning to move forward and begin renovations at the end of this season. That move gives the rooftop owners all summer long to secure a court injunction and halt the construction of any signage until the issue is legally resolved.
So, again, the Cubs would be going nowhere.
While one is free to criticize the rooftop owners for benefiting from the Cubs’ product for decades, the fact remains that for the past 11 years, the rooftops have paid 17 percent of their profits to the team for the right to that view. Regardless of what may have happened in the past, the rooftops don’t “steal” from the Cubs. They pay the Cubs, and they have nine years left on a contract that the franchise signed.
While Ricketts family wasn’t the one to have signed the original contract, they knowingly inherited it when they purchased the team and still employ the man – team president of business operations Crane Kenney – who did broker the deal.
So I feel little sympathy for the Cubs in a situation that they created and seem unwilling to buy their way out of, which seems to me the most reasonable end to this drama. However, by reportedly offering $50 million to the rooftop owners to break a contract that they don’t wish to break smacks of the Cubs being skinflints and not even respecting the value of their own product.
As a result, it’s likely leading to a protracted legal battle that may ultimately end up with the Cubs paying $150-$200 million to settle, which is what they could have just decided to do in the first place.
In the meantime, as this saga heads toward court, Cubs fans sit impatiently waiting for the rooftops saga to end and the game of winning to actually begin.
Who knows when that will be.