By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) With the decision of the landmarks commission now behind them, the owners of the Cubs are looking toward the future and a newly renovated Wrigley Field.
Speaking Friday before Chicago’s game against Atlanta, Tom Ricketts was vague about when front office will be able to turn up his spending plan for the baseball team. He’s currently spending $575 million to renovate Wrigley Field and the area around the ballpark. That plan includes $200 million of the project money going into the building of a new hotel on the northwest corner of Clark and Addison.
A Ricketts family LLC is partnering up with Starwood (whose hotel holdings include Sheraton and Westin) to build the hotel and complex. That new building will house the existing McDonald’s that is currently on a portion of the site.
The Ricketts LLC bought the property for $26 million in August of 2012.
“I will leave that up to (baseball executives),” Ricketts said when asked about the budget for more free agents in support the player development plan. “We will support them every way we can.”
The Cubs’ payroll has dropped from $142 million in 2008 to $89 million this year ($14 million of that amount is paying the contract of former Yankee Alfonso Soriano).
Ricketts was in a upbeat mood during his brief talk with the media. There’s no groundbreaking date set yet, but Cubs vice president of communications Julian Green told 670 The Score on Friday morning the plan is to start work on the surface lots surrounding Wrigley Field by late July.
“Mayor (Rarhm Emanuel) understands this is a project that needs too get done,” Ricketts said. “This is not to just save an iconic ballpark but (will add jobs) and economic development. It both saves and creates. So I appreciate all of the mayor’s involvement in the process from start to finish.”
As for the rooftop owners who opposes the franchise’s renovation plan because they believe signs will block their views and destroy their business, the landmark commission’s decision was just a rubber stamp for the Cubs in their quest for additional signage. This recent move called for seven signs, far more than the original request for a Wrigley renovation that included only two signs and one videoboard.
As his re-election comes up in the next year, Emanuel has an agenda to show the growth of the city and the added jobs that go along with the Wrigley project.
Ricketts is thrilled with the youth movement that appears to be on the move in his organization.
“I don’t think there is anyone in this organization that isn’t excited,” Ricketts said. “The fact is you can’t look at our future and not be just thrilled. We have top prospects across the board. A lot of the prospects we expected to step up and continue their development have. I think you can’t be anything but excited about our future.”
The rooftop owners are now in a position to take what they can get from the Cubs, or they’ll have to sue.
“The hearing was just yesterday, so we will reach out talk to everybody (with the rooftop owners),” Ricketts said. “We are confident the is a solution that will work.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.