The Future Of Wrigley Field: A Cubs Proposal

Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE

The Cubs make their case for a public/private partnership to renovate Wrigley Field and invest in the neighborhood.

This is a very difficult post to write because, from the beginning of this site, I have asked people to stay out of political discussion. This is because regardless of our political beliefs -- and there are many of us here, so those must be varied -- we all want the same thing, for the Cubs to win the World Series.

That is one of the three things that Tom Ricketts stated were his family's goals when they bought the team -- to win the WS, to preserve Wrigley Field, and to be good neighbors.

The proposal made by the Cubs to have a $400 million public/private partnership, however, teeters on the edge of political discussion because of its very nature. The Cubs are asking to use some public money. The current economic climate has led some people to think this is a bad idea, no matter what the purpose. It's not quite as simple as some make it out to be when they say, "This is public money for a private project." Nor is it "an even larger entertainment tax", as stated by The E-Man in his FanPost.

It is a difficult time for anyone to ask for public money to be spent on anything when cities, states and other government entities are in financial crisis all over this country; we all know Chicago, Cook County and Illinois are not immune to that. However, one of the other things we know is that this is in part due to high unemployment. The proposal made today by Tom Ricketts -- and supported by dozens of labor leaders and community leaders who were at today's news conference -- I believe addresses this without taking money away from anything else. The projects the Cubs want to undertake here will create at least 1000 construction jobs -- admittedly, those would only be for the length of the project. But jobs would also be created by the then privately-owned shops, restaurants and other things in the Triangle Building project -- and those workers would pay into the taxing system. That part of the project is being privately funded by the Ricketts family. It doesn't make sense unless the other portion -- which would renovate Wrigley Field -- is also done. This is not being paid for directly by tax dollars.

The way I understand it, the amusement tax generated about $16 million in 2009. That amount of amusement tax is guaranteed in perpetuity. It is only the incremental amount of money above this amount, each year, that would be used to retire bonds issued by the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority -- the same entity that financed the Cell, helped with the United Center, and paid for the Soldier Field rehab -- to pay for the Wrigley renovations. Cubs president Crane Kenney told me that tax revenues that would be generated by the economic activity that is created by these projects is projected to be many times over the amount of amusement tax that would be used to retire the bonds. If there is a shortfall, the 2% hotel tax that is currently retiring bonds for the Cell and Soldier Field would be used, once those bonds are paid off -- even if the repayment period has to be extended beyond the currently planned 35 years.

Here's where we get into possible political discussion, and please. I urge you to not retreat behind party rhetoric or talking points here no matter what your personal beliefs are. I had a discussion with someone in attendance at news conference, after it was over, who I know to be of a different political opinion than myself on this issue. But we were able to make our points to each other reasonably and listen. I ask that you do the same here. Some people feel no tax money should ever be used for private projects and the private sector should generate jobs. The fact is, though, that in recessionary times government and private business should work together, and if they do, the sum total can be greater than if both worked separately.

Wrigley Field is the third-largest tourist attraction in the state of Illinois. Every other sports team in this city has benefitted from the ISFA. To me, it's a win-win for everyone. A better ballpark -- including better player facilities, something many here have been talking about forever -- more jobs, and an improved neighborhood. All the community and business leaders in attendance at today's news conference are on board with the Cubs on this project.

After the jump, some renderings of what Wrigley Field and environs might look like when this is all done.

One more reminder: please, no political attacks here. Make your arguments, make them cogent, don't attack the poster. Thank you.


Proposed improvements to Wrigley Field

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Proposed "Cubs Alley" which would be in between the Triangle Building and the ballpark

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What an improved Wrigley Field concourse might look like

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Proposed Cubs clubhouse improvements

Click on image to open a larger version in a new browser window. Depending on the size of your display and browser, it may require some scrolling. If you find it to be too large, click here for a smaller version.

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