Cubs Wrigley Financing Proposal Dead

Jonathan Daniel

The Ricketts family has to go back to the drawing board... again.

According to Fran Spielman in the Sun-Times this morning, the proposal to use 35 years' worth of ticket amusement taxes to finance Wrigley Field improvements is dead:

John Patterson, a spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), added, "Bond counsel has had technical issues with the financing of the backup plan. ... If that issue can be resolved in the coming weeks, it could be called in January. If not, it will be revisited as we head into the new session."

Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, said the Ricketts family has held "countless meetings" with elected officials to find "a plan that works for everyone."

"The key is to save Wrigley and create thousands of jobs in a public-private partnership. ... It's just a matter of coming up with the exact plan," he said.

Another source said legislative leaders have told the Cubs to "come back with a plan with a different backup that does not include the hotel tax. ... It may involve a combination of things," including a historic preservation tax credit.

As the Ricketts family may have learned, it's not simply asking for a "public-private partnership" which is the issue; many businesses do this and many governmental bodies have given various kinds of breaks to private businesses in order to stimulate job creation or other economic activity. It's the public perception that the Cubs were asking for a handout -- whether this is true or not -- in difficult economic times when they were also raising ticket prices on certain "premium" games, and in times when public funding for sports stadium construction in general is getting a rather dim view. The Cubs say the perception doesn't match the reality. That may very well be true, but it's very difficult to eliminate the perception.

If the Cubs can come up with a creative proposal that doesn't raise taxes on anyone and that doesn't cost the city, county or state needed revenue that could go for other things in a time when all these local bodies are running deficits, then I'm all for it. Otherwise, they'll have to go back to the drawing board -- again.

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