SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- This afternoon, I received a press release from the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association.
Now, I normally wouldn't write an article about a press release; I'd probably cite parts of it in a larger article about the issue or topic it's referring to. But this release... well, if the WRA wanted to upset Cubs management, the Ricketts family or the others in the city of Chicago, they've pretty much done so.
I'm not going to quote directly from this release; if you were to read it, you'd think the rooftops were the single economic driving force behind the entire area, and without them both the Cubs and Wrigleyville would collapse into a burning heap of nothingness. Of course, that's nonsense, and maybe I'm overstating things, but here are the points made by the release, followed by my thoughts:
- The WRA says the Ricketts family doesn't have to renegotiate the 2004 landmark ordinance agreement with the city. Well, of course they don't have to do anything. But times and circumstances change. What might have been good for all parties in 2004 might not be good now. The Cubs aren't trying to unilaterally do anything; the key word in there is "renegotiate". The Cubs appear to be interested in doing this in good faith. The rooftops don't.
- Two current Cubs executives negotiated the 2004 agreement. Implicit here is the idea that because two current executives (Crane Kenney and Mike Lufrano) were involved in 2004, that nothing should ever change. See point 1.
- The Ricketts family tried to buy five rooftops in 2011, with one of their ideas being putting a Jumbotron on them. The WRA claims that their "sign" idea is the same thing as this Ricketts idea, which they claim was "reported by media outlets this week" (if it was, I missed it). It's not the same thing at all.
- The Ricketts family asked for public money at the same time knowing they were about to get a "windfall" from TV rights. Well, no, this isn't true at all. No "windfall" has yet happened, and whether the Cubs will get that "windfall" in 2014 remains to be seen. The release cites the Dodgers' $7 billion TV deal and implies the Cubs could get a similar deal. That's surely possible; there's no guarantee, and the Ricketts are no longer asking for public money. Ruling on this point: irrelevant.
- The claim is made that "many" of the rooftop owners have been in the community for more than 30 years. This may or may not be true. What is certainly true is that the rooftop clubs are a relative newcomer to the Wrigley scene; while claiming that they are a "tradition", most of the private clubs on Waveland and Sheffield have been there for approximately 10-15 years, some even less. How long they've lived in the community is irrelevant.
- The clubs are an "economic engine" for the city, county and state. So that's the reason they've had to resort to Groupon deals for the last couple of years, and wound up being half-empty for much of last year? At least one of them is in bankruptcy proceedings (or, was as of the last time I heard). Also, one of them is being sued for not paying its workers proper overtime or tips.
The bottom line for me is this: a number of private club owners who are, essentially, interlopers in the long history of Cubs baseball at Wrigley Field, and who received a deal from the Cubs in 2004 primarily because they were already there, are attempting to drive the entire conversation regarding a multi-million dollar investment by the Cubs and the Ricketts into the community. They are represented by an intransigent alderman who is holding up what should have been a long-ago agreement because they are among his largest campaign contributors. Does this seem right to you? Me, neither.
Yes, a deal was made in 2004. The release says, "There is no reason to block our views." The answer to that is: Times and circumstances change, and yes, maybe some views will have to be blocked. It's time for all parties to sit down and stop staring at each other with their hands folded and make a new deal, so that Wrigley Field can be restored and preserved for decades to come.