After the Cubs and chairman Tom Ricketts released this video Thursday, essentially saying, "We're going ahead with the Wrigley Field renovation plans," and noting the team would be asking for additional signage in Wrigley's outfield, this response came from the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association:
"The Ricketts family's decision to unilaterally end negotiations with their contractual partners is another refusal to accept any of the proposed win-win solutions that could have funded the modernization of Wrigley Field and enhance the team's competitiveness. In fact, it appears their zeal to block rooftop owners who pay them millions of dollars a year in royalties knows no bounds. Unfortunately, this decision by the Ricketts family will now result in this matter being resolved in a court of law," said Ryan McLaughlin, spokesman, Wrigleyville Rooftops Association. It should be noted current Cubs president Crane Kenney and legal counsel Mike Lufrano negotiated the contract with the rooftops over a decade ago.
The provisions of what's actually in the contract, rather than the length of time since it was signed, are what's important. As CSN Chicago's David Kaplan reported in January and reiterated yesterday, the contract contains this clause:
Any expansion of Wrigley Field approved by governmental authorities shall not be a violation of this Agreement, including this section.
I'm not a lawyer and neither is Kaplan, but lawyers who have gone over this agreement seem to be in consensus that the Cubs are on strong legal ground. It would appear that the reason this has taken so long -- and the Cubs wanted this settled by Opening Day 2013, more than a year ago -- is that Tom Ricketts wanted to be a nice guy. That's really the same thing that happened back in 2002, when the Cubs erected windscreens -- specifically mentioned in the contract -- to attempt to block views from the rooftops. They didn't, and all they did was engender a tremendous amount of bad publicity for the Cubs. That's one of the reasons the 2004 contract was signed -- the Cubs and Tribune Co. didn't want that bad PR and wanted to be seen as good neighbors.
Now it's the neighbors who are growling, and not just the rooftops, either:
Chester Kropidlowski, past chairman of East Lake View Neighbors, said it’s clear that, with the mayoral election fast approaching, Emanuel wants to cut the ribbon on a $500 million project that puts union members and contractors to work. "The mayor is behind it. The Cubs probably know that, so they’re trying to get more out of the system. But people are going to be upset. They think the Cubs have gotten more concessions than they should have from the city. The residential character of the neighborhood is being chipped away," he said. "There’s going to be a backlash from the Lake View community. Previous mayors… have always exhibited concern about the Lake View community. That no longer seems to be the case. This mayor seems more concerned about cutting ribbons and being involved in big-picture type activities."
Honestly? I drive through Lake View and Wrigleyville almost daily, and on many days when the Cubs are out of town or during the offseason. I see no changes in the "residential character" of the area. When there's no major-league baseball being played at Wrigley Field -- and let's remember that's almost 80 percent of the time, as 81 days is about 22 percent of a calendar year -- Lake View and Wrigleyville are just as quiet and residential as any other neighborhood on the North Side.
It seems likely that the new requests the Cubs have made -- and I haven't seen any of them, just read about them as you have -- are being made along the same lines as the proposals the Cubs made in April 2013. They're throwing every single thing they've ever wanted in there, with the likely understanding that some of them won't be approved.
But the basic outline of the renovation -- and let's call it what the Cubs are, because that's what it really is, an "expansion" -- of Wrigley Field has to happen for the Cubs to be competitive in the 21st Century. Better player facilities is No. 1 on the list. More advertising, for more revenue, is No. 2, and better fan amenities are also important.
Do all this and Wrigley Field retains its status as an historic ballpark, a tourist attraction that looks beautiful, but is also beautiful to come to for fans and a good workplace for baseball players.
Stand down, rooftops. Had you been more conciliatory, you might have gotten a renewed deal from the Cubs and entered into a cooperative partnership that could have lasted decades. Instead, your shrill threats are going to get you this: nine more years of a deal that's probably hemorrhaging money right now (due to lack of rooftop ticket sales) and then you're done. It didn't have to be this way, but you, the rooftop owners, created this problem.
Now you can end it. Stop the madness. Let the Cubs begin the project. It's way past time.