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Cubs, City Want Deal On Wrigley Restoration By Opening Day

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They've got 46 days until Opening Day (53 if you're counting to the home opener April 8). You'd think that would be enough time for the Cubs and the city of Chicago to strike a deal so the restoration of Wrigley can begin.

David Banks

Wednesday, I posted here about the lack of action in the Chicago City Council on the Cubs' request for more night games.

The Cubs' desires for changes in the current restrictions on Wrigley Field, of course, go farther than just a few additional after-dark affairs, and they have offered to pay for a $300 million restoration of the nearly 100-year-old ballpark in exchange for having those restrictions lifted.

Today, we learn that Mayor Rahm Emanuel won't separate the night-game issue from the rest of the requests, and says the Cubs should "seize" a deal:

"We’re not gonna break off a piece as it relates to that ordinance, which is on night games. It’s all one piece. We’re gonna do this comprehensively," the mayor said.

"There’s an agreement to be had. It’s right there. All you need is a little leadership and a little will. It’s right there at the table. There is an agreement readily available for all the parties, and I have stressed to them repeatedly: Seize it. I believe they will. But it took some time [for the Cubs] to realize also that city taxpayers were not gonna be subsidizing them."

Pressed to pinpoint the hang-up, Emanuel refused to negotiate in public. He would only say there is an "actual" deadline, and it wasn’t Wednesday.

So when is this "actual" deadline? Go farther into that Sun-Times article, dear reader:

Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, said the family that owns the Cubs "shares the mayor’s sense of urgency," but the real deadline wasn’t Wednesday. It’s opening day.

"That’s when we need to have a program that’s pretty much signed, sealed and delivered, so the team is in a position to order materials for a very brief construction season between the end of this baseball season and the next," Culloton said.

"We will stay away from public funding. We’ll finance this ourselves. We just need [the freedom] to run our business. That’s a very simple, easy to understand home base for us. In the talks that have taken place, that’s been our goal. We haven’t quite figured out that formula to get everybody else in the community who’s engaged here to sign on."

Opening Day. Let's see... February 14, carry the 4... 46 days. You'd think that would be plenty of time to get a deal like this done. The parties all seem to agree that a comprehensive deal, including the rooftop clubs across from Wrigley, is necessary; the city won't do this in a piecemeal fashion, and the current night-game ordinance, limiting the Cubs to 30 night dates a year, doesn't expire until 2015.

The mayor was prepared to lift the 3O-night games-per-season ceiling to the 37-to-44 range, with some of the dates reserved for concerts. Additional 3:O5 p.m. starts could also be part of the mix.

I've written before that I think 40 night games a year seems a reasonable number; it would give the Cubs close to what most other teams have (about 50 is the MLB average), while still preserving the day-game tradition. If they get this, I'd say the 3:05 idea wouldn't be necessary -- as long as the city is willing to give the Cubs two or three Friday nights per year, coming off road trips. The resistance to Friday night dates is increasingly silly, given that Fox-TV's new arrangement, broadcasting several Saturday nights a year, has had multiple Saturday night dates at Wrigley over the last two seasons. It's almost ludicrous for Ald. Tunney and the city to claim that a couple of Friday night home games would "hurt" local business, when there are already the same number of home Saturday night dates.

46 days. Even at the glacial pace sometimes seen for things like this, that would seem to be enough time. Get 'er done, Rahm and Tom.