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Cubs move forward on Wrigley expansion

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: May 22 2014 12:07:18 PM CDT
Updated On: May 22 2014 06:16:46 PM CDT
Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs

John Gress/Reuters

The owners of the Chicago Cubs announced Thursday they have declared an end to negotiations with the rooftop association and are moving ahead with their $500 million planned renovation of 100-year-old Wrigley Field.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said he has decided to go back to his original renovation and expansion plan for Wrigley Field that could significantly affect rooftop sight lines -- a move that is expected to lead to legal action by the Wrigleyville Rooftop Association against the team.

In a video published early Thursday morning on the team's website, Ricketts told fans he needed to move forward. The video strongly connects the Cubs' lack of competitiveness in recent years with the inability to produce the revenue other teams achieve with advertising revenue such as outfield signage.

Ricketts said the Cubs would submit a revised expansion plan to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks that includes the team's original proposal to add several outfield signs and additional bleacher seats.

Ricketts sent a letter and video to Cubs fans late Wednesday, saying they are going to "put the team and the fans first."

"We can't delay any longer," Ricketts said in the video. "The time to build a winner is now."

The video shows Ricketts in the Cubs' home clubhouse, demonstrating how players use a batting tee to warm up between innings. Both clubhouses, antiquated by MLB standards, would be renovated under the new plan.

"I'm not saying Wrigley Field is the reason the Chicago Cubs haven't won a World Championship in more than 100 years," Ricketts said. "But I am saying it's time to invest in Wrigley Field and to do the things our competitors do."

The new outfield signs will provide an additional revenue source to help fund other parts of the restoration, Ricketts said. The revised expansion plan will include additional seating and open spaces in the Budweiser Bleachers, including new group terraces in right and left field and enclosed hospitality areas. The Cubs are also asking for new outfield lights that will reduce shadows, allowing fly balls to be lit from both front and back.

Four additional LED signs of up to 650 square feet, and one additional 2,400-square foot videoboard in right field also will be added to the ballpark.

As part of the bleacher expansion, the proposed video scoreboard in left field will be reduced to 3,990-square feet, which is smaller than the one approved by the Chicago City Council and the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in 2013.

The Ricketts had previously said they would not begin large portions of the renovation plan until the Wrigleyville Rooftop Association agreed it would not sue the team over blocked views.

"We've spent endless hours negotiating with the rooftop businesses," Ricketts said. "We've gotten nowhere in our talks with them to settle this dispute. It has to end. It's time to move forward."

The new setup would compromise the 15 rooftop owners across the street, whose revenue-sharing agreement with the team runs through the end of 2023. They give 17 percent of their gross revenues to the Cubs for the right to sell seats that look into the park.

"Unfortunately, this decision by the Ricketts family will now result in this matter being resolved in a court of law," Ryan McLaughlin, spokesman for the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association, said in a statement emailed to Chicago media outlets.

According to ESPN.com, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton released a statement by email: "Like all Cub fans, the mayor doesn't want to wait for next year, and if this proposal helps the Cubs get closer to a ballpark renovation this fall -- and the jobs and neighborhood investments that come with it -- it's worth taking a look at."

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