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ANALYSIS: Rough road ahead for Wrigley renovation

Published: Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 10:10 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 3:37 p.m. CDT
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Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts answers questions before a spring training workout Sunday in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

MESA, Ariz. – Sunny skies and warm weather greeted chairman Tom Ricketts when he arrived at the Cubs' spring training facility to address the organization.

There was plenty of optimism Sunday as the Cubs prepared for their first full-squad workout. Ricketts preached to the news media about the Cubs’ pitching depth and said he believes they’ll be a great team this season. But the lovely weather and the optimism surrounding a new season couldn’t overshadow one of the biggest challenges Ricketts and the Cubs face in overhauling the franchise: securing funding and approval for renovation of 99-year-old Wrigley Field.

Any Cubs fans looking for reassurances the Wrigley renovation situation is heading toward a quick resolution, well ... keep waiting. The hold-ups preventing the Cubs from getting to work on fixing and updating Wrigley are equivalent to a to-do list that only keeps growing in tasks.

Ricketts was bombarded with questions regarding Wrigley’s status. He carefully worded his answers, refusing to divulge much insight regarding the Cubs’ negotiations with the neighborhood and city. He did, however, point out specific outside influences that are hurting the Cubs.

“One of the things that we remind people is that there’s a lot of things that we have to deal with at Wrigley Field that other teams don’t,” Ricketts said. “Whether that’s signage restrictions, rooftops, other people selling Cubs gear right outside the park. All of that is great for them. It doesn’t help us. We have to get those resources back into the team so I can either give those to [president of baseball operations] Theo [Epstein] to put back on the field or to get those resources into improving and preserving the third largest tourism attraction in the state.”

Ricketts made valid points, and it highlights the heart of the Cubs’ contentions with the neighborhood and rooftop owners in particular: Why do the Cubs, who provide the entertainment the rooftop owners and neighborhoods benefit from, face restrictions in running their business?

Ricketts conceded that adding more night games this season – the Cubs are limited to only 30 night games with a little flexibility for games that are picked up nationally – is “not on the table,” with talks instead focused on future seasons.

Ricketts also ruled out any consideration of condensing renovations into two years, which would force the Cubs to play elsewhere for at least one season, instead of five years. Notable hurdles remain before the Cubs can begin renovations on Wrigley Field, and anytime politics are involved, the process becomes even more difficult. Big money looms on the horizon, however. WGN-TV’s contract with the Cubs ends after the 2014 season, and considering the franchise, Ricketts can fetch a pretty penny for TV rights.

There’s no easy solution to the Cubs’ quest to get resources and money for renovations, given how many people hold an interest in what happens to Wrigley. If anything, the discussions will only get tougher, and many nastier, and everybody tries to get a hand on what they believe they deserve.

“I would say there’s a lot of constituencies, there’s a lot of people involved, and whenever you have a situation like that, it’s going to take some time and it’s going to take a lot of discussions,” Ricketts said. “But we’re getting through it.”

• Meghan Montemurro covers the Cubs and White Sox for Shaw Media. Write to her at mmontemurro@shawmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @InsideTheCubs and @Sox_Insider.

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