Analysis: Ricketts decides to play hardball on Wrigley renovations

Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 10:25 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 2, 2013 12:13 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

CHICAGO – Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts had months to decide how the organization would pitch the renovations for Wrigley Field.

Yet on the same day the Cubs officially filed the paperwork that triggered zoning and landmark commission meetings, Ricketts issued a threat that the Cubs could leave Wrigley Field if the neighborhood and city refuse to allow the two proposed signs as well as a 6,000-square foot video board in left field.

“The fact is that if we don't have the ability to generate revenue in our own outfield, we'll have to take a look at moving, no question," Ricketts told reporters Wednesday morning, The Associated Press reported.

Julian Green, Cubs vice president of communications and community affairs, doesn’t believe Ricketts’ comments should be considered a threat, rather an acknowledgment that the organization needs to create revenue to support the $500 million renovation. They hope something can be worked out with the Wrigleyville rooftop owners – who still have 11 years left on their deal with the Cubs – without the posturing of potential lawsuits.

“In that context, yes we’d consider moving,” Green said. “… I don’t think it’s take it or leave it, but the one thing we need to make this thing work for us is the signage inside the ballpark, not outside on the rooftops.”

There isn’t one big hurdle the Cubs must overcome before all the plans fall in place, thus it’s almost impossible to determine how quickly these plans will be approved and construction can begin. Too many moving parts have made it difficult for the Cubs to make – and fulfill – any promises to players.

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein said the Cubs told players last year they planned to have the home clubhouse renovated and expanded, which would double in size, by Opening Day in 2014. Those plans are already in jeopardy. Before construction can begin, they must receive public approval.

Any further delays will prevent construction starting at the end of the season. The longer it takes for Wrigley to finally undergo a facelift, the less money the team will have to spend.

“We’re all committed to finding a way to make it work so we can win and act like a big market here,” Epstein said. “I’m pretty sure that’ll happen. But as [Ricketts] indicated today, you have to keep alternatives alive just because this has been such a crazy process.”

Ricketts waited too long to publicly suggest the Cubs’ moving elsewhere is a viable option. Now it comes across as a desperate move to speed up the public process. If Ricketts jumped on the Rosemont offer immediately, or at least suggested the Cubs would give it a legitimate consideration, he would hold more leverage.

However, the rooftop owners remain the wild card. The threat of litigation or the decision to sue the Cubs for breach of contract could ruin plans to begin work this offseason. And as soon as these plans begin affecting the on-field product, with money earmarked for baseball operations in limbo until the renovations are underway as it is limited until revenue increases, the Cubs have an even bigger problem on their hands.

“We believe we put a proposal in place that helps [the rooftop owners] continue to be viable partners in this business,” Green said. “We hope as we move forward we’ll sit down and talk to them and look at both of the signs to find a solution that works for everyone.”

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

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