Cubs being sold to somebody or other; Wrigley reno back on?

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the Chicago Tribune Co. has reached a preliminary agreement to sell the Cubs to Ameritrade billionaires the Ricketts family for around $900 million. Reuters, meanwhile, says that the Trib has also agreed to terms with a group led by private equity investor Marc Utay; given that the Trib is currently in bankruptcy, this could mean that a court could ultimately determine the team’s owner, or just that the current owners are hoping to show they’ve done due diligence. (MLB would still need to sign off on either sale, and as we’ve seen, judges don’t like to mess with sports leagues’ control of franchises.)

Whoever ends up with the Cubs, one big question here is: What will this mean for Wrigley Field, which the previous ownership had suggested selling to the state as part of a tax dodge scheme? Chicago Sun-Times city hall reporter Fran Spielman writes that the latest plan was for a “$250 million makeover” to be completed by 2014, with “new concourses, washrooms, concessions, skyboxes and a club seating lounge.” The team would also build a five-story building in what’s currently a parking lot between Wrigley and Clark St., allowing it to add restaurants, retail space, and player workout space a la what the Boston Red Sox did by buying buildings adjacent to Fenway Park.

Adds Spielman: “Sources said Tom Ricketts, the family’s point man on the Cubs sale, has seen all of the renderings, but has not yet signed off on a specific renovation plan.” And no word at all on whether the plan to sell it to the state to generate tax savings is still on the table — if so, they’d better hurry, as the IRS provision that would allow them to save $50 million or so via the PILOT dodge expires at the end of December.

Spielman concludes by quoting “a source familiar with the issue” as saying that Ricketts is intent on staying put at Wrigley — albeit a Wrigley with added skyboxes — for the foreseeable future: “The ballpark is safe and structurally sound. Substantial resources have been put into maintaining it.” We’ll see if Ricketts changes his tune once he finds himself needing to convince Illinois legislators to help foot the renovation bill.

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10 comments on “Cubs being sold to somebody or other; Wrigley reno back on?

  1. Honestly a $250 million makeover of one of the nicest old parks around (and one of the two the new parks are all based on) seems a better use of funds than $1 billion+ to basically recreate the stadium they’re demolishing like the Yankees did.

  2. Dan, a $250 million makeover sounds fine…as long as WE don’t have to pay for it as we have done (and continue to do) for other Chicago venues such as UFO-Soldier Field, US Cellular, United Center, and the 2016 Olympic bid.

    My concern is that the Rickett’s or the other bidder will cry poor to the city & state government after paying upwards of $900 million for the Cubs, and then request and get TIF financing or other state/city funds to subsidize the cost of any renovations or new construction.

  3. u can bet that whoever buys the cubs will put rickety field on taxpayer funded reno/ replacement. the precident is there already: sox united center tenants and bears.
    plus it makes perfect sense dollar wise.

  4. 250 million that us taxpayers will be paying. its inevitable. its just a matter of time

  5. Jim, I respectfully disagree with you that it is “inevitable” that the Cubs will replace Wrigley Field…renovate, Yes, but not replace.

    The Cubs organization markets the “Wrigley Field experience,” especially when the teams languish in the cellar, as they did when I was growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s (84 & 89 excluded). In fact, if you take the Wrigley tour (as I recall $25.00 a pop for their charity arm), they even mention how previous owner PK Wrigley sold/marketed the idea of “fun in the sun at Wrigley Field”…in the 1930s!

    No, I can’t see the Cubs ever leaving the circus that is Wrigleyville neighborhood…it is the largest most expensive outdoor beer garden in the city…

    I do agree with you and FEAR that we the taxpayers may somehow end up on the hook for renovations ($250 million if not more)…especially as the owners may play the “poverty card” – “We just spent $900 million to get the Cubs…we can’t afford the renovations that are so desperately needed…please subsidize the renovation cost taxpayers…you won’t be sorry stepping into a greatly improved Wrigley Field (we won’t mention HIGHER ticket & concession costs)!!!”

  6. Well when it comes to taxpayer spending on a sports stadium I can’t think of any more worthy candidate than Wrigley Field. It’s a 95 year old national treasure and frankly money well spent unlike say, rennovating then 15 year old US Cellular Field. Wrigley is up there with other national landmarks like the Washington Monument and Mount Rushmore and should be preserved as an active park. Hell the national gov’t is tossing money around, maybe they should get involved as well.

  7. One big unanswered question here: How much money would be going for actual upkeep of Wrigley, and how much for revenue enhancements? I think most people would agree that there’s a difference between using taxpayer funds to maintain the building itself vs., say, building a Hard Rock Cafe next door.

    I know the Red Sox got federal historic preservation tax credits for their recent Fenway renovations – I’ll have to check to see what restrictions were put on those.

  8. dan I respect you view on this issue. I must clarify my previous statement. I was trying to state that its inevitable that the cubs will be next in line for taxpayer funding for reno or replacement. we must remember that the place is 95 years old and needs work badly..
    its all going to boil down is cost, reno or replacement. which is ecomomically feasable

  9. with all due respect dan. I was trying to say that its inevitable that the cubs will be next for taxpayer funding for reno or replacement.
    I also believe that its going to boil down to cost what is cheaper reno/ replacement… as much as I hate that park I do hope that they do a lambeau field type rehab.. but will the new owners put up with night baseball opposition, will they put up with no club seating or boxes, hostility of the city of chicago to add on to the park( any reno will expand the footprint of the stadium) and no parking revenues?? also remember the teams need 21st centery amentites too..
    in closing its a long process. and its just the beginning.

  10. with all due respect dan. I was trying to say that its inevitable that the cubs will be next for taxpayer funding for reno or replacement.
    I also believe that its going to boil down to cost what is cheaper reno/ replacement… as much as I hate that park I do hope that they do a lambeau field type rehab.. but will the new owners put up with night baseball opposition, will they put up with no club seating or boxes, hostility of the city of chicago to add on to the park( any reno will expand the footprint of the stadium) and no parking revenues?? also remember the teams need 21st centery amentites too..
    in closing its a long process. and its just the beginning.

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