Emanuel’s Wrigley reno subsidies to near $300 million?

More Wrigley Field renovation deal rumors, this time from Crain’s Chicago Business, citing “someone who would know”:

  • The Chicago Cubs owners would spend $200 million on the “Triangle Building” to be constructed next door to Wrigley to house concessions and back-office activities. They would also spend $150 million on renovations to the ballpark itself, funded partly from new ad boards, and partly from money from the Cubs using city streets for game-day street fairs, a la Yawkey Way at Fenway Park.
  • The city of Chicago would spend $150 million on stadium renovations, financed by the first 6% in growth of future ticket-tax revenues — i.e., money that would otherwise go to the general fund. (The Cubs owners say that ticket sales and prices won’t keep rising if Wrigley isn’t rehabbed, but there’s little sign that that’s true.) And on top of that, according to Crain’s, the Cubs would want a complete kickback of all ticket tax money over that 6%, which the team could use for whatever it likes, presumably, whether that’s Wrigley renovations or some actual outfielders.

If Crain’s is getting all this right — and it’s worth noting that previous rumors had the ticket-tax deal working very differently — then this looks like it’d be a significantly sweeter deal for the Cubs than previously reported. Start with the $150 million in direct tax subsidies to the stadium. If we figure that the rights to city streets is worth about the same to the Cubs as to the Red Sox — who are earning about $5 million a year from it — that’s maybe another $75 million a year in present value. Then there’s the kickback of additional ticket taxes over 6%, in perpetuity — while there’s no way to know how much this would be worth, if it’s even half as much again what the initial 6% will generate, that’d push the total public subsidy to $300 million.

This, mind you, is what Crain’s writer Greg Hinz calls what “the Cubs and its owning Ricketts family want” from the city, and “what they’re talking about now,” so it’s possible that Mayor Rahm Emanuel will trim some of the windfall for the team. And as Hinz also notes, neither the city, county, nor state has officially signed on to the deal, which he characterizes as “very, very, very complicated” and “in guarded condition, at best.” Still, it’s becoming clearer that the “Fenway-style” deal talked about by Tom Ricketts could — unlike the renovation of Fenway — involve mostly public money.

And this is before we even know anything about whether the Ricketts would do as good a job with the renovation designs. So far as I know, Janet Marie Smith is still available for consulting gigs.


3 comments on “Emanuel’s Wrigley reno subsidies to near $300 million?

  1. As you know, I’m not in favour of massive tax transfers from the poor to the wealthy. So it will be no surprise that I don’t like the direct subsidies proposed.

    However, I have less of an issue with the street closings for game day markets. IF I remember correctly, the Red Sox are paying around $200k to the city to cover lost parking/other revenue on their street closings. Yet they are earning $5m on an agreement that is up for renewal soon (I think).

    So, really, that is about new revenue for both the club and the city… let the Cubs have a similar shorter term deal (for more money than the Bosox are paying, obviously), then see where it goes. If it grows to a $5m earner like the Red Sox have, clearly both parties should share in the revenues.

    That is smart government. Giving money to a business that some idiot paid $880m (37 times annual operating revenue) for because he says he needs the money isn’t.

  2. Ricketts still surrenders truckloads of money to teams that stole from their taxpayers, fan or non-fan, to build new stadiums, like Milwaukee and Minnesota. Why? Many fans of small town teams who take advantage of revenue sharing would scream bloody murder at you if you got government subsidies, so why support revenue sharing? If the Cubs didn’t have to surrender their profits, they wouldn’t have to, as you say, scam baseball to fix their digs. Even at that, they’re NOT picking the pockets of the already overstressed taxpayers of Illinois.

  3. Ricketts still surrenders truckloads of money to teams that stole from their taxpayers, fan or non-fan, to build new stadiums, like Milwaukee and Minnesota. Why? Many fans of small town teams who take advantage of revenue sharing would scream bloody murder at you if you got government subsidies, so why support revenue sharing? If the Cubs didn’t have to surrender their profits, they wouldn’t have to, as you say, scam baseball to fix their digs. Even at that, they’re NOT picking the pockets of the already overstressed taxpayers of Illinois.

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