Cubs reveal Wrigley reno plans, claim they’ll “write the entire check”

As promised, the Chicago Cubs owners released some renderings of their proposed $300 million in renovations to Wrigley Field and environs at their Cubs Convention this weekend, with the most alarming break from tradition being that the sign outside the ballpark is depicted as reading, “CUBS WIN!” (But I joke, people.) There are also revamped concourses, a new fan deck in foul territory near the left-field foul pole, and some new video boards in the outfield (though the manual scoreboard in center would remain in place, and a small LED board underneath it would in fact be relocated).

The big news, though, is less these details, most of which were previously reported, than team president of business operations Crane Kenney’s new rhetoric on how the project would be funded:

“If (the Ricketts family is) going to be allowed to build their business, put signs where they need them, hold games when they need them — they’re prepared to write the entire check themselves,” Mr. Kenney told reporters after the hourlong session in front of hundreds of fans at the Cubs Convention.

“The landmark ordinance isn’t our problem,” he said. “It’s the ability to add marketing elements we need and host games when we feel like it.”

Even more significantly, ESPN reports that the team is no longer proposing to have the city kick back $150 million in future ticket-tax revenues to the team, writing that Cubs owner Tom Ricketts “admitted at the convention that the plan, which was still on the table last summer, is dead.”

Instead, it looks like the Cubs owners are going to follow the Fenway model after all: a scaled-down (if still pricey) renovation, funded partly out of their own pockets and partly by asking the city to shut down city streets around Wrigley so that the team can use it as an extension of their own concessions are. That’s still a subsidy of a type — estimates are that the Boston Red Sox are raking in $5 million a year from using Yawkey Way as their own private game-day concourse without paying any rent to the city, and the Cubs have indicated that rent-free access to the streets around Wrigley could be worth as much as $150 million to them — but it’s certainly less than the $300 million in public subsidies that were being discussed last spring. There’s still the possibility of more hidden subsidy demands — there’s always the possibility of hidden subsidy demands — but for now, it looks like Rahm Emanuel’s persnicketiness may just have been good for something after all.


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