Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts quickly backed away from last week’s threat to move the team if the city doesn’t approve additions to Wrigley Field, but that hasn’t stopped several days of articles insisting that it’s either about time Ricketts threatened to move, a completely idle threat, or a great opportunity to fill column space with snide suggestions from readers about what else could go on the Wrigley site if the Cubs moved.
Meanwhile, the sticking point here, if there is one (Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel insists there isn’t) is mostly over how many and what size video ad boards Ricketts would be allowed to erect not just inside the ballpark, but outside it and on adjacent buildings as well. According to the Chicago Tribune:
The 63-page document obtained by the Tribune shows the team proposes to install 6,560 square feet of signs on a planned hotel. A plaza that the team would like to create on a triangle-shaped parcel just west of the stadium would include 5,825 square feet of signs.
The Cubs also would like to sell naming rights to a six-story office building it would like to construct on Waveland Avenue.
In all, the Cubs are seeking permission to place more than 35,000 square feet of signs on the exterior of Wrigley Field and outside the stadium. Much of the space would be devoted to advertising, featuring the names and logos of the team’s sponsors.
That is rather a lot of signage for a residential neighborhood (or any neighborhood), and has Lake View Citizens’ Council president Will DeMille worrying about a “Times Square effect,” which is quite an image for anyone familiar with Wrigleyville now.
The Wrigley battle is turning into an interesting one, in that Ricketts isn’t asking for direct cash subsidies (aside from federal historic preservation credits), but he’s asking for city concessions that could be just as valuable: the right to close off city streets for his own use on game days, as well as to evade city landmark rules and laws on outdoor advertising in order to rake in more revenue. It’s a clever line of attack, really, in that this way he can claim he’s privately funding the whole renovation, so what’s the problem? But as I pointed out to the Tribune, other owners have made similar claims without them being true, thanks to these kinds of hidden subsidies.