Field of Schemes
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December 11, 2008

Wrigley sale talks back on

Despite being declared dead in June and now part of a criminal investigation, the proposal for the state of Illinois to buy Wrigley Field from the Cubs is apparently alive and well. The Chicago Tribune (owners of the Cubs, and employers of the editorial board whose members Gov. Rod Blagojevich wanted fired in exchange for signing off on the deal) reports that preliminary talks are back on, focused on having the Illinois Finance Authority buy the 94-year-old ballpark in a deal that the Trib says could be "worth $200 million to $300 million."

Who exactly would end up paying what in the end, though, is less clear. The original proposal back in January was for the state to buy the stadium for $1, then sell bonds to pay for a major renovation. Now, it sounds as if the IFA would instead sell bonds to pay for the purchase itself, with the Cubs paying rent that would cover the bond costs.

So if the state gets a ballpark, and the Cubs pay off the purchase price themselves, who gets hurt? Federal taxpayers, mostly. The Cubs are expecting to save $100 million in capital gains taxes on the deal, plus maybe $50 million in (mostly federal) tax savings by having the state issue tax-exempt bonds, plus another $50 million by no longer having to pay property tax. At that point, they might not even care about a renovation - especially since schmancy new stadium accoutrements aren't exactly raking in the dough right now.

The Tribune further reports that the governor could pull off this deal without going through the state legislature, which could make things interesting. Now all they need is a governor.

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