CHICAGO (AP) - The owner of the Chicago Cubs publicly threatened for the
first time Wednesday to move the team out of Wrigley Field if his plans for
a big, new video screen are blocked, saying he needs millions of dollars in
ad revenue to help bankroll the renovation of the storied ballpark.
"The fact is that if we don't have the ability to generate revenue in our
own outfield, we'll have to take a look at moving - no question," Cubs
Chairman Tom Ricketts told reporters after a speech to Chicago business
leaders outlining plans for a $500 million renovation of the 99-year-old
It was the first time during months of contentious negotiations over the
Wrigley Field renovation plans that Ricketts threatened to move the team out
of the lively North Side neighborhood of bars and restaurants that adds to
the historic park's allure with tourists and baseball fans.
By far the thorniest issue is the plan for a 6,000-square-foot video screen
over left field, like those in most ballparks. The difference in Chicago is
that the stadium - the second oldest in Major League Baseball behind Fenway
Park in Boston - is surrounded by privately owned clubs that have built
rooftop bleachers and object to any changes to the park that could block
their bird's-eye views.
Because they have a contract in which they share 17 percent of their revenue
with the Cubs, the rooftop businesses feel they should have a seat at the
bargaining table and legal action is a possibility. They have been left out
of the talks.
Ricketts presented an architectural rendering of the video screen during his
speech to the City Club of Chicago and insisted it would have minimal if any
impact on the views. He said without such signage, the team was losing out
on $20 million a year in ad revenue - essential for helping fund extensive
renovations without dipping into taxpayer funds.
"All we really need is to be able to run our business like a business and
not a museum," Ricketts told the audience.
One of the rooftop owners, Beth Murphy, sat in on the speech and told
reporters afterward that it was the first time she'd seen any drawings of
the screen and that she and other owners would have a lot of vetting to do
before determining if the proposal works.
"It looked big to me and it looked like it blocked out the neighborhood,"
The rooftop owners have previously threatened legal action, and Murphy said
she was confident their contract would hold up and protect their businesses.
Ricketts said the team formally filed its renovation proposal with the city
of Chicago on Wednesday. The plan must get approval from city planners and
the City Council. There will also be public hearings on the plan.