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Cubs Fri Jul 12 2013

A Jumbotron is Coming to a Wrigley Field Near You

Cubs_200.pngAfter well over five hours of hearings, backroom negotiations, along with an emotional note from Alderman Tom Tunney, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks unanimously approved the signage portion of the Chicago Cubs' Wrigley Field renovation plan. The deal calls for smaller signs than the ones outlined in the April agreement, but Wrigley will be getting the controversial Jumbotron in left center (5,700-square-foot total) along with a much reduced see-through sign in right field coming in at 650 square feet if the plan is approved by the city council.

Despite the sizes being smaller than what the Cubs' ownership was hoping for, it was a major score for Tom Ricketts in an effort to monetize portions of the ballpark to offset some of the cost of the $500 million renovation and restoration project. It should also improve the game-day experience for anyone in attendance. Not sure who's coming up to bat next inning? The board will answer. Did Angel Hernandez blow that call at first base? I want the truth!

The decision wasn't all ice cream and lollypops to everyone involved, however. The Wrigleyville Rooftop Association responded to the proceedings with a scathing press release -- all of which is included below along with my comments. If any of you have read in the past, you'll recognize the style. If you haven't -- you should check out the hilarity that is that website.

CHICAGO - The Commission on Chicago Landmarks issued a decision wholly inconsistent with its mission of preserving and protecting historic properties in the City of Chicago by approving dramatic changes that adversely affect specifically protected elements of Wrigley Field. Contrary to most landmark debates, this action was taken without community participation or any scheduled public hearings. The language passed today appears to allow for additional bleacher signage without the consent of the Commission.

Wait a second. The language was passed without the consent of the Commission? Weren't they the ones that voted unanimously to pass said language? I'm already confused.

As for the historic properties of the ballpark itself, there are five: 1) The hand operated scoreboard. 2) The ivy/brick outfield walls. 3) The general admissions bleachers. 4) The marquee overlooking Clark and Addison. 5) Zero World Series titles by its inhabitants in the park's 97 years of existence. If you want to include relieving yourself in a trough, or thousand pound chunks of concrete falling on your head as "historic properties" too, be my guest.

Rooftop owners -- a significantly affected partner -- have been intentionally excluded by the Cubs and City of Chicago as decisions to aid the Ricketts family have been rushed through.

I always laugh when I see the word "partner" in these statements. The bitterness the two sides have for one another can be sipped in every beer sold at Wrigley and the surrounding facilities.

Rooftop owners have an alderman, don't they? Isn't he an elected representative that was a part of the negotiations throughout the process; one that included a framework agreement back in April that specified larger signage? Three months isn't a rush where I come from, either. Then again, we are talking politics here. Three months in the political process is like eight seconds in human years.

The Wrigleyville Rooftops Association has released the following statement from Beth Murphy, owner of Murphy's Bleachers in reaction to today's events:

"Today's decision is a blow to anyone who cares deeply for the historic and special nature of Wrigley Field. We, like many residents of the Lakeview community, feel blindsided by the total disregard of the commissioners who ignored years of careful work that went into crafting the 2004 Landmark Ordinance and the corresponding contractual agreement between the Chicago Cubs and the rooftops.["]

What does the landmark status have to do with the agreement between the Cubs and rooftops? Though the Landmark Ordinance for Wrigley and the 20-year agreement between the team and the rooftops were both completed in 2004, they are not one in the same. They are two totally different arguments.

["]We want to see a modernized Wrigley Field, but throughout this process, the affected small business owners have been shut out to create a more favorable deal for a billionaire family."

By modernized, they mean the exact same Wrigley Field, but one that doesn't potentially kill someone from falling rock. And again, if they feel like they were shut out of the process, they should really consider voting out their alderman.

Oh, and that favorable deal for a billionaire family -- it doesn't include a single dollar of public funds. The full $500 million is to pay for the project is coming entirely from the ownership group, who would kind of like to see a return on their investment. In a state that is billions of dollars in debt, the deal is an absolute steal. Ask the state of Florida and the city of Miami what they think of publically funding the Marlins new stadium, and that's just the latest example of a baseball park upgrade. History isn't friendly to publicly financed stadium projects.

"In January, rooftop owners proposed a solution that would preserve the feel of Wrigley Field, provide the Ricketts family revenue needed to modernize the ball park while keeping rooftops in business.["]

That proposed solution by the rooftop owners claimed their advertising signage would bring in $10-20 million dollars per year split between the Cubs and the city, with the rooftops seeing no profit. Those dollars are total projections considering nobody has ever done that before on this scale, and advertisers want their signs inside the stadium so they can be picked up on TV. It's small potatoes compared to the type of revenue the team could get (and not split) with signage inside the stadium.

And who controls what companies advertise on the rooftops proposed signage? The Cubs? The rooftops don't seem to have a problem advertising products for the Miller Brewing Company out past the right field wall in direct competition with major team sponsor and beer vendor Anheuser-Busch. Awfully nice partnership you have going there. I'm sure the Budweiser boys love that!

["]Unfortunately, the Ricketts family muscled through a plan today that adversely impacts Wrigley Field and the surrounding business and homes. As small business owners who have spent more than 30 years and tens of millions of dollars investing in our neighborhood, our input should have been sought and valued, but instead, we have been intentionally excluded with arrogant disregard."

Explain to me how signage impacts the homes around Wrigley. Tunney claimed that he gets complaints all the time of lights being on all over the neighborhood, and that it would be the same thing with the LED screen. Did these people not notice the 40,000 seat stadium that's been there since 1916 when they moved in!? And if they moved in prior to the 1988 addition of lights, are they upset about their property values skyrocketing? The LED lighting itself from the new Jumbotron would not have any impact north, east or south of the stadium (you might see it to the west and a little bit to the southeast) because it would be blocked by current structures. And that proposal from January you folks cited earlier -- it included LED advertisements. I guess those wouldn't bother the neighbors because they were your idea, though.

Fast Facts about the 2004 Landmark Ordinance:

  • The 2004 Landmark Ordinance cited the "unenclosed, open-air character" and "uninterrupted sweep of bleachers" as one of the features that must be preserved.

The video board in left center field will not make the stadium look closed in. It'll enhance the ballpark experience and give people another reason to watch a Cubs game in person as opposed to sitting at home and watching it on television. The equations have changed in the last decade when it comes to going to games. If people are have to pay the high prices to attend sporting events, they expect and deserve an equal or better experience compared to the one they get watching on TV. You can't have a 1970s mindset in the 21st century, especially when good teams come from having good players, who are paid a market value wage, which the fans would like to pay and see. The process is entirely cyclical.

  • An earlier 2003 Landmark Designation Report specifically cited the view of the surrounding buildings as a contributing element.

That report cited the view of the surrounding buildings. Not from them. The sign in right field won't affect anything in that regard, and the video board in left center will actually be placed in front of a roof that has an advertisement stapled to the top of it. Oh, and it'll have pretty stats and replays and things fans want to see during a game!

  • Mayor Daley said at the time that "protecting the surrounding neighborhood is just as important as protecting the ballpark itself."

  • The passage of the 2004 Landmark Ordinance coincided with a 20-year contract between the Cubs and Rooftops, which included the Rooftops dedicating 17% of their gross revenue to the Cubs. The Rooftops have already paid more than $20 million to the Cubs.

How much money did the rooftop owners bank before they shared revenue with the Cubs? That number never seems to show up anywhere. I wonder why?

  • Regulations by the City of Chicago in 2004 resulted in a $50 million investment by the neighboring Rooftops to upgrade their facilities due to the 20-year contractual agreement which now stands in peril due to today's events.

Those regulations and building codes were created by the City of Chicago, not the Cubs. Having proper building code is for the safety of anyone who steps into and on top of your building, and has absolutely nothing to do with the Cubs organization or the Ricketts family. Thanks for that fast fact, though. How much money did you make before you started sharing the cash with the product you leached it from for years?

I want nothing more than to see the Cubs win a World Series, and flood the city with blue like Blackhawks fans did with their red sweaters and t-shirts just a few weeks ago to celebrate the Stanley Cup title. If signage that they have negotiated for in good faith is a part of that process, then I'm all for it. I don't know about you, but I'm sick of not seeing a championship caliber team playing in Wrigley Field.

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Daniel / July 12, 2013 10:18 PM

I think they mean "without further

But more importantly, what's happening with the plans for the Jumbotron in Wiggly Field?

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