When the Ricketts family first took over the Cubs, some of the first words out of their mouths were expressions of unbridled love of Wrigley Field. They were going to win and they were going to win in Wrigley Field. That was their story. Tom went around telling anybody who would listen that he once lived across the street from Wrigley. He skipped classes at University of Chicago to attend games, ultimately ending up taking five years to graduate as a result. He met his wife in the Wrigley bleachers.
The love Tom Ricketts felt for Wrigley was almost unnatural. I think part of the reason Joe and Pete so vehemently oppose gay marriage is that they fear the slippery slope that would eventually allow Tom to divorce his wife and marry Wrigley Field.
Around these parts, we criticized this because it essentially removed all leverage the family had in negotiating with the city. They would ask for public funds. The city said no. They asked again and almost had a deal, then Joe fucked everything up with his Super PAC and hate of the President, who was coincidentally the Mayor's buddy.
Then the Cubs came out and said they'd pay for the whole thing themselves on the condition that they be allowed some wiggle room on the restrictions placed on it by city ordinances and landmark designations that turn every remodel of a urinal trough into a six month ordeal of community meetings and posturing in the media. Shockingly, the idea was met with scorn by Wrigley's neighbors and Tom Tunney, who tore himself away from counting the money in his pockets from the rooftop owners long enough to tell the Cubs to just replace the manual scoreboard with a videoboard if they want one that badly.
It was a Sisyphean ordeal all because there was never really an alternative for the Cubs. Rosemont offered them a crappy piece of land that nobody wants because it's practically on an O'Hare runway, so that wasn't ever really an option. So the Cubs were negotiating with people who basically kept poking them in the chest, kicking sand in their face, and asking, "What are you gonna do about it?"
So the agreement announced late last night that the Cubs and the City of Chicago have come to an agreement to allow the Cubs to spend $500 million of their own money on the crumbling ballpark is something of a minor miracle. Somewhere along the line, the city moved a bit, the Cubs moved a bit and they all ended up shaking hands with each other. And it only took three and a half years to add a couple of signs and a few more night games. Progress!
The agreement allows a number of changes that will help the Cubs separate us from even more of our money in the near future, per Carrie Muskat:
- A 6,000 square foot video board will be placed in left field pretty much where the Toyota sign is now. They may place it further back over Waveland to decrease the impact on rooftop sightlines.
- An additional sign will be added to right field that will be in the same kind of semi-see-through style as the current Toyota sign.
- Those will be the only two additional outfield signs place instead of the original proposed seven signs.
- They can play 10 more night games, bringing the total to 40.
- There can be up to five more night games if national broadcasts dictate changes to the original schedule.
- They can start Friday games at 3:05pm now.
- They can close off Sheffield Ave. from 2 hours prior to the game until the 2nd inning.
- The Captain Morgan Club will be rebuilt to be two stories to allow the visitor clubhouse to be expanded into that space plus additional space for a souvenir shop.
- The corners of the park will be renovated to be more fan-friendly (translation: more places to sell stuff) along with upgrades to the existing crappy restaurant, The Sheffield Grill.
This is good news for the organization. It will allow them to sell their TV rights for more money when they get to that point because night games are more valuable. They'll hopefully have more space within the park to add some decent food and beverage options. As of right now, the closest thing to craft beer that they carry is Bud Light Lime-a-Ritas and Labatt's Blue (it's Canadian!). At least they aren't trying to call those "craft" beer like some teams. *cough* Yankees! *cough*
So while we will eventually be forking over larger amounts of our money to the Cubs, this allows them to sink the millions they need to into renovating the player facilities to bring them at least into the 20th century of modernization. It also provides them with the revenue capable of sustaining a larger payroll in the event they ever have players that actually require larger salaries.
So though I may be snarky about it because it is the Cubs and they have always shown an amazing capacity to fuck things up for themselves, this is a good day to be a Cubs fan. Finally.
The full approved proposal can be found here.
Tom Ricketts will hold a press conference today at 11:00am. Live streaming here.