Our view: Chicago should OK Cubs’ new plan
SouthtownStar editorial January 24, 2013 9:32PM
Updated: February 26, 2013 6:35AM
After years of getting the runaround from Chicago officials, the Cubs seem to be near an agreement with the city for a long-needed major renovation of Wrigley Field. And the best part is that the projected $300 million project would be financed by the Cubs rather than city taxpayers.
Even though the Bears and White Sox play in publicly financed stadiums and the United Center, home of the Bulls and Blackhawks, gets a sizable property tax break, the Cubs got the cold shoulder for years in seeking public assistance to improve the aging ballpark, which turns 100 next year.
Former Mayor Richard Daley never was inclined to help the team’s previous owner, Tribune Co. — maybe because he was a Sox fan and no fan of the local newspaper. Daley always said the Cubs could and should pay for renovations without city help.
Daley and Tribune are now out of the equation, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Cubs fan, and the Ricketts family, the new owners, still didn’t see eye to eye on a Wrigley project. With the city and its schools facing huge budget deficits, using tax revenue to help out a billionaire family wasn’t politically feasible. And the family patriarch’s funding of an anti-Obama ad campaign this year didn’t exactly score points (runs?) with Rahm.
The breakthrough occurred last weekend when Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts announced that the team would pay for the entire project if it could generate more revenue — asking the city to allow more night games, concerts and advertising signs and closing off Sheffield Avenue on game days.
With city funding off the table, Emanuel seems receptive to the Cubs’ proposal. He and aldermen should be. None of the suggested city concessions is objectionable, though the Cubs likely won’t get all they want.
As a major tourist attraction, Wrigley Field brings in a lot of revenue for the city and Wrigleyville but sorely needs upgrades to offer fans the amenities of a modern stadium. City officials now need to play ball or risk the unthinkable, the Cubs looking elsewhere for a new home.