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Kadner: Zabrocki wants the Tinley Park Cubs

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Updated: July 27, 2013 6:24AM



There’s a twinkle in Mayor Ed Zabrocki’s eyes as he invites the Chicago Cubs to move to Tinley Park.

“Do I think they will come here?” Zabrocki said, repeating a reporter’s question. “Realistically, no.

“I don’t think the city of Chicago would ever let Wrigley Field close down.

“But why not get our name out there with Rosemont and DuPage County?” Zabrocki added, mentioning two other suburban areas that have reached out to the Cubs. “I absolutely believe our village has as much to offer as anyone else.”

On Tuesday, the Tinley Park mayor released a letter he sent to Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Cubs, asking him to consider moving the franchise to the Southland.

“I understand that other communities may have already reached out to you, but I ask that you consider this as a legitimate option and an opportunity to expand the Chicago Cubs’ horizon to a south side audience as well,” the letter says.

Zabrocki included in his letter an aerial map highlighting 280 acres near 183rd Street and Harlem Avenue, the former sites of the state’s Tinley Park Mental Health Center and Howe Developmental Center, which now are closed.

The property is being offered to other state agencies, but if none has a use for the land it will be offered for sale to Cook County and nearby municipalities at fair market value. Tinley Park is viewed as the most likely bidder.

Zabrocki notes that the property is within walking distance of the 80th Avenue Metra station, adjacent to Interstate 80, close to Interstates 355 and 294 and has sufficient acreage for “parking, hotels, restaurants and commercial/retail development.

In response to Tinley Park’s offer, Julian Green, vice president of communications for the Cubs, sent me the following response:

“We are flattered to hear Tinley Park sees tremendous value in having the Chicago Cubs in their area. However, at this time, we are focused on the planned development process with the City of Chicago. We are hopeful we will gain the necessary approach that will allow the Ricketts family to make a $500 million investment without public support to restore and improve Wrigley Field and enhance the surrounding community.”

Zabrocki understands the Cubs’ position but quickly adds: “You just never know what’s going to happen. This is our opportunity, and we would be remiss if we didn’t get an oar in the water, so to speak.

“We think it will probably never happen. But maybe the Ricketts family have second thoughts about the negotiations with Chicago and start looking at alternatives. If so, we want them to look at us.”

And by putting his community’s name in the game, Zabrocki brings attention to his suburb, which isn’t such a bad thing.

Tinley Park’s a pretty nice place, with an old-fashioned downtown area, great commuter train stations, a convention center, an outdoor music theater and thriving commercial and retail areas.

Before long, it is likely to obtain those 280 acres of state property for development. Putting that information out there for general consumption, by using the Cubs,
is a pretty slick marketing ploy.

But mostly, its just a fun idea, and that’s not such a bad thing.

“(Village manager) Scott Niehaus and I came up with the idea,” the mayor said. “Scott’s a really big Cubs fan, so I told him wouldn’t it be nice to have the team right in our back yard?”

That version of how the idea originated disappointed SouthtownStar columnist Donna Vickroy, a Tinley Park resident, who said she emailed Zabrocki with the idea of moving the Cubs to her hometown about two months ago.

Donna is a die-hard Cubs fan, which explains why, from her perspective, moving the North Siders to the South Side would make sense. She still believes the Cubs will win a World Series in her lifetime.

Zabrocki is a staunch White Sox fan.

“I grew up on the South Side,” he said. “I’ve been a Sox fan all my life.”

I imagine that a lot of Southland residents will dismiss Tinley Park’s offer to the Cubs as nonsense.

That’s the sort of attitude that’s prevalent in the Southland, which is sort of the second city just outside The Second City. No way anything big, no way anything good, happens out here.

And that’s one of the reasons it never does.

I can recall when Arlington Heights tried to lure the White Sox, back when team president Jerry Reinsdorf was having trouble building a new stadium in Chicago. Nobody laughed about moving the South Side Hit Men to the western suburbs.

In fact, there were news stories promoting the move as a great idea because Reinsdorf and the Sox wanted to distance themselves from their working-class South Side attendance base at the time.

Like Zabrocki, I doubt that the Cubs would ever move out of Chicago.

Wrigley Field is one of the greatest assets in professional sports history.

The Ricketts know that. Chicago knows that.

But those 280 acres would be a perfect place for some sort of entertainment complex. A casino, for example.

Unfortunately, the past gambling expansion bills have included only the Bremen Township portion of Tinley Park in the geographic description for potential casino sites (the legislation has mentioned six Southland townships that are eligible).

The land on the northwest corner of 183rd Street and Harlem Avenue is in Orland Township.

But back to Zabrocki’s dream of the Tinley Park Cubs.

As silly as that may sound to some, imagine how crazy it is that municipalities are actually competing with each other to attract a team that hasn’t won a World Series in more than 100 years.

Has losing ever looked so good?

Has a professional sports team ever had a better reason not to change a thing?



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