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Cubs Hope City Will Ease Restrictions, As Team Commits to Wrigley Overhaul

By Serena Dai | January 19, 2013 6:06pm
 Fans may see changes near the bleachers after the Cubs complete renovations to Wrigley Field.
Fans may see changes near the bleachers after the Cubs complete renovations to Wrigley Field.
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Chicago Cubs

DOWNTOWN — The Cubs are happy to talk about restrictions on Friday afternoon games, but if that and other requests from the community are going to happen, the team wants the city to help pay for renovations to Wrigley Field.

"As long as someone is going to tell us what to do, maybe you should help us fix it," said Crane Kenney, the team's president of business operations, at the Cubs Convention at Sheraton Hotel Saturday.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts told fans the team hoped the city would ease restrictions on the team, but that plans to solicit funding from the city would be put on hold.

Cubs brass told a packed auditorium of fans that the Ricketts family would pay for the $300 million, five-year renovation of the ballpark, but they do not think the city should impose restrictions such as where to advertise, when to have games or when to have concerts if it's not going to contribute to rebuilding the project.

Right now, the Cubs visit neighborhood meetings to pitch changes in game times and discuss renovations as a means to gain ultimate approval from the city.

The team wants to be treated as a private enterprise and eschew some of the approval processes if the city does not contribute to the renovation, Kenney said. In particular, Cubs want more Friday 3:05 games, something fans want, he said.

"We'd like to have some freedom on how we run the ballpark, from top to bottom," he said. "I don't think anyone's asking for something that's extraordinary here."

The Cubs had hoped the city would help pay for renovations to the 99-year-old ballpark, but those talks stalled in May after media reports of a proposal to defeat President Barack Obama surfaced. The proposal was submitted to a super PAC associated with Joe Ricketts, patriarch of the family that owns the Cubs and owner and CEO of DNAinfo.com.

Although Ricketts never considered adopting the proposal, it remained a sticking point between the Ricketts family and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff. As recently as last week, the Cubs told Wrigley Field neighbors the team was still pursuing public financing, but on Saturday, management said the team would shoulder the entire load.

"Make no mistake about it—this project is being funded by the Ricketts family," Kenney told fans.

The Cubs and Wrigley Field are 95 percent owned by a trust established for the benefit of the family of Joe Ricketts, owner and CEO of DNAinfo.com. Joe Ricketts has no direct involvement in the team's day-to-day operations.