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Ricketts Optimistic About Wrigley Deal, But Key Issues Remain Unresolved

By Serena Dai | April 15, 2013 1:48pm | Updated on April 15, 2013 2:18pm
 Tom Ricketts is chairman of the Chicago Cubs.
Tom Ricketts is chairman of the Chicago Cubs.
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

WRIGLEY FIELD — Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said Monday he's optimistic a $500 million agreement that allows the team to renovate Wrigley Field and the surrounding area will help the team win a World Series — but he acknowledged key points of the plan still need to pass muster with the city and neighborhood.

The city, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and the Cubs released a joint statement Monday detailing a framework on how the team can move forward on the plan that has been stalled for weeks.

In a separate statement, the Cubs said the deal's details included a 6,000-square-foot video screen in left field, a 1,000-square-foot sign in right field, city permission to build onto Waveland Avenue and greater flexibility for the team in scheduling more night games if Major League Baseball requests a change to the schedule.

But when asked if the city agreed to every point the team had outlined, Ricketts acknowledged many of the details were part of the Cubs' proposal and said that everything must still cycle through community groups in Lakeview. Still, Ricketts said he's "an optimist" and is moving forward with the assumption that the team will obtain approval for all the points in the plan.

"There will be lots of community meetings, lots of discussions, and we will end up with this plan," he said. "That’s the way to look at it."

The deal was reached Sunday, a couple weeks after when the team originally wanted a deal, April 1. The city and Tunney agreed to the existence of video boards and the use of Waveland, but both the size of the board and how much the Cubs will pay to take Waveland are still in question.

The chairman said Monday that how soon the team can order materials and do other prep work for planned off-season construction depends on how quickly the community hearing process goes — meaning a finalized deal could still take months.

The Cubs have said they hope to receive final approval before October.

"We need a level of certainty," Ricketts said. 

Plans to build a hotel and open-air plaza next to Wrigley must be vetted as planned developments, meaning  residents will have a say on aspects including height and the look of the facade. That could present potential hiccups if community groups choose to contest the Cubs' plans for those developments, which include 35,000-square-feet of ads a pedestrian walkway over Clark Street, among other provisions.

And night games may be a sore point for neighbors, too. Community groups previously supported a cap of 30 night games with potentially three more in case of MLB requests — a sharp difference from the 40-game agreement announced Monday that does not cap the number of MLB night games the Cubs could play.

Meanwhile, owners of rooftop across from Wrigley maintained they would do whatever necessary to enforce the final 11 years of a 20-year contract that shares revenues with the cops as long as views from the rooftops remain intact. They said on Monday they look forward to the community hearing process.

Ricketts admitted he had not met with the rooftop owners recently. He said he had no response regarding a potential lawsuit if views from the rooftops are blocked.

"We'll take issue as it comes," he said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, speaking at an unrelated event, called the deal a "win-win" for the Cubs and Wrigleyville residents. 

He was not available to comment on the Cubs' proposal Monday. On Sunday, Tunney said in a statement that he was "proud they've recommitted to Wrigley Field."

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.