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Wrigley Rooftop Owner Open to Cash if Views Blocked

By Serena Dai | April 17, 2013 8:57am | Updated on April 17, 2013 1:30pm

WRIGLEYVILLE — As the Chicago Cubs move to finalize their Wrigley Field renovation deal with the city, rooftop owners may be realizing they can't save all their historic views — and one owner said she might be willing to take cash from the team if views are blocked.

Beth Murphy, the owner of Murphy's Bleachers who's been a de facto spokeswoman for rooftop owners, told reporters at a neighborhood event that she's not sure the 15 other rooftops would take compensation if the Cubs violate their 20-year contract by blocking views with a planned left field video screen and a new right field ad — but she might.

Murphy said she has not seen specifics or heard any word about compensation being an option, but would be willing to consider it. Her first choice, however, would be to see the Cubs honor the contract and not block the rooftop views, but the team needs to talk to the owners first, she said

Rooftop owners are still holding their breath for a seat at the table with City Hall, the Cubs and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) to discuss plans for the ballpark. On Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged the rooftops are "part of the community" but did not say how much input they would have on the deal.

"I have a business that’s open 365 days a year," Murphy said. "I hope I have a say so in what goes on."

As part of the framework for a deal announced Monday, the video screen and ad would be placed in the outfield, but the exact sizes are still being worked out. The team's proposal suggests a 6,000-square-foot video screen in left field and a 1,000-square-foot ad in right field.

The Cubs would also extend the outside walls of the ballpark onto Waveland Avenue in left field and onto Sheffield Avenue in right field to minimize the impact on rooftop views, according to the proposal. 

No renderings of the proposed changes have been released by the team. Rooftop owners released their own rendering of what a larger Toyota ad might look like in right field. The photo suggests that views of four buildings on Waveland would be impacted by a right field ad alone, said a rooftops spokesman who distributed the photo.

"It'd be hard not to block us," Murphy said.

Without a sit-down with the Cubs, rooftop owners are left to rely on the community process that the Cubs' proposal must still go through. Details such as the size of signs must be approved by Lakeview's neighborhood groups as part of the planned development and landmarks process.

The neighborhood groups have historically supported an agreement between the rooftops and the Cubs as part of Wrigley Field renovations. Residents attending the Wrigley Rooftops Neighbor Appreciation Night at the Ivy League Baseball Club rooftop on Tuesday talked of a need to respect small business and the special appeal the rooftops bring to the neighborhood.

"There’s a delicate balance in the neighborhood," said Jim Ludwig, president of Triangle Neighbors. "That’s what makes Wrigley Field and Lakeview such a fun place to be. ... There’s a color here you’ve got to recognize."

Amanda Redman and Brad Jansen were watching a Cubs game from a rooftop for the first time, and the experience pushed Redman to voice support for rooftop owners. Jansen said he philosophically opposed the idea of rooftops getting views of the game, calling it "a free product," but he admitted to enjoying the experience over being in Wrigley Field.

"I hope they don't block the views," Redman said. "I think keeping it nostalgic keeps fan appeal."

Murphy, who is on the board of East Lake View Neighbors, hopes rooftop interests can be represented in a one-on-one sit-down with the team in addition to representation in community forums, she said. And the rooftop owners are still willing to go to court if views are blocked, but that's an option they hope to avoid, she said.

"I thought we’d overcome this with the Cubs," she said. "I thought we were true partners. I would love to sit down and discuss ideas."

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.