CITY HALL — As the Cubs moved toward winning a tax break on renovating Wrigley Field Thursday, a team spokesman hinted the team could erect outfield signs despite the ongoing complaints of rooftop owners concerned the signs will block valuable views.
The Class L designation would reduce the stadium's property taxes in 2019 upon completion of the rehab project and would be worth an estimated $8.1 million over the next 12 years, according to Dijana Cuvalo of the city's Zoning Department.
But Cubs spokesman Julian Green said construction would not begin until the team reaches a final resolution with rooftop owners, except perhaps to install the already-approved outfield signs that could block some rooftop views.
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks granted the Class L designation, now submitted for final approval before the City Council. The proposal glided through Thursday's meeting in the Council Chamber, but for a couple of bumps.
To qualify, the team needed to spend half the ballpark's value on the renovation. Cuvalo said that was $9.6 million, far exceeded by the estimated $232 million to be spent on Wrigley alone, part of the team's larger Wrigleyville project of $500 million including a hotel.
Commissioner James Houlihan, former Cook County assessor, asked if that meant Wrigley's assessed value was $19.2 million, and Cuvalo said it was.
"Something's awry," Houlihan replied.
During the public-comment session, Allan Mellis cited Mayor Rahm Emanuel's pledge that "not one single taxpayer dollar" would go to the Wrigley rehab.
"Here we go again," Mellis added, calling it a "subsidy" and citing how the law specifically states that the tax break be "necessary for the substantial rehabilitation."
"It is clear to everybody the Class L designation is not necessary" to fund the project, Mellis added, urging rejection.
Yet the commission approved the designation by voice vote without opposition, sending it to the City Council for final approval.
Afterward, Green insisted that the Cubs would wind up paying much more in property taxes, even with the reduction, after the stadium is reassessed upon completion. Yet he added that construction would not begin until the team reaches a final settlement with rooftop owners that removes the threat of a lawsuit.
"We hope that we can come to a resolution pretty quickly," he said, but pointedly added that the team could first install outfield signs, already approved by the council, that have been a sticking point in negotiations.
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 management of the iconic team.