By Hal Dardick
12:41 PM EST, March 8, 2013
Mayor Rahm Emanuel summoned Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and the aldermen representing the area to City Hall on Thursday afternoon in an effort to seal the deal on a $300 million Wrigley Field rehab, a Cubs source said today.
Progress was made, but the global deal to clear the way for the project remains undone, the source said.
“The mayor thinks this deal should have been finished a long time ago,” added a City Hall source.
Just prior to the meeting, which did not include the owners of rooftop clubs that also are part of the rehab talks, Ald. Thomas Tunney, 44th, talked tough about the terms of any agreement.
Tunney said Thursday that he would not sign off on a deal unless it included more parking, better police protection and “aesthetic” assurances sought by Wrigleyville residents and businesses — all issues that have yet to be settled.
Reminded that Emanuel is pushing for an agreement, in part because the Ricketts family that owns the Cubs is not asking for any government funding, Tunney replied, “Yeah, but it’s not going to be on the backs of my community, sorry.”
The Rickettses have maintained that a deal needs to get done by Opening Day in early April so they can line up the contractors and materials needed to fix up their aging ballpark, but Tunney dismissed that concern.
“You’re talking about one of the wealthiest families in America,” the alderman told a throng of City Hall reporters pressing him on the issue. “End of statement.”
Family patriarch Joe Ricketts founded TD Ameritrade, one of the country’s biggest online discount brokerages. His son, Tom Ricketts, runs the team, which was purchased for $800 million through a family trust. Dennis Culloton, a family spokesman, declined comment.
At stake is a $500 million investment: $300 million to fix up Wrigley and another $200 million for nearby development, including a plaza and hotel. The Rickettses say all of that will create nearly 1,200 new permanent jobs and generate $19 million in new yearly tax revenue for the city, county and state.
In late January, Emanuel urged the Ricketts and owners of buildings across the street who sell rooftop seating on game days to reach an agreement on signage that is key to paying for the rehab.
The rooftop owners, who give 17 percent of their annual revenue to the Cubs under a 20-year deal brokered by Tunney, fear their lucrative birds-eye views will be blocked if the Cubs put up signs in the outfield. They also say it would violate their deal with the Cubs.
Owners of the 16 rooftop clubs proposed a plan to place signs on their buildings and give all the resulting revenue to the Cubs. In exchange, they asked for a nine-year extension on their contract.
The Cubs, however, say revenue from signs on the building would not be as great as the amount of money they could make on advertising inside the ballpark. No deal has been reached, despite ongoing talks that include Tunney, who over the years has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the rooftop owners.
Hopes to reach an agreement by early last month, in time to propose additional night games for the upcoming season, never materialized. Both Emanuel and Tunney said they wanted a comprehensive deal that addressed signage, night games, additional concerts, parking, security, aesthetics and closing off nearby streets for game-day street festivals.
With none of that done, the Ricketts appeared to step up the pressure this week when they announced that they had an agreement for a 40,000-square-foot athletic club inside a planned Sheraton hotel across the street from Wrigley.
“My family is prepared to invest $500 million into Wrigley Field and the Wrigleyville neighborhood,” Tom Ricketts said in a statement. “All of this can happen if we can reach a common sense solution that allows us to run our business.”
Although Tunney, as alderman, traditionally would have to green light the needed zoning change, the mayor does have the political power to override him.
Tunney said that point hasn’t escaped him. “Of course, I worry about everything,” Tunney said when asked about the mayor. “But you know what? I sleep well every night. You know why? (Because) I commit a hundred percent to my community.”
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