Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010
By Patrick MooneyCSNChicago.com
It's not surprising to see a limo pull up outside Wrigley Field and a bride and groom emerge to have their picture taken in front of the marquee. Such is the pull of the second-oldest ballpark in the majors as it approaches its 100th anniversary.
To preserve what ownership calls the state's third-largest tourist attraction, the Cubs will request that a portion of the amusement taxes added to each ticket be directly invested in a stadium renovation, chairman Tom Ricketts wrote Thursday in a letter to season-ticket holders.
The Chicago Tribune first reported that the plan would have the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority float nearly 300 million in bonds. Within a 35-year window, the bonds would be paid by the 12 percent ticket surcharge assessed by the city and Cook County.
Ricketts estimated that the Cubs and Wrigley Field are annually responsible for a 600 million impact on the local economy, 7,000 jobs and 60 million in tax collections.
If approved, Ricketts wrote, the Cubs will undertake more than 200 million in renovations during the next five years. His family -- after purchasing the team, stadium and a stake in Comcast SportsNet for roughly 845 million almost 13 months ago -- would also make a significant investment in neighborhood development.
The ISFA owns U.S. Cellular Field, but the chairman indicated that the team would continue to play at Wrigley Field during construction. The Cubs will be motivated to stay there because they have drawn at least three-million fans for seven consecutive seasons.
Decisions will be made at a time when the unemployment rate is hovering around 10 percent and the state could be facing a 15 billion deficit. In the past several months, Cubs executives have shown their political skill in lobbying Mesa, Ariz., and convincing the city to spend close to 100 million for a new spring-training facility.
Now they will turn their attention toward Wrigley Field, which is being converted for next weekend's Northwestern-Illinois football game, another advertisement for the Cubs brand.
The ancient stadium will need significant upgrades if the Cubs are to host an All-Star Game this decade, and there are still visions of developing the multi-purpose "triangle building" on Clark Street.
"The plan is fair, simple and focused. Most importantly, it will not increase taxes you currently pay and will not create any new taxes," Ricketts wrote. "This plan will preserve the historic character and tradition of the Friendly Confines for the next generation and will enhance the Lakeview community."
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.