The Chicago Cubs and the owners of the prominent rooftop skyboxes across Waveland and Sheffield avenues from Wrigley Field will likely find themselves in court after more salvos were fired in their ongoing legal battle on Monday afternoon.
Early in the day on Monday, reports came out that the Cubs had applied last week for a permit to erect a see-through sign behind the right field bleachers at the iconic ballpark, with Budweiser leasing the ad space.
In response to the Cubs’ move, the rooftop owners’ released a statement condemning the action.
“This is an unfortunate turn of events because our hope was to find a solution to this matter,” Association spokesman Ryan McLaughlin said in a statement. “Rooftop owners believe any blockage of our views violates the contract we have with the owners of the Cubs. We have instructed our legal team to proceed accordingly.”
The Cubs have been seeking an out-of-court settlement to the standoff with the rooftop owners, but Ricketts family spokesman Dennis Culloton acknowledged that the team is feeling pressure to act even without a prior agreement with the rooftops.
“An out-of-court agreement is always desirable,” he said. “In the meantime, we need to act.”
Negotiations between the two sides broke down last week when the Chicago Sun-Times published an article in which Marc Ganis, founder of a Chicago-based sports business consulting firm, said that rooftop owners were “stealing” the Cubs’ product. The rooftop owners promptly filed a libel lawsuit against Ganis, and the whole thing put a chill on negotiations that were being led by 40th Ward Alderman Pat O’Connor.
The whole issue started when the Cubs announced that they wanted to build a large video board behind the left field bleachers and place more advertising signage in right field as a way to fund a large $300 million renovation that the team wants to perform on Wrigley Field. The rooftop owners immediately voiced concerns that the signage would impact their views of the ballpark, which would violate the terms of an agreement that they signed with the Cubs’ former owners, the Tribune Corporation, back in 2004.
Under the terms of that agreement, the rooftop owners give the Cubs a 17 percent cut of their profits for the season, which has been around $2.5 million per season. Over time, the Cubs have negotiated down the size of the scoreboard and shifted it to a place in left field where it wouldn’t block rooftop views, but the right field signage has continued to be an issue.
There is still a very real possibility that the matter could be decided out of court, but Monday’s developments seem to indicate that the Cubs are trying to take a more aggressive stance on the matter, and the rooftop owners aren’t planning on backing down any time soon.