With the clock ticking on the Cubs/Chicago stalemate over proposed renovations at Wrigley Field, the ballclub gained an unlikely new ally Wednesday: Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens, who said he would welcome the team with open arms.
Indeed, Stephens says he has a 25 acre site ready to go, which he would give to the Cubs free of charge.
And he is serious.
"If that doesn’t work out in the city, this is an option," Stephens said. "We’d like them to come out, take a look at it, and see if it works."
The site runs adjacent to the Tri-State tollway at Balmoral Avenue. That's plenty of room, the mayor says, for a stadium and parking. Stephens notes the proposed location already has adjacent Metra and Chicago Transit Authority stops. And he indicated his community would have none of the same issues as some in Chicago, concerning night games, street festivals, and signage, stubborn items which have proven to be stumbling blocks in the negotiations with the city.
"Our community was built on entertainment," Stephens said. "And I think we do it well. And I think adding the Cubs would be a good crown jewel to that we have here."
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts has set a self-imposed deadline of April 1 for talks with the city.
A team spokesman issued a statement on Monday night suggesting no one is ready to even think about a new location for the legendary franchise.
"Since day one, the Ricketts family has been working tirelessly to develop a championship plan to preserve Wrigley Field and invest in the neighborhood," the statement said. "They appreciate the expressions of interest from Rosemont and others, however the current focus is to work toward an agreement with the City of Chicago."
Stephens noted the ballpark site would be just across the tollway from Rosemont’s burgeoning new entertainment district. That area welcomed its newest addition Monday, a sprawling new Hofbrau House restaurant, where managers and patrons alike welcomed the news of the Cubs overture. Rosemont, he notes, could also offer lower taxes.
"I welcome the Chicago Cubs big time," said manager James Olsen. "I think it would be great for the area, right next to the airport. It would be awesome."
Stephens says he is not seeking to interfere with Chicago’s negotiations with the Cubs. He just wants the team to know that he is ready to talk and has an offer ready to go, if the talks with the city break down. But he cautioned that he is not seeking to interfere with the team’s ongoing negotiations with the city.
"I'll wait for them to call on April 2," he said.
Last May, the Cubs believed they were within days of getting approval for a plan that would have relaxed the landmark status of the field, paving the way for up to $150 million in new sponsorship and advertising.
However, the plan was shelved when Ricketts patriarch Joe Ricketts was linked to a potential Super PAC campaign to smear Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s pal, President Barack Obama. Emanuel was reportedly livid about the Super PAC plan.
Ricketts seemed optimistic that approval could come soon, and the team scheduled a specific session during the Cubs Convention events to unveil renderings of the renovation plans.
"I hope [it’s close]," he said. "I think everyone has incentive. We lost a year this year. We want to get the project rolling. It’s a big economic development for the city. It’s a lot of jobs. It’s something that everybody should have an incentive to want to get done."
If the Cubs were to move to Rosemont, their amusement tax of 12 percent would be cut by more than half, saving the team nearly $17 million and would eliminate the millions of dollars spent on signage restrictions, caps on night games, rooftop owners and the limiting of concerts and street festivals, CSN Chicago reported.