Despite Roadblocks, Wrigley Renovation Talks Continue

Ald. Tunney: "We're in at least weekly communication with the Cubs and the Ricketts family"

By Mary Ann Ahern
|  Wednesday, Aug 1, 2012  |  Updated 10:18 PM CDT
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When it comes to deals, baseball fans are divided over whether public funds should be used to renovate Wrigley Field. Mary Ann Ahern reports.

When it comes to deals, baseball fans are divided over whether public funds should be used to renovate Wrigley Field. Mary Ann Ahern reports.

As Wrigley Field is about to enter its 99th year, the question is whether the ball park and the surrounding neighborhood will ever see the grand renovation the Cubs owners have been seeking.

The plan to not only rebuild the Cubs' historical ballpark but an entertainment complex across the street has hit huge roadblocks. Still, there are quiet negotiations going on behind the scenes, NBC Chicago has learned.

"We’re in at least weekly communication with the Cubs and the Ricketts family,” Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said Wednesday.

Tunney, who was originally lukewarm to the $500 million project, has turned more supportive.

“Most stadiums have some component of public financing," he explained. "Whether they’ve been good investments, you’d have to look at them individually.”

He added that mayor Rahm Emanuel "has pretty much put a lid" on what any public financing numbers would be: roughly  $125 million in increment financing on amusement tax.

The Ricketts family is reportedly willing to invest $200 million, and there is a possibility the state could throw in $150 million in bonds.

More revenue might come from not just one, but two Jumbotron-like screens to be placed in perhaps left and right field. That has rooftop owners nervous their view will be blocked.

"I don’t there’s too many teams in baseball that continue to draw no matter what happens and I think they’re fortunate that way and they have to look for the neighborhood for that," a representative of many of the rooftop owners, Beth Murphy, said Wednesday at City Hall.

So if -- and it’s still a big if -- the Cubs get the financing it needs, then how long will it take?

Tunney believes it might be best to shut down Wrigley for a year to 18 months.

"To be honest with you, whatever is the most economical, and that might mean the interruption," he said, adding that the relatively short interruption would make more sense than renovating over a four or five year period.

Business owners in Wrigleyville may complain, but just as Emanuel is putting the south Chicago Transit Authority Red Line renovation on the fast track, that may be the route the city, state and Cubs take.

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