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The Cubs and the rooftop owners are probably heading to court

Jan 24, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

Wrigley Rooftop

The Cubs have been in negotiations with the rooftop owners across Sheffield Avenue for some time. The subject: the Cubs’ massive Wrigley Field renovation in general and the team’s plan to put up a big billboard in right field in particular. A billboard which will — according to the rooftop owners — alter and/or block the view from the rooftops across Sheffield.

Those negotiations have fallen through, however, the rooftop owners have sued the Cubs and it seems like everyone is going to head to court.¬†It’s possible that the rooftop owners could seek injunctive relief to stop the project and, in turn, hold up the Wrigley renovation itself. Into that mix are allegations going back and forth about¬†disparaging remarks about the rooftops owners made by Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and other, older comments from Cubs’ previous owners. All of that background can be read at the Sun-Times.

Of course, the reason the Cubs can’t just put up a sign and tell the rooftop people to go pound sand is that they signed agreements with these folks several years ago in which the team agreed to take 17 percent of the revenues the building owners receive by virtue of letting folks peek in on Cubs games from across the street. In exchange, the Cubs made certain promises to the rooftop owners too, including not doing things like putting up big things to obstruct the view.

Why the Cubs ever agreed to that is a darn good question. I suppose it was a good short term decision — hey, we need a piece of that action! — but it was a decision that limited the team’s rights, and that’s what they’re up against now.

  1. mattintoledo - Jan 24, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    Wasn’t there an alderman who tried to hold up financing the renovations because the rooftop owners were in his district? I ask because it would be pretty ballsy of the Cubs to reach a compromise to appease the rooftop owners so they could get their funding and then turn around and violate the agreement that was the appeasement. I don’t know that’s what’s happening, of course.

    • 78mu - Jan 24, 2014 at 12:02 PM

      Of course a Chicago alderman got involved. They always jump into a situation between competing parties in their ward. They listen to the arguments on each side and carefully weigh the facts before making a decision for the good of the city.

      Then they open the briefcases each side gave them. After carefully counting the money (small bills only please) the alderman will then support the side that knows how to play ball.

      The Cubs may not have a WS championship in over 100 years but they do have the best politicians money can buy.

    • vettech23 - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:40 PM

      “hold up financing”? The proposed $500 million Wrigley Renovation is being paid for by the Ricketts. No public money is being used. Alderman Tunney was involved in approvals/permits process, not any sort of financing/funding. He was/is fighting against Cubs on behalf of the RTO. So yes, you were correct: you don’t know what’s happening.

  2. DelawarePhilliesFan - Jan 24, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    17 percent cut? How much money could that possibly be? Someone really thought “Yea, this is some major action!”

    Short term thinking is bad….but dumb pointless short term thinking is even worse!

    • esracerx46 - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:22 AM

      Sam Zell. The former owner that agreed to this, and is responsible for the current clown show.

      • qcubed3 - Jan 24, 2014 at 10:40 PM

        A clown show, in Chicago . . . has there ever been such a thing. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bozo_Show.

  3. themanytoolsofignorance - Jan 24, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    The Cubs must be hoping to bring the building owners to their knees by litigating the hell out of this. If it gets too costly to fight, then they’ll stop fighting. Otherwise, I’m not seeing how the Cubs have a leg to stand on legally. They have an agreement with a revenue stream with the building owners. Wilfully violating the agreement shouldn’t win in court. But, since I’m not a lawyer and know virtually nothing of the terms of the agreement beyond what’s in this post, perhaps there’s something more that puts the Cubs in a better legal position than what appears here. It seems like a bad idea for the Cubs to go to court over this, though. Old Man Wrigley would not have approved.

    • rbj1 - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      Cubs have deeper pockets for a longer drawn out lawsuit and appeal after appeal than the rooftop owners do.

      My dad had invented a product (a blood separator) and signed a contract with a medical company. A few years later there was a change in management, and the new guys basically said “that contract is no longer valid because we’re different people.” And because they could afford a long drawn out lawsuit, they won.

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:17 AM

        I suspect the “long drawn out lawsuit” is precisely what the Cubs are up to.

    • kyzslew77 - Jan 24, 2014 at 12:08 PM

      I am a lawyer (not a good one, but I do have a law degree and I do practice contract law) and you (and rbj1) have hit the nail on the head. Deep pockets will usually lose the battles but win the war when it comes to a dispute like this, unless there’s a solidly written provision in the deals with the rooftop owners that says the loser of any litigation pays for the winner’s trial and appeals costs.

      • granadafan - Jan 24, 2014 at 5:18 PM

        Is that you, Florio?

    • vettech23 - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:52 PM

      The Cubs are not the one bringing the lawsuit. The RTO’s are. The last thing the Cubs want is a prolonged legal battle. What they want (the Cubs) to start the gosh darn renovations already! But they won’t start the renovations until they have a guarantee from the RTO’s they won’t sue.

      The agreement the previous Cubs owner signed with the RTO’s is at the heart of this. It seems this situation is only going to get more and more ugly.

      The good news: the agreement between the Cubs and RTO’s has an ending date. At which time the Cubs can tell the RTO’s to go fly a kite, we’re doing what we want to our own ballpark!

      The bad news: the agreement isn’t up until 2023. Wrigley Field can’t wait that long. It’s a dump and is falling apart.

      It’s a very sad and unfortunate situation. And I can see both sides. I really hope they can work something out SOON.

  4. esracerx46 - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    These roof top owners also have bars on the main level. The head honcho for this seems to be Beth Murphy who you may remember for posting a sign on pearl harbor day that read “remember Pearl Harbor with bombs and kamikaze’s”.

    Yeah, that’s who the Cubs are dealing with. All the money to renovate the park is coming from the owners. They could easily move the cubs to where Arlington Park is and probably do it for less money. That way the rooftop owners still get their un-impeded view of an empty Wrigley Field.

    • Alex K - Jan 24, 2014 at 3:56 PM

      As convenient as the Cubs moving to Arlington Heights would be for this Arlington Heights resident, there is no way it happens. It would basically demolish attendance because the trek from the Chicago would be terrible for city dwellers. I don’t think that there would be enough of an uptick from suburbanites to make up for it.

      • Alex K - Jan 24, 2014 at 3:57 PM

        the Chicago? Nice work, Alex…

  5. RoyHobbs39 - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    Can someone who has sat rooftop, please tell me the appeal of these seats? I have only been to Wrigley once a couple of years ago (2011?). It was an afternoon game against the Dodgers. The game may have been listed as a sellout but was far from such. I remember seeing the rooftop seats with a few people scattered among them. How much money can these seats be bringing in? Any idea on how much they cost compared to tickets inside the park?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      An article I read yesterday via twitter mentioned that the owners basically created a “luxury suite atmosphere” on these rooftops. Craft beers, catered food from local restaurants, better seating, etc. No idea what the price of it is, but comfortable seating, better food and possibly better and/or cheaper beer might be a draw.

    • fathersworkandfamily - Jan 24, 2014 at 12:43 PM

      Some rooftops are really plush. Comfy seats, indoor lounge, etc. For something like $70 you get a full game of pretty good buffet food and open bar, a good view of the game and a lounge to go to/get out of the sun/or if it rains. I saw several bachelor party groups there.

      I was in Chicago last summer for business, and did one game at a rooftop ($70) and for another, I stubhubbed tix inside the stadium ($40 for good seats, lower deck covered, behind home plate). The $9 beers quickly made the costs the same.

      • Alex K - Jan 24, 2014 at 4:05 PM

        You got a GREAT deal if you got rooftop tickets for $70. They usually run about $150.

        I’ve been to two different rooftop clubs (both owned by the same company) and they are really nice. It’s basically ballpark type food (but a little better quality) on a buffet, open beer and wine bar (maybe they have liquor, I never asked), and a really good view of the game. The beers available were what you would expect plus a couple different options (Sam Adams and the like). The food is down in the club area which is air conditioned and have a bunch of TV’s and a sliding wall of windows so they can be open air.

      • Old Gator - Jan 24, 2014 at 6:21 PM

        Cheaper beer might be a draw????

  6. paperlions - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    The Cubs should be moving soon. The building is falling apart (e.g. netting up to catch falling chunks of crumbling concrete), the facilities are horrible (locker rooms, work out facilities, video rooms, etc.) and there is no room to expand any of it to make the place even mildly. They can try to delay the inevitable as long as they want, but the fact remains that in its current state, the Cubs remaining in the facility is not a viable option.

    Really, rather than wasting money with marginal “upgrades”, they should already be seriously looking for an alternative location to build a new stadium. Just because you own a place and can’t tear it down doesn’t mean you should keep throwing good money after bad.

    • esracerx46 - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      When the Cubs traded Scott Feldman to the Orioles, I remember him saying a few weeks later he was glad to have actual MLB amenities. As a Sox fan, it made my day.

    • sportsfan18 - Jan 24, 2014 at 3:18 PM

      Paper

      The Cubs were offered free land to build a new stadium on a bit ago.

      The ownership of the Cubs weighed that against remaining in Wrigley and updating it.

      They chose to remain and update vs. relocate. Part of this decision was based on having their renovation plan (big scoreboard in right field too) approved by the city, which it was.

      So the Cubs decided to stay and renovate.

      They received final approval last July from the Chicago City Council, which approved the new Jumbo-Tran scoreboard too.

      Even though the Cubs received approval, they waited to begin until hearing from the rooftop owners that they would not sue.

      Guess what? They are now deciding to sue.

      • paperlions - Jan 24, 2014 at 4:45 PM

        Yeah, it is messed up….but none of that changes the fact that they really need to move into a new facility. The renovations are just lipstick on a pig. The concrete will still crumble, the facilities for the players will still rival those of affluent high schools….there is just no space to put in modern facilities for the players.

  7. sawxalicious - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    I’ve been to a couple rooftop Cubs games (both were friends’ bachelor party events). The view actually wasn’t that bad. The price was about $75.00 a person and was all-inclusive including booze. Basically like a skybox that’s much farther away. There is a certain novelty to it, but it’s not my preferred way to watch a game (although it is my preferred way to drink!). The Cubs shouldn’t have made arrangements wither rooftop owners to start off with. Before the agreements, there were lawsuits (or threats of lawsuits) from the rooftop owners when Cubs ownership was talking about blocking the view. Back then, the rooftop owners really had no leg to stand on. Either way, I don’t care who wins. It’s basically people with a lot more money than me arguing about money.

  8. bizzmoneyb - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    very dumb to even make any kind of deal with these people. it is totally ridiculous for these people to act as they are entitled to watch games for free.

    • jm91rs - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:37 AM

      Well they are legally entitled now to watch the games thanks to the agreement, however they don’t just get to watch for free, they get to keep 83% of all of the tickets they can sell for others to watch.

  9. jm91rs - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    Wrigley is a bit of a dump so I’d start seriously looking at moving to the Arlington location or somewhere else near Chicago. The rooftop owners will balk at that because the sales at their bars on game day will be down to nothing and their property value will go way down.
    It’s a terrible agreement that the old owners signed, but the truth is it’s the perfect opportunity to get out of the dilapidated Wrigley. Build a replica stadium that isn’t falling down and has far less obstructed view seating.

    • sportsfan18 - Jan 24, 2014 at 3:21 PM

      The Cubs DID consider moving.

      They were offered FREE land to build a new stadium on the owners had to decide whether to accept and move there or to stay and renovate Wrigley.

      They decided to stay and renovate.

  10. sixchicagobulls - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:42 AM

    The roof top owners are gonna lose this fight. Management could easily say F it and move to the burbs than what?Cubs get a new up to date stadium and the whole Wrigley field community will sufffer. They sure better be glad that that Cuban does not own the team. That move will already be going on

    • cackalackyank - Jan 24, 2014 at 12:15 PM

      Exactly. Wrigley is a great piece of history, but so was Comiskey park and so was old Yankee Stadium…and they are both gone. Give these roof top people a phased buy out over five years, followed buy free live feed into their bars . OR ask them if they would prefer that their game day revenue went to some bars in the ‘burbs.

  11. billybawl - Jan 24, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    Would the Cubs seriously leave Wrigley over this roadblock? When does the contract with the rooftop owners expire?

    • cackalackyank - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:04 PM

      Just one guys opinion. Wrigley is competitive as an MLB facility in its current condition. Only the A’s play in a worse facility. The Trop is close, but it’s not really falling apart. The Ricketts family has come up with a plan along with the city to bring Wrigley into this century. I am not certain but I think they toured Fenway Park for ideas. If the Ricketts can’t turn the franchise home field into something viable, something competitive one of three things will happen: The Ricketts will move the team into the ‘burbs, the Ricketts will sell the team to someone that will move the team, or the Ricketts will sell to someone that does not give a s**t and let Wrigley fall down completely. At least the roof top owners will get a great view of it when it collapses.

      • cackalackyank - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:05 PM

        * not competitive. !#$@$ edit function Please.

    • vettech23 - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:56 PM

      Contract expires 2023.

      • billybawl - Jan 24, 2014 at 8:12 PM

        Woah. 2023 — That’s some leverage there. You have to suspect that the rooftop owners allowed the renovation plans to get to this point so they could drop this bomb and extract even more money. Evil, and totally disregards the emotions of Cubs’ fans, but shrewd.

  12. wlouden77 - Jan 24, 2014 at 12:44 PM

    Without knowing all particulars and having never been to Chicago, I think the cubs come out slightly better on this deal. They get $1275 roughly or every 100 seats for every game. over 103k for the season. that’s for 100 seats only. not a ad deal. the owners take more but still have overhead of insurance, wages, etc.

    Overall I am sure both sides do OK tho.

  13. sawxalicious - Jan 24, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    I used to think that the Cubs should never leave Wrigley due to historic reasons. I’ve been to enough Cubs games where it is now very obvious to notice the ballpark is a dump. I think they should tear it down and build a new one in the same location incorporating the historic aspects (brick and Ivy outfield, bleacher seats, homers onto Sheffield and Waveland, old-timey scoreboard) but also incorporate modern amenities (maybe incorporating a parking structure, modern restrooms, modern skyboxes that don’t look like a house trailer nailed to the bottom of the upper deck, more convenient access to all parts of the ballpark, modern behind the scenes facilities for the players, etc). I know cost is an issue. The Cubs’ ownership could probably afford to foot the bill themselves, but realistically the city of Chicago would pick up a large portion of the tab. One thing I can say is that the Cubs do actually bring a LOT of revenue to Chicago. I’ve only been to a few other ballparks, but they none of them had the Wrigleyville-type atmosphere outside the ballpark…for the other ballparks, you go to the game, watch the game, then leave. Going to a Cubs game for me usually involves going hours before the game starts and spending some time in Wrigleyville visiting restaurants, bars, etc….Going to a White Sox game involves me going to the park shortly before the game begins, watching the game, and getting the heck out of that neighborhood ASAP.

    As an aside, maybe it would be a good idea for the Cubs to look into obtaining one or more of the rooftop buildings and replacing it with a parking structure that still has the rooftop seats and restaurant facilities. Or the owners of the rooftop buildings could look into this. If you can’t tell from my post, Wrigley parking is almost non-existent. If you want to park close, you pay $30-40 to park in a small alley where your car is boxed in or parking a few miles away at Lane Tech High School and taking a shuttle bus (which gives you the most realistic feeling of a sardine you will ever have). Any Cubs fans have thoughts on this?

    • cackalackyank - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:15 PM

      Not a Cubs fan but, wouldn’t this mean a couple years of *gasp* sharing the “Cell”? Also, not real familiar with all the dimensions involved, but to fit modern amenities, like lux suites, wider aisles and concourses, expanded/more diverse concessions, and clubs into the new park it seems like at least one or more of the streets bordering the park would have to go, and I don’t just mean closed on game day. It seems like this alone would pretty much wreck the Wrigleyville feel. Keep in mind you are talking new stadium $ for a park that will always carry at least some kind of limitation on the # of night games per season, too.

  14. granadafan - Jan 24, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    When did the rooftop owners start charging for seats and building such grandiose stands and facilities? I seem to recall (many years ago) people just sitting on lawn chairs on the rooftop. Money always is the root of evil between the two neighbors.

  15. sickcub - Jan 24, 2014 at 9:04 PM

    Move already!

  16. johnnycantread - Jan 25, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    Seems like it’s not as peaceful up on the roof as it used to be.

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