Welcome back to another addition of how the Chicago Cubs have been stupid. I know that there are many ways that the typical Cub fans believes the Cubs are stupid, but you may be disappointed as this blog is not about what you think. This blog will not be about trading away various players, or signing others. If you read my last blog on this subject, you would get the idea of what I am talking about.
This time around, I am going to stick with a topic that is currently taking up the headlines in Chicago, and that is dealing with Tom Ricketts wanting to renovate Wrigley Field and making some changes. No, this is not going to be about how he is being stupid for wanting to “mess with the tradition” of Wrigley Field.
As you know, Ricketts’ plan to renovate Wrigley has run into a few roadblocks. To be more specific, they are having issues with the rooftop owners and more importantly Wrigleyville Alderman Tom Tunney. Together, they are making life very difficult for Ricketts and are doing all they can in order to prevent these changes from happening, because they would interfere with their business of profiting off of a product they have no right to at all.
I believe Sam Zell sums this better than anyone ever could have. During his first guided tour of Wrigley Field, Zell asked the tour guide how long he had worked for the Cubs. After getting an answer of just a few years, Zell then commented that it was good because he “was wondering who the bleeping idiot was that didn’t buy up all the real estate” around Wrigley Field.
Zell may be looked upon as the man who tried to kill the Cubs when he came in and purchased the team, and a case could be made for that considering the contract hell they are still trying to dig themselves out of. But, he came in and made the Cubs then President John McDonough spend money, who in turn pushed then General Manager Jim Hendry into splurging in free agency leading us to get free agents Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis. They also signed Alfonso Soriano, who was actually signed by McDonough and not Hendry as many believe
All that to say this, Zell may have put the Cubs behind the financial eight-ball, but he is a very smart business man, and he asked the million dollar question. Whoever was in charge of the Cubs at that point in time should have been fired. Those buildings should have been bought by the Tribune Company ages ago. If they had of been, the Ricketts and the Cubs would not be stuck in the situation they are currently stuck in.
You could make the point that no one could have ever envisioned the rooftops taking off as they did. You could make that point, but you would be dead wrong. Way back in the early 80s the residents of those buildings would go up to the rooftops with lawn chairs and grills, and just have a party. That should have been the signal to buy those buildings.
Those rooftop parties did not go unnoticed, as the late Harry Caray would point them out almost every game. He saw them up there, the city of Chicago saw them up there, and they were not alone. After a few years, several businessmen (who were smarter than anyone at the Tribune Company) saw the goldmine that was in front of them. They turned the rooftops into a business. By the late 80s they had built bleachers, and started charging admission for the change to watch the Cubs game with a very unique view.
This went on for about a dozen years or so until someone at the Tribune Company finally wised up and decided to do something about the rooftops profiting off of the Cubs product. They did everything they could to block the view of the rooftops, and eventually the two sides agreed to a 20 year contract where the rooftops would pay royalties to the Cubs for the rights to sell their product.
Now that 20 year contract is holding things up for Ricketts and the Cubs in trying to make Wrigley a better place to watch the game.
If the Cubs had only been smart enough to buy up those buildings from the very beginning, everything would have been better. Imagine having 13 mini hotels around Wrigley, perhaps one is a housing unit for the Cubs players during the season. Part of that business venture would have undoubtedly included having rooftop party decks on those buildings. They also would not need to seek permission from those who currently own the buildings to make improvements to their own property.
In the early 80s, the Tribune Company could have bought up all of those buildings for a fraction of what Ricketts may have to pay to make these upgrades now, and I am not talking about the $300 Million he is using to make the improvements once the deal officially ratified. In order to get this deal done, Ricketts may have to give a payout to each of the rooftop owners, as well as Alderman Tunney. None of which would have ever of been needed, if only the Cubs and the Tribune Company had shown any sign of intelligent life.