Once upon a time, the Chicago White Sox, mired in a championship drought of their own, tried to pressure the Chicago and Illinois governments to give them money to build a new ballpark. In response to this developing situation, the folks in the Tampa Bay area built Tropicana Field, a wretched hive of scum and villainy (actually just a domed ballpark), to entice the White Sox to move there should they not get their way. The White Sox, of course, got US Cellular Field, and the Trop is now the home of the Rays. But it’s amazing how a little leverage can go a long way.
Around the same time, the Cubs were the last team in the majors to not have lights installed in their home ballpark. At one point, because of the MLB commissioner’s mandate to not allow playoff games at Wrigley Field anymore (like that was a problem) if lights were not installed, there was a credible threat of the Cubs to move out of Chicago and into Schaumburg. However, the city compromised and gave the Cubs a few night games, and the land put aside in Schaumburg eventually became Wrigley Lite, a baseball field in the suburb that had Wrigley’s dimensions but was much smaller. The difference between Schaumburg and what happened in Florida with the White Sox was that Tampa/St. Petersburg actually built most of the stadium before the Sox backed out, but Schaumburg only set aside some land and didn’t build the stadium until much later.
Fast forward a couple decades. Tom Ricketts and his family purchased the Cubs from the Tribune and find that Wrigley Field, the Cubs Cathedral, the Mausoleum of Fail, is falling apart at the seams. The facilities are outdated, the structure is small and cramped, the place is basically crumbling under its own age because the Tribune and the Wrigleys were too stupid or uncaring to properly renovate and maintain the home of the Cubs. We’ve talked a fair bit on this blog about the Ricketts and their ongoing tiff with the city over Wrigley Field renovations. The Ricketts have steadfastly claimed that they are committed to Wrigley Field and the surrounding neighborhood, but their neighbors have not reciprocated fairly. So what to do?
Enter Rosemont mayor Brad Stephens. In an exclusive earlier today, Dave Kaplan said that Stephens offered to set aside some land for a potential construction site for a New Wrigley Field should negotiations between the Cubs and Tom Tunney and the Wrigleyville residents continue to stalemate.
“The Chicago Cubs are being held hostage by the neighborhood as they look to run their business. We are willing to offer them a tremendous opportunity if they are interested. Bring the bricks and the ivy and we can get a deal done, ” Stephens told me this morning.
Kaplan actually had a bit in the article about the potential revenue that the Cubs lose because of the restrictions placed upon them by the city and the neighborhood. Now, I don’t actually think that the Cubs will move. I’ve actually been told by various folks that it is not possible for the Cubs to just say “screw you guys” and start building while absorbing penalties and fines from the city, so that’s out. However, the threat of another potential suitor that’s outside of the city limits and outside of Rahm Emmanuel and Tom Tunney’s jurisdictions could be an interesting bargaining chip.
Let’s play conspiracy theory for a bit. The threat of a professional baseball team moving is enough to cause a municipality to build an almost complete baseball facility (Tampa/St. Pete), or to put aside a tract of land for future development (Schaumburg then, Rosemont now, maybe). There’s very little chance that the Cubs actually move to Rosemont. Despite the ample parking, what IS there to do in Rosemont? It’d almost be like asking the Cubs to move into a neighborhood like where the White Sox are now. There’s nothing to do. It wouldn’t be as cool as Wrigleyville.
But the goal here is to establish and take advantage of leverage, whether real or imagined. Let’s say that the Cubs hint that they are fed up with the city, and hint of a potential move. Now let’s say that Rosemont starts thinking of preemptively building a facility to attract the Cubs. Let’s also say that Schaumburg realizes it has an opportunity, and starts upgrading their own ballpark, which by the way already has Wrigley Field dimensions.
In my dream scenario, one ballpark is going to go up, and another is going to get upgraded, while the city of Chicago freaks out and kowtows to the Ricketts’ every last whim because they can’t afford to lose the Cubs. The Ricketts family then is allowed to upgrade Wrigley Field to their own specifications as they never had a firm agreement in place with either Schaumburg or Rosemont. Dick move, right?
Except that you may recall that the Cubs moved their Single-A affiliate from Peoria to Kane County. What if they then decide to move Daytona to Rosemont, and Tennessee to Schaumburg? Suddenly people aren’t pissed anymore, and we get three minor league squads within driving distance of Chicago for ease of evaluation for the front office and convenience for fan enjoyment. Plus Iowa is still AAA.
This will never happen, but it was fun to think about. And there’s your stupid idea for the night.