Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts over the weekend floated a $300 million privately financed plan to renovate the nearly 100-year-old Wrigley Field that could be paid for with new premium seating and additional advertising signage revenues, along with more night games and concerts.
The plan — made public on Saturday by Ricketts at the Cubs convention — does not rely on public funding but it hinges on the city’s agreement to relax rules governing the historic ballpark, such as limits on signage and game-time starts.
The renovation work would take place over the course of five off-seasons and the team would continue to play at Wrigley.
The team previously had pressed for a plan that relied on diverting amusement taxes to help retire borrowing to finance renovations, but that proposal fell flat with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“The [Ricketts] family is prepared to move forward on their own and fund the entire project as long as we can get the ability to generate the income inside the ballpark the way the other 29 clubs do,” Crane Kenney, president of business operations, was quoted as saying by a writer for Major League Baseball’s MLB.com.
“If we’re told we can’t generate the same income the other 29 clubs do, then we have to get some help [from the city].”
The Ricketts family bought the team in 2009. It owns Wrigley, the second-oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball.
The renovations would include new concession stands and restrooms, a revamping of the upper deck, concrete replacement and new platforms for the lower seating bowl, new underground batting tunnels behind the dugout and improvements to other player facilities at the park.
The team is considering a new video scoreboard.
The team has been in negotiations with Chicago officials over the plan. In addition to city approval, the team may also need to negotiate with private property owners adjacent to the ballpark who operate rooftop clubs. They have a contract under which the team receives about $3.5 million annually under a revenue sharing agreement with the rooftop owners that protects their view of games.
State lawmakers in 2010 were asked to give the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority authorization to sell more than $200 million of revenue bonds to help finance Wrigley renovations. But no vote was taken on the plan, which relied on growth in Chicago’s and Cook County’s amusement tax.
Tom Ricketts is also chairman of the Chicago-based broker dealer Incapital LLC.