This is a pretty interesting move by Tom Ricketts and the Cubs in order to commence massive renovations at Wrigley Field for the next few years. The Ricketts Family clearly wants to keep the Cubs at Wrigley Field and they are appealing to legislators and Cubs fans to make it happen. The Ricketts sent a letter to Cubs season ticket holders and Wrigleyville residents this week urging them to back a bill that will be up for vote at the Illinois General Assembly soon. Cubs fans pay a 12% amusement tax on all Cubs ticket sales. The bill would provide that a portion of the revenue generated from such amusement tax would be invested directly in the preservation and development of Wrigley Field in order to keep the ball park on the North Side of Chicago. Rickets specifically stated the following in his letter — “The plan is fair, simple, and solves the problem. Most importantly, it will not increase taxes paid by Cubs fans or anyone else and will not create any new taxes… We have an opportunity in this upcoming legislative session to begin the process of renovating and restoring Wrigley Field and securing its continued future contributions to the Lakeview economy.”
Bonds would be issued to fund the long-term improvements to the ballpark. The Cubs paid $16.1 million in City of Chicago and Cook County amusement taxes in 2009. The Cubs would guarantee at least that much each year during the renovation process and any taxes in excess of that $16.1 million amount (through increased ticket prices or increased sales revenues based upon the year) would go directly back to pay off the bonds. This was a smart move by the Ricketts Family. Fans like this move because it won’t raise their own taxes or what they are going to pay for their Cubs tickets, plus it ensures fans that Wrigley Field will stay right here in Wrigleyville. Wrigleyville residents should also like this. While some complain about the noise and negative impact of night games and rowdy crowds, those people don’t truly understand how the presence of Wrigley Field and the bars and restaurants that surround the ballpark actually help keep the community thriving and increase property values. This should give business owners confidence to continue to build and develop in the area because they will know that the Ricketts don’t plan on moving the stadium out of Wrigleyville. By appealing to both bases, the Ricketts are trying to build a strong coalition to get the bill approved. If approved, having $200 million to invest in the preservation and development of Wrigley Field (to build new suites, a new scoreboard, new advertising opportunities, etc.) will only help them increase the value of their Cubs assets. Give ‘em credit – they might not be putting a winning team on the field just yet, but they are positioning themselves to have a long successful run in the near future.