Tuesday, December 28, 2010

“Be vewy vewy quiet…we’re hunting for cash.”

A small little blip in the Tribune today says that the Cubs are working very quietly behind the scenes to modify and revive a plan to raise cash to renovate Wrigley Field.

I’m guessing that the new proposal will be pretty much along the same lines as the original one which would have the Illinois Sport Facilities Authority sell bonds to raise between $200 and $300 million to help pay for the overhaul of the crumbling ballpark. In the end, the real issue comes down to how the Cubs would plan to pay off these bonds.

The original plan was to use any increase in amusement tax revenue collected by the Cubs to pay off the bonds. What this would result in is a freeze on any increase in payments to the city and county from this tax.

As all of you know, the original plan met with significant public and political resistance and it ended up never even being debated in the state legislature. I personally thought the proposal was fairly well thought out and created very little burden to the Illinois/Chicago tax payer…but the approach that the Ricketts family took in presenting it was horribly done and as a result they have been in damage control mode ever since. The good thing that this has done is that it has started a conversation on this subject and hopefully the Ricketts family will actually involve the important and powerful politicians, who need to approve this, in the discussions to come to a fair and reasonable compromise.

The Tribune gave little details as to what the Cubs are doing to modify the proposal, but it appears that a massive renovation to Wrigley is not going to happen without some form of public assistance. The Ricketts’s seem to be making every effort to avoid doing some simple things (and some personally painful things) to get the money they need to renovate the ballpark. Considering the backlash they have had from the fans in their first year of ownership, the Rickettses appear to be a bit gun-shy about asking anything more from them at the moment.

As 2011 approaches and the new session of the legislature prepares to start up, be prepared for the next round of the hunt for cash.