Wrigley Field Restoration Update: Cubs and Rooftops Discuss Their Viewpoints on The Score

The Cubs and the Wrigleyville Rooftop Association were close to an agreement the week leading up to the convention that would have allowed the Cubs to begin the Wrigley Field Restoration Project and kept the matter out of the courts hands. But comments made at the convention did not sit well with the rooftops, a defamation of character lawsuit was filed against a stadium financing consultant and the Cubs were named as respondents in the discovery. Then when the team applied for a permit for the see-through sign in right field, the rooftops told their legal team to proceed accordingly.

The negotiations between the Cubs and the Wrigleyville Rooftop Association is ongoing as both sides appear focused on keeping the dispute between the business partners out of the courts.

The expansion and restoration of Wrigley Field is essential for the team moving forward. The Cubs have received all of the approvals from the city necessary to proceed with the project. The Cubs must have the revenue generated by the sign in right field and the video board in left field in order to pay for the project.

And while the two sides continue their efforts to find solutions to the main problem, when Bruce Levine told the rooftops’ spokesperson, Ryan McLaughlin, that he should tell his guys to sell their buildings to the Cubs, McLaughlin admitted Levine probably gave “the best advice of the day.”

Bruce Levine and Ben Finfer spent Saturday morning on The Score talking about the Wrigley Field Restoration Project with Cubs Vice President of Communications Julian Green and Wrigleyville Rooftop Association Spokesperson Ryan McLaughlin.

The Ricketts family and the team has spent nearly a year working hard with the Wrigleyville Rooftop Association to come up with the compromise on the outfield signage with the team’s rooftop partners. Julian Green explained the team was willing to consider moving the see-through sign in right field outside of the park in a further effort to work out their differences with the rooftops. And the Cubs were okay with the compromise at the time. The deal was close to being agreed upon before the rooftops demanded the team move the video board (jumbotron) in left field out of the park. That became a “non-starter” for the Cubs according to Julian Green. At that point the negotiations stalled because the Cubs are not willing to consider moving the video board outside of the park.

The Cubs and rooftops are still talking to find a compromise with the two signs.

Julian Green would not speculate when or if the differences would be resolved. But said “this much is clear” that the Cubs have lived up to their end of the contract and will continue to live up to the contract. There is not a section in the contract with the rooftops that keeps the Cubs from changing the views of the rooftops. Nor is there language that guarantees over the life of the contract the rooftop views would not be changed. It would be different if the Cubs were trying to put up windscreens or gigantic weather balloons that would block the views. The Cubs are trying to put up signs that would be in the best interest of the team. And under the contract with the rooftop the team has the right to install signs that are in the best interest of the Cubs.

Green said, “As we’ve said over the last several months, an expansion of Wrigley Field is not a violation of the contract, period.” Green added, “We are going to continue to live up to the letter of the contract and try to work on a compromise. We believe again with what we are doing, restoration and expansion of the ballpark is not a violation and the signs are in the best interest of the team to put revenue and resources back into the team so that we can put a tremendous, great team on the field and help this ball club win a World Series.”

Green went onto explain, “At the end of the day we are partners and we are trying to come to a compromise.” The Cubs preference is to settle the differences with the rooftops out of court. Green pointed out the team has reduced the number of signs, changed the size of the sign as well as the location of the signs in an attempt to reach an agreement with their rooftop partners so the expansion and restoration of Wrigley Field can begin.

The Cubs are going to live up to the contract with the rooftop club owners but the revenue those signs can provide to the team is significant. The Cubs are trying to add partners, such as Budweiser, to long contracts to add revenue to the team. When a sponsor has a captive audience for 81 games “that exposure and that branding” is significant to those sponsors. Green said, “People should know, without a doubt, with every fiber of our being, we have worked very aggressively and hard for a compromise.”

Early in the process there was a lot talk about the family moving the Cubs out of Wrigley Field. While he did not rule out the team leaving Wrigley, Green said in the end the family “wants to win a World Series at the corner of Clark and Addison.” But there are limits as to how far the family will go before they say they “tried and made a good effort, but it didn’t work out.”

The City has been very helpful to the Cubs throughout the process but at this point the talks between the team and the rooftops are at a standstill.

Bruce Levine ended the segment with Julian Green with some parting advice, “Buy them out.”

Ryan McLaughlin, the spokesperson for the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association, discussed the position of the rooftops and said it is important to remember the history “in all of this.” McLaughlin said, “About 10 years ago there was kinda an understanding between the Cubs’ owners and the rooftops. The rooftops pay the Cubs 17 percent off the top to the Cubs before we pay the salaries to the employees that work there, the litany of taxes, the food, the beverage, etc.” That equates to $3-4 million a year to help the Cubs win games and to renovate Wrigley Field. The rooftops are privately owned businesses and each owner had to spend tens of millions of dollars to get their buildings up to codes. The rooftops made the investments and with the signed contract they thought there would be time (20 years) to recoup the money that was spent. McLaughlin does not understand why in professional sports contracts cannot be broken without a penalty, yet their partners are looking to do just that. And then after the contract is over in 2023, the rooftops want to have some sort of security.

“We don’t want to go through a legal battle, McLaughlin said. We are going to protect our rights.”

There was a lengthy, legal battle between the Cubs and rooftops about the bleacher expansion project and McLaughlin doesn’t think either side wants that again.

The team and the rooftops ended up working together during the bleacher expansion project. McLaughlin is not sure why the two sides did not work together from the beginning of this project. “We were brought into this at the eleventh hour, McLaughlin added. That is really not what you do your partners and we are protecting our rights.”

Ben Finfer asked McLaughlin about section 6.6 in the contract (click here for details). McLaughlin said he would not go into their legal strategy but the bottom line is the views of the rooftops cannot be blocked. The Toyota sign does not block the views of any rooftops. It blocks a building without a rooftop. It is clear the sign in right field would block views and the jumbotron in left field would as well depending on the size and where it is located.

The rooftop club owners are “savvy business men and business woman” according to McLaughlin but he alluded to the fact that they would not be opposed to the Cubs buying them out. “I think that all of those kinds of offers are probably conversations that need to take place privately. Your parting words were probably good advice.”

The rooftop experience is something unique and an experience the Cardinals are trying to replicate. “When you go to a rooftop, you go for the experience something you can’t get inside the park,” McLaughlin said. And if the view is being blocked the experience will not be the same.

There has been talk about the rooftops being boycotted because the general opinion is the rooftops are holding up the expansion and restoration of Wrigley Field. Levine asked McLaughlin if there is a fear of a boycott. He explained it is a red herring to say that the rooftops are holding up the project. All of the stuff outside of the ballpark can occur, just not the signs in right and left fields. There are alternate locations the video board can be installed in left field (McLaughlin called it “dead space”) that does not block views.

The rooftops are hoping they can find a solution with the Cubs.

Levine ended the segment by giving McLaughlin the same advice he gave Julian Green. Levine said, “Tell your guys to sell.” And McLaughlin’s response, “I think you’ve given the best advice of the day.”

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  • Ion in AZ

    This giant expansion project is on hold for a measly $3-4$ mil per year the Cubs are receiving from rooftop owners!?!?!? Whaaaaaa?

  • http://www.facebook.com/MAXHERE17 Max Waisvisz

    Great discussion finally… If the the Cubs were smart they would just buy out the rooftops instead of going to court for years… They bought McDonalds parking lot for 20 million. They could buy 3701 Kenmore and put the Jumbo there plus a… bar and triple level suites and expand their revenue stream… Why not do the buy out? No one knows? Maybe they like making up this battle so they don’t have to field a team. Remember when this first started the ROOFTOPS were willing to give 100 percent of ad revenue on every building .. this was called WIN WIN SOLUTION which the cubs look like they were going to accept , Then they didn’t and it was their way or the highway!!!!

    • DWalker

      hardly a Win WIn, as part of the agreement was to extend the contract. it was actually far more favorable to the rooftops than to the cubs. We also don’t know what the asking price for any buyout is, its very likely the price offered to the cubs is not at all in line with market or even what they would ask from other buyers.

  • JasonPen

    Right away I ask myself, why do you have to apply for a permit to build a sign on your own property? You have to have a permit for everything. Even selling lemonade, or to protest. This is getting out of hand.

    • Jay

      I believe that Wriggly is listed as a historic building, meaning you need permits to do just about anything other than to mow the grass….I could be wrong, though.

      • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

        You are correct. A sign permit is standard whether it is a public or a private property. Wrigley requires permission on just about everything.