Wrigley Field Restoration Update: Rooftops Preparing for Legal Action

Crain’s Chicago Business spoke Monday with the lawyer that will represent the Wrigleyville Rooftop Association in its lawsuit against the Chicago Cubs. Charles Tompkins accused Tom Ricketts “of having buyer’s remorse and asserted that’s no good reason for the team to break a long-term revenue-sharing deal” with the rooftops according to the report from Greg Hinz.

Charles Tompkins told Hinz “court action would be filed” against the Cubs for the team’s plans to install signs that could block the views of the rooftops “any day now.”

The Cubs were expecting to meet with the Landmarks Commission on Thursday. Danny Ecker reported Monday that Wrigley Field is not on the June 5 Landmarks agenda.

The rooftops recently retained Charles Tompkins and he “made his view clear that the rooftops and not the team are the offended party in the continuing Wrigley rebuild drama.” Tomkins gave Hinz every indication that is the approach he will take with the court action, which could begin “within days.”

The Wrigleyville Rooftop Association has a contract with the team that does not expire for another nine years. The team receives $3-4 million per year from the rooftops, which represents 17 percent of their gross income. Tompkins explained to Hinz, that the Cubs are receiving a lot of money from the rooftops and “they paid it for the right not to have their views blocked for 20 years.” Tompkins added that no one would agree to a contract with an out in it like the one the Cubs appear to have, or “just change their mind.” The rooftops “relied on that contract in rebuilding and renovating their property to develop their businesses” and there has been $50 million invested since the contract was agreed upon “with much ot the money borrowed in mortgages.”

The rooftops could argue that the Cubs, “with a reported value of $1 billion and an operating inclome of $32 million,” could pay for the Wrigley Field project “without battering around the rooftops.”

Greg Hinz addressed the contract with Charles Tompkins and asked him directly about the language in the contract that gives the Cubs the clearance to block the rooftops’ views “if it comes by expansion of Wrigley Field approved by governmental authorities.” Tompkins explained “language refers to then-pending expansion of the bleachers, not more ad signs. And said, “Where a contract is ambiguous, you read it in context. All the parties understood that the expansion being referenced was that of the bleachers.”

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  • Ray Koenig

    Could be entertaining.

    • gargs

      One thing the rooftops have pretty much guaranteed is that their revenue stream from Wrigley views has, at most, 9 years left on it. They better enjoy it while they can since they have almost certainly lost any chance of a new contract now.

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  • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

    I hate to admit it but I see the point about the rooftops having negotiated in good faith and making renovations and remodeling with the idea in mind of 20 years of having a view. Also with the mortgages, etc.

    Why not just remodel everything else and not do the billboards for 9 years? Put them up on the grandstand for now and remodel everything but the aspect that is causing the controversy.

    As fans we don’t like the rooftops deal but it’s in place and the Cubs do get paid by them to have the right to see the games. They aren’t stealing. For years they did, but today they are not.

    • DWalker

      Can’t agree with you. remember the cubs tried to block out the rooftops from freeloading off the view while making money with those big nets? It wasn’t til after the cubs realized that at the time they had no way of stopping the rooftops that the bargained for something rather than nothing. and have the rooftops ever negotiated in good faith the last few years? by all accounts the rooftops have either placed outragous demands on everything or simply were not willing to even negotiate. IIRC, even some of the rooftop people admited that one owner has no intention of dealing with the cubs. The least the rooftops seemed wiling to settle for was an extension of the contract plus! the contract also states that the damages clause only apply’s for a specified period of time and that the club has the right to make expansions and changes that are approved by the city. Hate Kenny all you want, but that those two clauses are probably the cubs tickets out of this. In fact, I would say the cubs originaly signed the contract with the intent that after 10 years they COULD do exactly something like this. It would have been amazingly forthoughtful of them, but it does seeem somewhat possible. No, I think the ROOFTOPS were the ones who screwed up when they signed the contract and didn’t read the fine print. now they are hurting for money, on the bad end of public opinion trying to sell a sucky product and just realized they didn’t read the fine print.

      • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

        I hope you’re right. I see their argument but if they get “screwed,” that is fine with me.

        But to my second point. Why not just start the rest of the renovations? Why hold up building the home because you can’t agree on shingles?

        • DWalker

          because soggy plywood makes for a lousy long term roof?

        • GaryLeeT

          New clubhouses, and bullpens technically don’t generate the income the signage would, but if it makes for happier players who love coming to the ballpark, it’s still a good investment.

      • GaryLeeT

        “Hate Kenny all you want, but that those two clauses are probably the cubs tickets out of this.”

        Which would explain his contract extension.

  • Rational Logic

    I’m not a lawyer, but I disagree with this statement:

    “language refers to then-pending expansion of the bleachers, not more ad signs. And said, “Where a contract is ambiguous, you read it in context. All the parties understood that the expansion being referenced was that of the bleachers.”

    If language is ambiguous in a contract, then to me it seems open to interpretation. The fact that the contract allowed, at that time, the Cubs to build pending city approval, bodes in favor of presenting the same argument and situation now. Under that precedent, it would be difficult for the city to argue that the current request differs in any material way.

    The rooftop owners have to be dreading this. It’s going to cost them a ton of money. I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

    • John_CC

      I said it before, after a year or so of drawn out litigation and all the fees associated, plus the lost revenue because few people want to pay to watch this team, they will settle out of court. It is pertinent that also all know to well that they have 9 years, at best, until their current businesses are done as they know it. Then what, spend millions more converting to condos? Apartments? Sell for an unknown value?

  • Swish23

    first, Ricketts had almost 3 years before the sale from Zell was complete. Did he even show this contract to an attorney?
    second, 5 years later from taking over ownership; NOW we get to this point.
    third, this all goes away if you MOVE the team to any suburb waiting to pony up 500 million of what I would expect to cost 750 million to build a new park.
    fourth, when this is all said and done; the fans are the ones losing the most; as this has become a wrongful excuse to blame not spending the 5th highest revenue on MLB talent and we get stuck with a dump that somehow allows urinating into a trough as a human function.
    fifth, I’m sooooooooooooo had enough of this story.