The Chicago Cubs open their home schedule on Monday without a deal with the city and neighborhood for renovations to Wrigley Field, but team chairman Tom Ricketts said they are "100 percent committed" to seeing the project through and winning a World Series at the iconic ballpark.
The Chicago Sun-Times first reported on Friday that the Cubs and the city were close to agreement on a $500 million renovation of Wrigley Field that includes a $200 million hotel across the street. Ricketts said the sides talked throughout the weekend.
"The mayor [Rahm Emanuel] and the mayor's office has been terrific," Ricketts said Monday on "Carmen & Jurko" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "They've been really helping us coordinate and helping us push the deal through. We've got the alderman [Tom Tunney] who has been very productive; we've been working with him to kind of lock down some of the issues and really focus on some of the community-oriented issues. It's a process and we're 100 percent committed to it and we want to see it get through.
"In the end [when] people are going to remember the Ricketts family ownership, it's going to be 'did you win?' We want to win that World Series and that's priority No. 1 far and away. But what we want to do is we want to win that World Series in Wrigley Field and that's what we're working toward."
The Cubs want to put up a JumboTron in left field and at least one more sign in right field which has upset some rooftop owners, who vowed Friday to use "any and all means necessary" to make sure the team honors the remaining 11 years on their contract that protects their views of the field. The Cubs and rooftop owners signed a 20-year contract in 2004 that protects their view of the field in exchange for 17 percent of their revenue going to the Cubs.
"It's a fairly involved and kind of a nutty contract," said Ricketts, whose family bought the Cubs in 2009 for $845 million. "But ultimately as we look at what we want to do in the outfield we're going to be sensitive to a lot of those issues and as we get forward and can start talking about how those plans are going to look, I think people will realize that."
The Chicago Tribune reported last week that the new JumboTron would be 6,000 square feet, almost three times bigger than the current manually operated scoreboard.
Rosemont (Ill.) Mayor Brad Stephens has a standing offer to the Cubs of a free 25-acre parcel of land near O'Hare International Airport for a new stadium, but Ricketts has not used that as leverage in his quest for a deal with Chicago.
"We've really tried to focus on the high road," Ricketts said. "Everyone has got an incentive to make sure that when we win that World Series it will be here at Wrigley. We really haven't played any of those cards. We've said all along that we want to see the park improved and preserved and we've always stuck to that."Ricketts has said he will pay for the entire project if the Cubs are allowed to install the JumboTron and other outfield signs -- and the advertising that goes along with them -- as well as increase the number of night games.
The Sun-Times cited sources that indicated Emanuel is willing to increase night games to 40 or more.
"There's just sometimes where, early in the season, it's just easier to sell tickets to a night game," Ricketts said. "We're looking for a little more night games. Not enough to disrupt the lifestyle of our neighbors. We know we have to be sensitive about that."
Ricketts set April 1 as a deadline to get a deal done to be able to start the project in October before this year's construction season ends. With that deadline passed, Ricketts said there is still time to begin the five-year renovation plan this fall if a deal is reached soon.
"There's so many issues and so many things that we want to do both inside the park and out of the park that affect the neighbors and the community. We have to be thoughtful about that. We're not trying to throw ultimatums around," Ricketts said. "... We've tried to play this without that [approach]. We're just trying to work with people to get something done and just hope that everyone who has such an incentive to see this wonderful ballpark get saved and see this wonderful community around Wrigley get served better will go along with us."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.