Chicago Cubs-rooftop owners rivalry heats up

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 22, 2014 at 2:01 pm •  Published: May 22, 2014
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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Cubs and owners of rooftop venues across the street from Wrigley Field appeared to be headed toward the legal equivalent of bench-clearing brawl, after the team announced Thursday it will now push to erect more signs in the outfield than the city has approved.

Owners of the 15 rooftop venues immediately vowed to fight in court what they see as a threat to their views and livelihoods.

"We've spent endless hours in negotiations with rooftop businesses," Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts says in a video posted on the team's website. "We've gotten nowhere in our talks with them to settle this dispute. It has to end."

The rooftop owners, who have spent millions of dollars on their venues and have a contract with Cubs through 2023 requiring them to pay the team 17 percent of their gross annual revenue, were just as adamant in insisting they would vigorously defend their businesses.

"It appears their zeal to block rooftop owners, who pay them millions of dollars a year in royalties, knows no bounds," said Ryan McLaughlin, a spokesman for the rooftop owners, whose contract with the team calls for them to share their revenues with the Cubs. "Unfortunately, this decision by the Ricketts family will now result in this matter being resolved in a court of law."

Last summer, the City Council approved the Cubs' $500 million renovation plan for the 100-year-old ballpark, which includes installing a Jumbotron in left field and a video scoreboard in right field. The plan, however, has been stalled by opposition from the rooftop owners.

Alderman Patrick O'Connor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's floor leader on the City Council who tried to facilitate a deal, said the two sides had been tantalizingly close to striking a deal that would have moved the right field video board to the top of a building across the street. But when owners of rooftops outside left field started complaining anew about the Jumbotron, the negotiations "started to fall apart," he said.