Two days before the Cubs’ home opener, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday he’s in the “final stages” of negotiating a deal with the team to pave the way for the renovation of 98-year-old Wrigley Field.
The mayor refused to say whether he had found a way to help subsidize renovation of the iconic ballpark without signing on to a Cubs’ plan he once called a “non-starter”: forfeiting 35 years’ worth of amusement tax growth.
For the first time, the mayor demanded that the Cubs invest their own money in the stadium instead of pumping $200 million into the construction of the so-called triangle building adjacent to Wrigley.
“Whatever we do to enhance the value of Wrigley Field, it will be to make sure the private owners enhance the value at Wrigley Field,” the mayor said at an unrelated event on the Far South Side.
“I will not put my money in their field so they can take their money and invest around the field and get greater economic value.”
The Cubs did not respond directly to the mayor’s demand.
Team spokesman Julian Green would only say, “We continue to have discussions with various parties, including the city, the state, county and our Wrigleyville neighbors. We know efforts like these take time and we will continue to work hard to reach a concensus.”
Cubs’ owner Tom Ricketts has been trying for nearly two years — and the Tribune Co. tried for years before that — to convince the city to forfeit more than three decades worth of amusement tax growth to bankroll Wrigley renovation.
That would allow the Cubs to invest $200 million into construction of the “Triangle Building,” which would include an upscale restaurant, retail stores specializing in Cubs’ merchandise, team offices, below-ground batting cages and a rooftop garden.
As a mayoral candidate, Emanuel was once dead-set against giving up a generation’s worth of amusement tax growth. But, as mayor, he is determined to get the deal done.
“We’ve had good conversations. We’re kind of in the final stages of that,” the mayor said Tuesday.
“But my job is to represent the people of Chicago and to represent the taxpayers so, whatever we do, we get good value as stewards of the taxpayers’ money.”
Pressed on whether he would finally agree to sacrifice amusement tax growth, he said, “I’ll let you know when we’re at [the finish line] because every piece fits together. I’ll let you know the whole piece when I’m ready. All the pieces have to work together.”
If and when a Wrigley deal does come together, it will have many moving parts, including the possibility of relaxing the ballpark’s landmark status.