The owner of the Chicago Cubs threatened Wednesday to move the team out of Wrigley Field if his plans for a big, new video screen are blocked, saying he needs millions of dollars in ad revenue to help bankroll the renovation of the storied ballpark.
It was the first time during months of contentious negotiations over plans for a $500 million renovation of the 99-year-old stadium that Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has threatened to move the team out of the lively North Side neighborhood of Wrigleyville.
"The fact is that if we don't have the ability to generate revenue in our own outfield, we'll have to take a look at moving -- no question," Ricketts told reporters after outlining renovation plans to Chicago business leaders.
He added that he remained committed to working out a deal.
By far the thorniest issue is the plan for a 6,000-square-foot video screen over left field, as seen in many major league ballparks. The difference is that Wrigley Field -- the second oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball behind Fenway Park in Boston -- is surrounded by privately owned clubs with rooftop bleachers whose owners object to any changes that could block their bird's-eye views into the stadium.
The rooftop businesses have been left out of discussions on the proposed upgrade, but they feel they should have a seat at the bargaining table because they have a contract in which they share 17 percent of their revenue with the Cubs. Legal action is a possibility.
Ricketts presented an architectural rendering of the video screen during his speech to the City Club of Chicago and insisted that the team's own studies have shown it would have minimal, if any, impact on the views. He described the sign as "midsize" compared with those at other stadiums. It is nearly three times as large as the scoreboard currently atop the centerfield bleachers. Another smaller sign with the name of a sponsor is planned for right field.
He said without such signage, the team was losing out on $20 million a year in ad revenue -- essential for helping fund the extensive renovations without dipping into taxpayer funds.