State agency still wants to buy Wrigley Field

March 18, 2008 3:07:57 PM PDT
Former Gov. Jim Thompson said Monday he's forging ahead with Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell's plan to have the state buy and renovate 94-year-old Wrigley Field -- in spite of editorial and political opposition to the deal. "I'm on my way to Washington. In my absence, the final version of our offer is being prepared. That would mark the beginning of negotiations," said Thompson, chairman of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.

"We either reach agreement with the Tribune that I and other constituencies agree is appropriate or we don't, and Sam can figure out another way to sell it."

Last week, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a blistering editorial opposing state acquisition of Wrigley with a front-page headline that read, "The Trib's Selling And We're Not Buying." The next day, the newspaper ran a story about the tepid response from state lawmakers. That was followed by a second editorial.

Thompson said the Sun-Times' campaign "doesn't bother me at all" and would have no impact on the deal. But he disclosed that he and Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney have agreed to a gag order on the negotiations.

"It makes no sense to talk about it unless and until we have a deal.... It just keeps stirring it up again. It opens up the dialogue for people to criticize something that's not a deal," Thompson said.

Last month, Thompson disclosed that Zell's plan would require the city to relax the ballpark's 2004 landmark designation and to forfeit 30 years of sales tax growth generated by the Wrigley renovation.

Daley responded by throwing cold water on the idea. On Monday, the mayor distanced himself further from a deal he believes is dead on arrival in the General Assembly.

Kenney has argued that Wrigley's historic elements were landmarked in 2004 because the treasured stadium was "controlled by a private landowner" and that the protection would no longer be necessary if a government agency owns it.

Daley disagrees. "It's on the lips of everyone here.... People come up to me.... They want to keep that landmark designation," Daley said.


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