Group discusses buying Wrigley Field

May 7, 2008 5:26:02 PM PDT
The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority met Wednesday to discuss a proposal to buy Wrigley Field.The Tribune Company is trying sell the landmark ballpark in a separate deal as it also tries to sell the Cubs.

The ISFA says it's preparing to make a formal bid.

Former Illinois governor Jim Thompson - head of the ISFA - says he believes it's possible for the state to buy Wrigley Field and make much-needed renovations with no cost to taxpayers. Thompson calls Wrigley Field the most iconic ballpark in the country, one taxpayers would be proud to own.

The authority was created to build what is now U.S. Cellular Field for the White Sox.

Thompson refused to discuss where the funds to buy the ballpark would come from if not taxes or bonds. But there are several reports the authority is looking at the sale of equity seat rights. That's a new concept that would sell seats to fans at a fixed price over a long-term contract.

The sports authority board met in executive session Wednesday.

"If we were able to present to the legislature a tax-free deal, that eventually would give the people of the state of Illinois ownership in a very valuable asset and guarantee the Cubs would stay here for at least the next 30 years, I would hope we would get the majority of the legislature to agree with us," said Thompson.

As far as some of the other major issues regarding Wrigley Field, Thompson says he strongly believes in keeping the Wrigley name.

He would not put a dollar figure on the renovations, partly because the list is subject to change when a new owner of the team comes in. But that new owner would be obliged to sign a 30-year lease with the state if the sports authority buys the ballpark. And it's unclear whether the renovations would take place in the offseason periods or whether the team would have to move out of Wrigley for a season.

As far as a timetable, the governor expects to present the proposal soon. Then it's up to the Tribune Company to respond to the offer.

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