Cubs look to taxpayers to help pay for Wrigley upgrades

November 11, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The Ricketts family will ask the legislature to help finance more than $200 million dollars worth of work at the Friendly Confines.

Right now, Wrigley Field is all dressed up for football in anticipation of next weekend's Northwestern - Illinois game. That's an example of the kind of attraction the stadium is. It's why Ricketts is asking for help to preserve it.

Wrigley Field, even in its relatively worn condition, is the third most popular tourist attraction in Illinois, according to the Cubs. They draw several million fans a year during the season, and those fans pay a 12 percent amusement tax on every ticket.

The Cubs want to take a portion of that future tax to pay for improvements at the park.

"We'd can accelerate some of those revenue streams, hopefully, through a bond offer, bring more dollars into the park now and start a really comprehensive renovation for Wrigley," said Tom Ricketts, Cubs chairman.

Ricketts, whose family paid $845 million to buy the Cubs a year ago, says he hopes the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, a governmental agency that owns US Cellular Field, will float $300 million in bonds to finance the improvements.

The amusement tax money would then go to repay those bonds.

"We need to not only fix the infrastructure, but the fan amenities behind it," said Ricketts.

Ricketts says it would allow the Cubs to improve the ballpark and develop the so-called "triangle building" on the west side of Wrigley. Among the numerous previous proposals for that site was one that included a Cubs museum, which would draw fans year-round, as well as upgraded training areas for players.

And, all of it would be done in the off-season, without the need for the Cubs to vacant the ballpark.

"We think, with this plan, we can go ahead and start the renovations on the park and preserve Wrigley for the next 50 years," said Ricketts. "Then we can turn around and dedicate private resources to developing the triangle, and get out of this trap that I think the Tribune felt they were in."

Ricketts hopes the legislature will take up the issue when it reconvenes during its veto session next week.

If the plan passes, Ricketts said he hopes Wrigley might host the MLB All-Star Game in 2016.

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