This season marks the 100th anniversary of Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field. The team announced this off-season that they will begin a five-year, $300 million dollar renovation of Wrigley Field in order to give the ballpark a much needed face lift, while still preserving the traditional baseball feeling that is only felt on Chicago’s North Side. The Cubs are now considering the option of selling a minority stake in the team to help with the renovation costs.
Four and a half years after Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts purchased the team from the Tribune Company, Comcast SportsNet Chicago has reported that Ricketts and his family are exploring the option of parting with some ownership of the team. In addition to the renovation costs, the Cubs would be paying upwards of $200 million in neighborhood development costs that includes a new hotel next to the field.
“The Ricketts family is looking at a number of financial options to be prepared to finance expanding and preserving Wrigley Field when the talks with the rooftops come to a conclusion,” said Dennis Culloton, the Ricketts family spokesman.
The Cubs have been at odds with the neighboring Wrigley rooftop owners, who profit off of seats that look into the stadium. The team proposed to pay 17 percent of their wages through 2023 to the rooftop businesses, but the owners object to the renovations because new signs and a proposed scoreboard in left field will drastically hinder the view for their bar patrons.
Though Tom is the primary chairman of the Cubs, the team is owned by three other members of the family, who own 95 percent of the team as well as a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The remaining five percent was retained by the previous owners.
When the family purchased the Cubs and ballpark back in 2009 for $845 million dollars, it was reported that the team was valued at $700 million. Forbes magazine now values the franchise at $1.2 billion, making them the fourth highest valued team in baseball behind the Red Sox, Dodgers, and Yankees. Any stock in the Cubs that is sold would not come with voting rights for the team and the Ricketts family would retain full control.
This is not the first time the Ricketts have considered parting with a stake in the organization. When they purchased the team almost five years ago, Tom Ricketts explored the option of including investors, such as Chicago native Bill Murray, in on the deal that would buy the team from the Tribune Company. At the time, the Tribune reported that the Ricketts family was looking for upwards of $25 million to join the Cubs family. Sources believe the team is now looking for a similar deal.
Ultimatly, the Ricketts family took on the financial burden to purchase the team. A source close to the Cubs described the potential sale as being one option the Ricketts family is interested in exploring.
“This is not a question of not having resources,” the source said. “This is just an option to use another tool to make those resources available.”
The sale of the team or the renovations of Wrigley should not be a distraction to Theo Epstein and company, who won their first game of the season today by defeating Pittsburgh 3-2. Any decision made by the Ricketts family is not likely to happen for a few months as they have to weigh their options and find the best suitor for the organization. Renovations on the field will commence during the off-season and will not affect the team playing regular season games.
The organization is headed in the right direction as far as management is concerned. They have built one of the best farm systems in the majors and look for small improvements every season. The renovations to Wrigley are a testament to the winning mentality Epstein brings to the team and should be welcomed by Cubs fans as a step towards a bright future.
The team has their home opener Friday against former Cub, and new Philadelphia Phillies manager, Ryne Sandberg.