Chicago Cubs hope for tax relief
In a letter to season-ticket holders, Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts stated the organization is looking for economic relief from the Illinois General Assembly, which will consider a bill later this month to preserve Wrigley Field.
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"Simply put, the plan allows a portion of future City and County amusement taxes, the 12 percent currently added to each ticket price, to be invested directly in the preservation of the Friendly Confines," Ricketts wrote in the letter, dated Nov. 11, 2010.
He went on, "The plan is fair, simple and focused. Most importantly, it will not increase taxes you currently pay and will not create any new taxes."
The Cubs have put some of their plans to remodel and update Wrigley Field on hold until the state's Assembly considers this bill.
Initially, the Cubs had a plan called Wrigley 2014 in which they were going to invest $200-300 million in upgrading the ballpark and adding a new triangle building that would house team offices as well as retail concerns.
In the letter, Ricketts goes on to say the Cubs will undertake a $200-million renovation plan over the next five years if they hear that the state Assembly will consider the aforementioned legislation.
"The Ricketts family will invest a comparable amount in neighborhood development," the letter stated. "The team will commit to play in Wrigley Field over the long run and to remain in the field during construction so, in this difficult economy, local businesses will continue to enjoy revenues the Cubs help attract."
The Cubs' owner points out in his letter that the team accounts for more than $600 million annually in impact to the local economy, including $400 million in annual new spending, which, he says, wouldn't take place without the Cubs and Wrigley Field.
"Well, I guess [playing in another venue during repairs] could be an option," Ricketts told ESPNChicago.com. "But I think it's important we're respectful to all of the businesses in the neighborhood. Yes, it certainly costs more to stretch out renovations over a period of time, but we think it's important after seeing how they did it in Boston [renovate without playing elsewhere] that we can also do it in a way that makes sense."
What was not stated in the Ricketts letter was what the Cubs would do if the state Assembly doesn't produce a bill to help the organization get tax relief. It's always possible the Cubs would look for a different venue to play in if Wrigley Field somehow doesn't make sense to the organization economically in the future.
"There is no Plan B," Ricketts told ESPNChicago.com. "The goal is to get the issues at Wrigley taken care of. If we don't get this bill passed, and we don't have the resources to do it, we're going to have to regroup and think how we're going to get it done.
"Wrigley doesn't have a short-term crisis ahead of it. We do know we'd like to address the big picture and do the major repairs and improvements now, just to get it behind us. Every year we wait is a year we've wasted, in my mind. We want to invest in the neighborhood and the triangle building. But we also want to know the park is going to be there for the next 50 years."
Ricketts paid $750 million last October to purchase 95 percent of the Cubs, and the Ricketts family is also committing many millions of dollars toward real estate and land purchases in Mesa, Ariz., to go along with the team's new spring training facility that the city will build over the next two years. The Cubs are projecting to move into their new "Wrigley Field West" facility in 2013.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs for ESPNChicago.com.