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Monday, January 12, 2004
Team to receive portion of rooftop revenue

ESPN.com news services

The cost of tradition just got more expensive, at least for the owners of the rooftop grandstands surrounding Wrigley Field.

The Chicago Cubs and owners of the famous building-top seats have come to a 20-year agreement that would require the owners to pay the team millions of dollars each year, the Chicago Tribune reported in Monday's editions.

The owners of 11 buildings will pay the Cubs 17 percent of their gross revenue, which, with approximately 1,700 rooftop seats, could cost owners more than $2 million a year, Alderman Thomas Tunney of the 44th Ward told The Tribune.

The settlement stems from a December 2002 lawsuit brought against the owners by the Cubs after the team's plans to expand the bleacher sections in Wrigley Field failed. The team accused the owners of stealing the team's product, copyright infringement and unjust enrichment at the Cubs' expense.

Owners of two of the buildings have not agreed to the settlement and plan to fight the agreement in court.

The owners and team officials have not yet signed the agreement, and the settlement must receive court approval before it can take effect. That could be as early as this season, The Tribune reported.

"This issue is really between two successful businesses and I'm glad they can reach an agreement out of court," said Tunney, whose ward includes the ballpark.

While the settlement does not affect the team's continuing wish to add about 2,000 bleacher seats at Wrigley, the rooftop owners argue that by taking a cut of the profits from each seat, the Cubs in effect get their expansion, a source familiar with the rooftop owners' side told The Tribune.

"This deal does not mean we are letting down our opposition to an expansion or that it paves the way for an expansion. Our view is, with this agreement, the Cubs have gotten their expansion," the source told the newspaper.

Another source close to negotiations said: "It's an amazing deal for the Cubs. They are just handed $2 million for doing nothing."

Tunney told The Tribune that if the Wrigley bleacher expansion is completed in the next eight years, according to the agreement, the Cubs would have to compensate those rooftop owners whose views were obstructed.

According to the report, lawyers for both sides reached the agreement after 12 hours of negotiations on Friday, which included settlement offers from both the Cubs and rooftop owners.

The owners' first offer was to collectively pay the Cubs $300,000 a year for 50 years, but the Cubs responded with a counteroffer in which the owners would owe the team 20 percent of the annual rooftop revenue over 10 years, the paper reported.