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Ald. Tom Tunney Digs In Against More Signs, Night Games At Wrigley

CHICAGO (STMW) -- The Cubs got the go-ahead Thursday to hold two more summer concerts at Wrigley Field, but that could be all they get for a while if local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) has his way.

Tunney dug in his heels one day after the billionaire family that owns the Cubs sweetened the pot — with a health club in the hotel they plan to build — in an apparent attempt to prod Mayor Rahm Emanuel into siding with the team over Tunney and the rooftops in the dispute over Wrigley Field signs that's holding up a $300 million plan to renovate the historic ballpark.

The alderman said he won't agree to the Cubs' request to lift city restrictions on outfield signs and night games and open Sheffield Avenue for street fairs on game days unless it's part of a larger deal that includes more remote parking and added police protection after Cubs games.

The Cubs say they need those new revenues to bankroll a renovation of 99-year-old Wrigley Field without a public subsidy. They're pushing for an answer by opening day so they can order materials needed to begin work as soon as the regular season ends and avoid losing yet another year of construction.

"That's not my problem. My problem is my community," Tunney said Thursday. "You're talking about one of the wealthiest families in America. End of statement."

He added, "Mr. Ricketts has said this is a 50- to 100-year investment. They bought a piece of property that needed repair. I've done it in my own business. You factor that into the price of purchase. We're trying to give them special consideration, but they need to have special consideration, too, for the uniqueness of the neighborhood."

Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for the Ricketts family, declined to comment.

With Tunney's support, rooftop club owners who share 17 percent of their revenues with the Cubs have pitched a plan to generate $17.9 million a year to bankroll the stadium renovation — by putting seven digital signs on top of their buildings instead of inside the ballpark blocking their views.

But they're still striking out with the Cubs, who argue that there's far more money to be made by putting up signs inside the ballpark that can be seen during television broadcasts of Cubs games.

On Thursday, Tunney was asked repeatedly whether he would agree to any signs inside the ballpark that block the rooftops' birdseye view.

He insisted that he has not yet made that decision and won't until the Cubs present a comprehensive plan for all of the ballpark signs they intend to sell.

"I didn't support the Toyota sign [in left field] because there was no plan. Give us a plan. I want a comprehensive sign package. They have a wish list: As many as we can without any restrictions. Get government out of the way. Let us run our business. That doesn't work. Government is always your partner," Tunney said.

The aldermen argued that the 2003 agreement that paved the way for more night games required the Cubs to add 1,000 remote parking spaces.

"They have only done about 300 max. Parking is the No. 1 issue in our ward. Has been for 30 years. What is the plan for remote parking? You want more night games? Where's the parking plan?" he said.

Emanuel has been trying to broker a deal that will allow the rooftops to survive and thrive and still give the Cubs the sign revenue they need to renovate the landmark stadium. He has argued that there's a deal to be made between the Cubs and the rooftops if only the competing parties would "seize it."

Is Tunney concerned that Emanuel will side with the Cubs to pave the way for a $500 million development that could generate 2,000 jobs and $19 million in new tax revenue?

"Of course. I worry about everything," Tunney said. "But you know what? I sleep well every night. You know why? Because I commit 100 percent to my community. Period."

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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