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Cubs' Deal With Rooftop Owners 'Fell Apart' At Stormy Meeting On Renovations

CHICAGO (STMW) -- The long-running dispute between the Cubs and rooftop club owners standing in the way of a $500 million plan to renovate Wrigley Field and develop the land around it will be resolved in the courts — not at the bargaining table.

That much was obvious Wednesday when the Cubs privately declared their intention to apply for a city permit to put up a 650-square-foot, see-through sign in right field that, the rooftop owners claim, will block their bird's-eye view of the century-old stadium.

The decision to take immediate advantage of a sign already authorized by the City Council was made after a stormy negotiating session Tuesday and after rooftop club owners filed a defamation lawsuit against a stadium financing consultant who once advised the Cubs' prior owner, the Tribune Co.

"Everything fell apart" at that meeting, said a source close to the negotiations.

In the suit, the rooftop owners accused Marc Ganis of making false and defamatory statements in a January 2013 story published by the Chicago Sun-Times. In it, Ganis urged Mayor Rahm Emanuel to remove the rooftop roadblock and side with the Cubs.

"The only reason this deal is not happening is because [local alderman] Tom Tunney is protecting the rooftop owners and a couple of bar owners. That has to be one of the most ludicrous situations in the history of sports facility development," Ganis said then.

"Protecting carpetbaggers stealing the product paid for by others for their own profit and, thereby, stopping a $300 million investment, 2,000 permanent jobs and 800 construction jobs along with tens of million of new city taxes. As a taxpayer in Chicago, one has to hope Mayor Emanuel talks some sense into Ald. Tunney for the good of the city."

The Cubs were named in the lawsuit, only as "respondents in discovery." But team officials viewed it as a shot across the bow that signals the rooftop owners' intention to take further legal action to block two massive outfield signs needed to bankroll the project.

Last month, Emanuel pressured the Cubs to start renovating Wrigley Field after delivering a punch list of concessions to tie up loose ends on the project.

The mayor also asked his City Council floor leader, North Side Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th), to broker the negotiations and prod both sides toward a solution.

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts has said repeatedly he won't begin construction of the Wrigley project authorized by the City Council last summer until rooftop club owners who share 17 percent of their revenues with the team agree not to sue to block two massive outfield signs needed to bankroll the project.

Until last week, the Cubs and rooftop owners thought they were inching toward a negotiated solution.

When the dispute came down to two rooftop owners whose Sheffield views would be impaired by the right-field sign, the Cubs explored the possibility of reducing the team's 17 percent share of annual rooftop revenues or buying them out.

There was even talk of moving the right-field sign to the top of one of one of the rooftop buildings, a solution proposed by the rooftop owners last year and ruled out by the team on grounds that it would not produce as much advertising revenue because the signs would not be visible from television cameras positioned behind home plate.

But sources said remarks made by Ricketts and Team President Crane Kenney at last week's Cubs' convention mirrored Ganis' remarks and angered the rooftop owners.

On Tuesday, yet another negotiating session was held and it did not go well. Sources said the rooftop owners demanded that the massive video scoreboard planned for left-field also be moved to the top of a rooftop building.

Cubs spokesman Julian Green was tight-lipped about the team's intentions.

But he issued a statement that left little doubt the matter would be resolved in court.

"We have worked hard to reach a resolution with our rooftop partners which would have helped preserve their views, including reducing the number, size and location of signs. Unfortunately, they opted yesterday to reject the proposal and file this lawsuit," Green said.

"Since our approvals last year, we have been anxious to get the Wrigley Field renovation started. Yesterday's action will certainly force additional delays to our project."

Ryan McLaughlin, a spokesman for rooftop club owners, could not be reached for comment.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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