Why Sell Wrigley, You Ask?

There's been a lot of talk lately about the potential sale of Wrigley Field to the state of Illinois. Many seem to be wondering why Sam Zell would risk devaluing the Cubs by selling its most valuable asset. The answer is simple...and obvious; more money.

While searching for the answer last night, I stumbled across the writers at Field of Schemes, who, in my humble opinion, are doing the Lord's work. It's been my long-held opinion that public subsidized stadiums are nothing more than corporate blackmail. The owners ask the state or local government to pay for their stadium. In return, the team won't move...how nice of them. The Field Of Schemes authors have a book whose subtitle explains it best: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit. Bingo! The octogenarian's in Florida have it right though, don't pay. In most cases, the teams need the city and its population more than the city needs the team (except Green Bay which I'm certain would be swallowed up by the Earth if the Packers left).

But how does this all relate to the Wrigley Field situation, you ask? The Chicago Reader explains what some of the reasoning might be behind Zell's plan (link found via Field of Schemes):

... the old Tribune Company planned an ambitious expansion including a parking garage and a mall. Under the new proposal the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority—a state agency formed to subsidize the replacement for Comiskey Park, U.S. Cellular Field—would pick up the tab for those renovations. The Cubs would sell the park to the agency for the nominal sum of $1, and the new owners would sign on to rent the park from the state for at least 30 years. In exchange the Sports Facilities Authority would issue bonds to cover reconstruction costs.

$1? How is Zell going to make money by selling the stadium for a single dollar?

Simple: with the state underwriting the cost of updating the park, borrowing at lower rates than a private company could, the baseball team becomes a much wiser investment. The improvements—luxury boxes, added seats, a parking garage (details haven’t been worked out yet, Thompson says)—up the ante as well.

The new owners may also save on property taxes:

In addition, if the state owns Wrigley Field, the new owners won’t have to pay property taxes on it. In 2007 the Tribune Company paid $1,151,487 in property taxes on Wrigley. This year the bill will go up to around $1.43 million. At the rate property taxes are soaring, the new owners are looking to save more than $50 million in property taxes over the course of the 30-year lease.

They've been on top of this story at Field of Schemes from the beginning and noted Mayor Richard Daley's initial reaction, "taxpayers helping out the Cubs ... They've made money every year. It's very profitable and some way, we're supposed to bail them out?" The Chicago Reader speculates that Zell may have overplayed his hand by not going through Daley first, but rather Governor Blagojevich. But at the end of the article is this ominous prediction:

My sources in the statehouse predict that Daley’s opposition will only be temporary. They expect the mayor to swap his support for the Wrigley Field deal in exchange for a Chicago casino and more state funding for the 2016 Olympics.

Lo and behold, Daley just a few days later, "I have an open mind. . . . I always have an open mind on an issue. And why not? You should have it."

Right at this moment, you might be wondering about the article that Cubnut brought up mentioning prospective buyers faltering interest level if Wrigley Field and the Cubs are split apart. While I'm sure those anonymous quotes are accurate, I doubt their importance. I doubt that Sam Zell doesn't have a pretty good idea about who will buy the team at this point and doesn't have a pretty good idea that they're all for a plan that will grease the new owners pockets with some taxpayer money. And I doubt that Zell wasn't fully aware of one prospective ownership groups experience in obtaining public subsidies to help finance their stadiums. So while all of us armchair owners second-guess the real estate decisions of a man worth $4.5 billion dollars, it's best to remember that Zell made most of that money through real estate. I think it's possible he has a firm grasp on how selling Wrigley to the State will affect the sale of the Cubs. And even if Zell underestimates the money he can make from selling Wrigley to the State, I think Maury Brown stated it well at the end of the Crain's piece:

"There's no question this (stadium deal) would take away some luster for bidders," Mr. Brown says. "But the serious guys are going to stay because the Cubs are the Cubs. Huge bragging rights will go to whoever owns that team."

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I did want to add that while I despise the entire concept of publicly subsidized stadiums, the idea of the state owning Wrigley Field doesn't bother me much. As mentioned, the new owner will have to sign a 20 to 30-year lease to stay at Wrigley, which is a good thing if you're a fan of the park (and if you're not a fan of the park, what is wrong with you?). And when a new owner realizes the difficulties in generating revenue in a 40,000 seat stadium with limited luxury suites, they'll have a harder time getting approval to spray paint a Nike logo into the ivy.

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  • Phil,

    With Mutton on the DL now, does Victorino finally get to Iowa?

  • Chat ... is happening.

  • They call me Schwarberino because I'm basically Ruth,
    and as long as we're rapping I'm gonna tell you the truth:
    This team would be even better if I wasn't laid up;
    we'd win the World Series, the Superbowl, and the Stanley Cup.
    As long as we're at it, I'm putting the Premier League on notice.
    Hell, if I were healthy, the Cubs could run for POTUS.
    My busted knee's even sadder than this presidential kerfuffle,
    but my first rehab assignment will be the World Series Shuffle.

    I am avoiding grading papers.

  • I definitely hang around here looking to reply to your comments as noticed by my nearly year long absence.

    there's a fine line between posting something relevant, useful or at least humorous versus posting something irrelevant, useless or unfunny...actually it's rather quite a thick line and easy to see for most people not named crunch.

  • I agree completely with Dusty. I appreciate him much more as the Nats skipper than as the Cubs.

  • so, what you're saying is you keep bringing up something over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over like you did with this issue for years back in the day...and obviously still into today...

    ...but that's fine if you do it.

    brb, forming my next dozen replies for why you should shut up and never say anything about it again...oh wait, no i'm not because i'm not hanging around looking to tell you to shut up about repeating the same thing over and over and over and over...

  • Heyward looked fine shagging flies in BP. Wouldn't surprise me to see him in the line up tomorrow.

  • this seems like it could be an interesting series...parachat worthy.

  • speed leads...nothing ever changes. that's been a dusty thing since...forever.

    holy shit, really? I made the comment because I had just discovered this novel trait that Dusty possesses.

    btw, check out the leadoff hitter of the WS champion KC last year.

    waaaat????? again with the knowledge dropping, I literally had no idea.

  • speed leads...nothing ever changes. that's been a dusty thing since...forever.

    worst part is he's barely a speedster...just the best fitting.

    btw, check out the leadoff hitter of the WS champion KC last year.

  • Gotta make sure you're not clogging up those bases.

  • from the tweetbox

    "Sometimes people appreciate you more when you're gone than when you were here." --Dusty Baker

    makes me want to bring back Cubs' Quotations of the Week

    http://www.thecubreporter.com/2009/04/26/cubs-quotations-week

    http://www.thecubreporter.com/site/cubs-quotes-week

    http://www.thecubreporter.com/site/cubs-week-quotations

  • Guess the OBP of Dusty's lead off hitter tonight?

    ?

    ?

    ?

    ?

    .221/.272 for his career

  • CRAIG: Albertos was throwing both his fastball and curve for strikes today, displaying the best command I've seen from him so far. The Cubs have limited his outings at EXST, so he hasn't been stretched-out beyond one inning on a semi-regular basis.  

  • K-K-K inning for Albertos, 9/13 strikes. How did he look? All fastballs, or did he get some breaking pitches for the K's?

    Is Moreno showing any hint of improved velocity?

  • Awesome! Also, dammit! I just finished a Russell verse!

    I’m Addison Russell, flashin’ leather and muscle
    Hit a grounder up the middle, damn right ya better hustle
    I don’t miss, you know this, my D is the dopest,
    I’m lovin’ it and glovin’ it and shovelin’ it to Zobrist
    Another twin killing, score it six-four-three
    If I keep this up they’ll name another street for me
    There ain’t no SS better than Russell
    And I’m just here to do the World Series Shuffle