* It’s tough to argue with this Sun-Times editorial board logic…
The Chicago Cubs’ new owners, like the previous owners, are making a move to hit up Chicago taxpayers to the tune of $200 million to pay for renovations at Wrigley Field.
The money ultimately would come from 35 years of future growth in an amusement tax that the city levies on tickets and concessions at Wrigley.
That’s money that otherwise would go straight into the city’s tapped-out general fund — money the city desperately needs for essential services such as paved streets and police and fire protection.
It’s money that would have to be made up somehow.
If this deal goes through, future Chicago mayors could be forced to raise taxes and fees elsewhere or cut basic city services even more deeply.
And for what?
To fix up a privately owned baseball park for one of the most profitable sports teams in the country.
Talk about a corked bat.
Tom Ricketts and his brothers and sister are grown-ups. They knew exactly what they were doing last year when they bought the Cubs and Wrigley Field from the Tribune Company for $845 million.
The Tribune has editorialized recently on Twinkies, Metra pollution, tax hikes and casino expansion, paycheck fairness and civil unions. Nothing on the Ricketts Bonds, however.
* But, forget the city’s editorial pages. A couple of far more powerful enemies have popped up: The Bears and the White Sox…
Bonds for the Cell will be paid off in 2021. Soldier Field bonds will be retired in 2031. If amusement tax growth is not great enough by then to retire the Wrigley bonds, the Cubs intend to borrow from the hotel tax and pay it back by extending the life of the bonds.
That could force the city and state to forfeit amusement tax growth for even longer than 35 years.
But here’s the catch: If the Cubs move to the head of the line, the Bears and Sox could be deprived of the money they may need to complete stadium renovations.
“They’re assuming we won’t need any major work at Soldier Field and U.S. Cellular Field. These are assets of the state and city that need to be upgraded,” said a source familiar with the deal.
“Twenty years from now, the Bears may say, ‘For us to stay, we need this and this.’ … The Cubs are saying, ‘When the bonds run out, it’ll go to us. The hell with you.’”
* The team’s new owner is attempting to calm the waters, but he’s only somewhat addressing the points mentioned by the CS-T…
Cubs Executive Chairman Tom Ricketts tried Friday to calm the uproar. In several radio interviews, he said Cubs fans are on the hook, not the at-large taxpayer on the South Side, in Peoria or in Carbondale.
“The dollars are only coming from people who buy Cubs tickets, and only the increase over what they pay today,” Ricketts said on WGN-AM 720. […]
Ricketts argued that the city and county can’t count on incremental revenue from the Wrigley amusement tax if the Cubs don’t refurbish the 96-year-old ballpark. The growth in the amusement tax will primarily come from increasing ticket prices. Ricketts said it’s easier to justify higher tickets prices over time in a renovated stadium.
“The increases (in the amusement tax) won’t exist unless we fix up the park,” Ricketts told WGN.
The trouble is, the new owner wants to tap all the money from the amusement tax increase. If they could split it with the city and county, they might have a better case. Or, they could raise the tax and only tap that cash.
This is just not true…
Brian Battle, a director at Chicago-based investment adviser Performance Trust Capital Partners, suggested this tack: “If you are a Sox fan, they are not asking you to pay for anything.”
Yes, they are. The Ricketts want all that new tax revenue, which would otherwise go to municipal coffers.
* Mayor Daley’s reaction is lukewarm at best…
“I can’t rule it in or out. It is a good proposal, but like anything else, we have to see what effect this has on the revenue. And that’s very important, especially when you’re looking at nickels and dimes. That’s what we’re looking at. People are taking furlough days off, cutting pay and all that. So, you know, it’s difficult,” the mayor said.
Daley said there are other ways to renovate Wrigley Field besides the bond proposal.
* It might be nice if the team waited until after the mayoral election to do this. At the very least, the top candidates should weigh in one way or the other. Two already have…
“While many Chicagoans feel affection for Wrigley Field and the Cubs, I have reservations about asking taxpayers to provide funding to a private company at a time when basic city services like our education and public safety systems are being impacted by the state of the city’s finances,” said Rahm Emanuel.
Gery Chico also said, “I don’t think that’s the proper way to fund any renovation of Wrigley Field. Those monies go for essential municipal services — whether it’s police, fire or Streets and Sanitation.”
* Daley got it right…
Daley said it’s important to preserve Wrigley but isn’t sure it’s appropriate to saddle his successor with decades of payments using revenue that would otherwise go into city coffers.
* And Rick Telander doesn’t mince words…
I mean, didn’t we just come through the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression by buying crap that people such as the Rickettses told us was hot stuff?
Clever folks in the financial-services field, such as the Rickettses, know how the game is rigged. Always against the little people.
Remember a year ago when Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein said he and his commission-rich underlings were doing ‘’God’s work'’?
If the bond scheme these Cubs owners are trying to foist on us — with the help of government reps such as Illinois state Senate President John Cullerton — does pass, it’s the devil’s work.
The Rickettses have revealed themselves. They might love the Cubs, but they love other people’s money more.