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Cubs owner looking at all options for Wrigley renovations

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The Canadian Press
4/4/2014 2:17:49 PM
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CHICAGO -- Wrigley Field turns 100 this spring, and Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is looking forward to celebrating the landmark birthday. He also wants to get started on the future of the beloved ballpark.

Ricketts said Friday the team is examining all options for financing the renovation of the Cubs' longtime home, including bringing in outside investors for the franchise.

"Most teams are owned by dozens of investors," Ricketts said. "It's unusual for anyone to own 95 per cent of a team. So we're going to look at whether or not that fits for us. But it is non-controlling, minority shares."

Ricketts said outside investment is just one financing option being considered, and the process is just getting started. He also said there is no reason to be concerned about the financial state of the club.

"It is quite common for teams to sell limited partnership interests," said Sal Galatioto, president of Galatioto Sports Partners. "Most of the major baseball franchises are held through partnerships."

Galatioto said his firm represented the Ricketts when they purchased the Cubs, Wrigley Field and 25 per cent of Comcast SportsNet Chicago in 2009 from Tribune Co. or $845 million. The family controls 95 per cent of the Cubs, with Tribune Co. owning the rest.

Forbes, in its recent valuation of major league teams, ranked the Cubs as the fourth-most valuable at $1.2 billion.

"The $1.2 billion valuation of the club by itself seems to be in the ballpark," Galatioto said in an email.

While Wrigley remains one of baseball's most popular ballparks, it lacks many of the modern amenities that are common around the majors. But the team's privately financed $500 million renovation plan remains on hold.

The long-delayed project calls for construction of a nearby hotel and upgrades throughout the ballpark, with a Jumbotron video screen in left field and a 650 square-foot Budweiser sign in right. The Cubs have approval from the city for the Jumbotron and sign but seek assurances from rooftop owners along Waveland and Sheffield Aves. that they won't slow construction by suing over blocked views.

The rooftop businesses give a percentage of their revenue to the Cubs as part of their contracts with the team.

"The key is to just keep moving forward and keep talking," Ricketts said before the Cubs' home opener against the Philadelphia Phillies, "and I expect that something will work for us. We'll figure it out."

But Ricketts had hoped to have started construction by now, and he sounded a bit tired about the negotiations with the rooftop owners.

"We've made a lot of concesssions," he said. "At some point it has to end somewhere. But again, we're not there yet. We keep working and see what we can get done."

Wrigley Field renovations (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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