Rooftop owners offer sign plan

CHICAGO -- Wrigleyville rooftop owners unveiled a proposal Friday calling for the use of their buildings for advertising sold by the Chicago Cubs in exchange for continued unimpeded views of Wrigley Field.

The rooftop association announced their plans at a news conference claiming the advertising should bring in between $10-20 million annually to be split between the Cubs and the city of Chicago. The rooftop owners would see no profit from the advertising.

"We would give 100 percent of the revenue to the community and the Chicago Cubs," owner Beth Murphy of Murphy Bleachers said. "The Cubs, we presume, would be using it for their renovation project and the community would use it for neighborhood protections such as more police and things that benefit our neighborhood. The rooftops, in return, request we just stay in business. If the advertising is done in the bleachers in Wrigley Field we have a concern it will block our views and put us out of business."

The plan calls for both LED and static ads to be placed on the facades of the rooftop buildings outside the ballpark. The general size of the LEDs would be 20 feet by 7 feet and all ads would be sold and maintained by the Cubs.

"I think it gives a creative solution, a win-win solution, a big palate to sell," Murphy said.

The Ricketts family reacted to the plan through spokesperson Dennis Culloton:
"The Ricketts Family and the Chicago Cubs want the right to run their business so they can continue to be good stewards of Wrigley Field and save the beloved ballpark for future generations. They also want to invest $500 million and create nearly 2,000 construction and permanent jobs in Wrigley Field and the neighborhood. None of this is possible with continued restrictions and outside business interests blocking the Cubs from generating revenue being realized by every other team in pro sports.

"If the rooftop owners have a new plan, they would be advised to discuss it with the team instead of holding press conferences because a deadline is fast approaching for the team and the City to move forward."

The Cubs also believe they can generate more revenue by in-house advertising, money they wouldn't have to split with the city.

At the Cubs Convention last weekend, the team announced a five-year, $300 million renovation project hoping to fund it, in part, with revenues acquired by additional advertising, including in the ballpark. The city would need to relax some landmark restrictions for the Cubs to put up the additional advertising. The city would also have to relax local ordinances for the rooftop owners to add the advertising under their plan.

There is an existing contract between the rooftop owners and the Cubs that runs through 2023 that states the view from the rooftops will not be blocked in exchange for 17 percent of their profits which the owners pay the Cubs annually. Rooftop owners are worried that provision won't be upheld if challenged by the Cubs under the idea that the Cubs are doing a civic good for the neighborhood with their rehab project which would bring jobs -- both temporary and permanent -- to the area. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has urged both parties to find a common ground.

Rooftop owners believe they are a part of the Wrigleyville experience as much as the ballpark.

When asked how much the Cubs have meant to business for the rooftops, George Loukas, an owner of three, said:
"The Cubs might not have been here if it wasn't for Murphy's Bleachers building a new facility and the Cubby Bear creating an entertainment theme in Wrigleyville that people, not only go to the ballpark for the baseball, but post-baseball and pre-baseball, they get to be entertained by restaurants and bars in the community that have reputations."

Murphy added: "There is a reason the Cubs (draw) when they have losing seasons, and we've had quite a few now. There's a reason."