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Ricketts' focus on World Series

Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said Monday that the framework for a deal to renovate Wrigley Field, which was agreed to by the City of Chicago, will bring a World Series to a fan base that hasn't seen a championship since 1908.

"This massive investment will help us generate the resources we need for our baseball operations to develop championship-caliber players," Ricketts said at a news conference at Wrigley. "If this plan is approved, we will win the World Series for our fans and our city.

"We need this project in order to bring our fans a winner."

The framework of the deal includes a $500 million face-lift for the second-oldest park in the majors, including an electronic video screen that is nearly three times as large as the hand-operated scoreboard currently atop the center-field bleachers of the 99-year-old ballpark.

Under terms of the agreement, the Cubs would also be able to increase the number of night games at Wrigley Field from 30 to 40 -- or nearly half the games played there each season.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel hailed the "framework" agreement in a joint statement issued Sunday night, noting that it includes no taxpayer funding. That had been one of the original requests of the Ricketts family in a long-running renovation dispute that at times involved everything from cranky ballpark neighbors to ward politics and even the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama.

The Wrigleyville Rooftop Association issued a statement after Ricketts' news conference, stating that it reserves the right to enforce the 20-year contract agreed to with the previous Cubs owner. That contract, which is in its ninth year, allows the rooftop owners across from the park to charge people to watch games from their buildings and pay 17 percent of revenue to the Cubs.

"As an organizational partner, we echo the sentiment of all parties involved for our desire that the Cubs play baseball in a modernized Wrigley Field as soon as possible," the statement read. "The players and fans deserve the modern amenities that numerous other Major League Baseball teams have had for years and we are pleased that process will begin. The Wrigleyville Rooftops Association will play an active role in the community process to approve the planned development or any changes to the Landmark Ordinance.

"We are pleased the Chicago Cubs will participate in a community process to flesh out these details more in-depth. However, no community process, city ordinance, or agreement without our consent can or should dismiss contractual rights granted to us by the Chicago Cubs in 2004. Rooftop owners reserve the right to use any and all means necessary to enforce the remaining 11 years of our 20-year contract. We, as well as every interested party in the Lakeview neighborhood, will study the plans submitted to the City of Chicago and play a constructive role in moving forward."

The Cubs said the video screen they are proposing to build is 6,000 square feet, and would be built with "minimal impact on rooftops with whom (the) Cubs have an agreement." The current center-field scoreboard is slightly more than 2,000 square feet; the Cubs also have plans to add a left field sign of 1,000 square feet.


The video screen and new signs around the park offer the team a chance to reach new advertising deals and pay for the overhaul, even if it changes the character of the historic park. The city and club said they hope the agreement would allow the Cubs to obtain necessary city approvals for the work by the end of the current season.

The Ricketts family, which bought the Cubs in 2009 for $845 million, initially sought tax funding for renovation plans. With that out in the new agreement, the owners will seek to open new revenue streams outside the stadium. Under the agreement, the Ricketts family would be allowed to build a 175-room hotel, a plaza, and an office building with retail space and a health club, and provide 1,000 "remote" parking spots that will be free and come with shuttle service.

The site of Babe Ruth's "called shot" home run in the 1932 World Series and more heartbreak than Cubs fans would like to remember, Wrigley Field is the second-oldest only than Boston's Fenway Park in the majors. It has long been a treasured showplace for baseball purists -- night games were only added in 1988 -- but team officials for years have desperately wanted a true upgrade, saying it costs as much as $15 million a year just to keep up with basic repairs.

The ballpark has also played no small part in the lore of the team, as fans were reminded April 10 when someone delivered a goat's head in a box addressed to Ricketts. Neither the team nor the Chicago Police Department have talked about a possible motive for the strange delivery, but as every fan knows it was in the 1945 World Series when a tavern owner arrived at the park with his pet goat -- which had a ticket.

According to legend, the owner was told the goat smelled and was denied entry. The angry tavern owner then put the "Curse of the Billy Goat" on the Cubs -- and the team has not been back to the World Series since. The last World Series championship for the Cubs came in 1908 -- six years before Wrigley was built.

After failing to reach an agreement when Mayor Richard Daley was in office, the Ricketts family kept talking after Emanuel took office in 2011. But even presidential politics presented an obstacle for the plans at one point.

During the 2012 election, the patriarch of the Ricketts family, which created the TD Ameritrade brokerage firm, was considering a $10 million campaign against Obama that would refer to the racially incendiary sermons delivered by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright at a Chicago church the president once attended. J. Joseph Ricketts dropped the proposal, but the episode brought a huge dose of unwanted bad press and angered Emanuel, Obama's former White House chief of staff.

In recent weeks, fans also had to deal with the unlikely specter of the Cubs leaving Chicago. With the talks bogged down, the mayor of nearby Rosemont piped up, saying the village located near O'Hare International Airport would be willing to let the Cubs have 25 acres free of charge to build a replica of Wrigley Field.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.