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Monday, April 1, 2013
Theo: Wrigley renovation important

By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com

PITTSBURGH -- Theo Epstein wouldn't speculate on what will happen if Monday's self-imposed deadline to come to an agreement with the city to approve a renovation of Wrigley Field passes, but said the improvements are "fundamentally important to get us to the next level as an organization."

"We have a baseball plan and we have a business plan and they're timed to sync up with one another," the Cubs president of baseball operations said Monday morning before the Cubs opened their season against the Pittsburgh Pirates. "They are interdependent. If we don't get the Wrigley renovation done in a timely manner and done in a right way we can't accomplish our business objectives and that will certainly get in the way of us ultimately accomplishing our baseball objectives. So it's very important."

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts wants to have a deal done by Monday to be able to start the project in October. A five-year, $300 million renovation plan will be funded by the Ricketts family if they are allowed to add new revenue streams such as ballpark signage.

Epstein said talks between the Cubs, the city and the neighborhood are ongoing and refused to speculate on what would happen if they can't reach a deal Monday.

"I'm not comfortable answering that question until I talk to the guys back home," Epstein said.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has told the Cubs they must come to an agreement with the Wrigleyville neighborhood and rooftop owners before he will ease Wrigley Field's landmark status, which prevents some of the renovations to the 99-year-old ballpark.

Increasing the number of night games -- the Cubs currently play 30 night games a season -- is also part of their plan, but that idea has been met with resistance by a neighborhood group.

If a deal with Chicago falls through, Rosemont (Ill.) Mayor Brad Stephens has made a public pitch to the Cubs to relocate to the suburb, which can offer a 25-acre site near O'Hare International Airport.

Epstein said Monday he offers advice on the issue but only from a distance.

"I'm not on the front lines," he said. "I talk to Tom [Ricketts] and [team president of business operations] Crane [Kenney] a couple times a week. I offer my perspective from afar."