Wrigley Field renovation talks stall

CHICAGO -- Negotiations between the Chicago Cubs and neighborhood rooftop owners came to a standstill Tuesday.

At the Cubs Convention on Saturday, the team said there was positive momentum toward a deal on a $300 million renovation of Wrigley Field. But owner Tom Ricketts compared the situation with the rooftops to a "neighbor watching your television through your window." Later, business president Crane Kenney said of the rooftop owners, "They basically want to delay the project unless there is an accommodation made."

A source familiar with the rooftop association called those comments "not overly helpful" as they went into meetings this week. Any momentum toward an agreement now appears stalled, and the rooftop owners have filed a defamation lawsuit against sports consultant Marc Ganis for comments he made last January. The Cubs have been named as a respondent in that lawsuit.

"We have worked hard to reach a resolution with our rooftop partners which would have helped preserve their views, including reducing the number, size and location of signs," Cubs spokesman Julian Green said in a statement. "Unfortunately, they opted [Tuesday] to reject the proposal and file this lawsuit. Since our approvals last year, we have been anxious to get the Wrigley Field renovation started. [Tuesday's] action will certainly force additional delays to our project."

The Cubs and rooftop owners still can't agree on the size and location of a new video scoreboard to be installed in left field for the 2015 season as well as signage to be placed in right field. The ongoing battle has delayed the renovation project of Wrigley, which was scheduled to begin after last season.

The sides entered into a 20-year agreement in 2004 in which the rooftop owners pay the Cubs 17 percent of the team's yearly profits in exchange for unobstructed views into the ballpark. The Cubs dispute that notion, however, contending the unobstructed views were guaranteed through the landmarking of the bleachers not with the agreement they have with the rooftop owners.

"We fought it to the end but lost," Kenney said. "The landmarking said you can't have any signs in the outfield ever. What changed this summer is the landmarking got amended. We can now have signs in the outfield. They've now recognized the outfield is not a historic feature. And above a 10-foot level we can have signage. That was the big win last summer, among many. That's what the rooftops would contest. Essentially can you unlandmark a building? We think you can. In fact the city council did this summer."

The Cubs say they won't start the major renovation project without an agreement with the rooftop owners that includes a guarantee not to sue the Cubs for breach of contract, which would delay construction. The lawsuit against Ganis just might be the beginning.