Ricketts: Rooftop deal a must

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is uncertain what will happen if the team and rooftop owners can't work out a deal for placement of a video replay board at Wrigley Field, but he insists the team has to have a resolution before they invest in the 100-year-old ballpark.

"The truth is we still have to get this done and we're not there yet," Ricketts said Wednesday before the first full squad workout of spring training. "If we can't grind out these last few steps, I don't know what's going to happen."

A source familiar with the situation says the $500 million renovation deal, which includes a hotel across from the park, still hinges on the size and placement of a video board in left field. Rooftop owners claim to have a contract with the team which states they'll have unimpeded views of the playing field in exchange for a share of the profits. The sides have been at an impasse for some time.

"Ultimately you have to have control of your own outfield," Ricketts said. "We can't live for the next 100 years with this kind of situation. We have to know it's going to be over if we're going to invest in the park. That's the full story."

The Cubs believe, as private owners of the team and park, that they should be able to do what they want, especially since they're not using public money to renovate the stadium.

"In effect we have put a lot of money into it already," Ricketts said. "We've stepped up the maintenance in the park in hopes this will all work out. That said, if you're going to go out and scrape up another $300-$500 million, you have to know what you're investing in."

Ricketts expressed optimism for a deal at the Cubs' convention last month but ensuing meetings with rooftop owners didn't end with a deal.

"We all have an incentive to get it done," he said. "Hopefully all those incentives add up to getting something that works."

Asked if there will be a time he will use the threat of moving the team if a deal can't be reached, Ricketts said: "I'm not going to answer that. We're just going to work toward the finish line."

The team and rooftop owners have been negotiating for almost the same amount of time it took to build the spring facility the Cubs opened last week. Ricketts says it's an unfair comparison with the stalled progress of Wrigley Field.

"There are a lot of differences between our spring facility and Wrigley," Ricketts said. "Obviously there's 100 years of history and we have to respect that.

"You can't just pretend Wrigley Field is another ballpark that's built out in some suburb that no one cares about."

Ricketts offered no timetable or deadline to get a deal done.

"It's our goal to get the project started at the end of the season," he said. "Not sure there is a hard date that goes with that but we want to get it started.

"We're talking on an ongoing basis."