Crane Kenney, the Chairman of the Chicago Cubs outlined how the sale of Wrigley Field and its renovations would be paid for. Speaking in an interview on WSCR-AM670, Kennedy outlined the complex structure being proposed by which the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority would purchase Wrigley separately from the Cubs and other baseball related assets that the Tribune Co. currently owns.
The model outlined by Kenney has the following moving parts:
- Wrigley Field would be sold to the ISFA
- Bonds would be issued so that the ISFA could pay Tribune for the purchase of Wrigley.
- To pay for the bonds, rent, paid by the new owners for the use Wrigley, would be used.
- To pay for the $400-$450 million in renovations to Wrigley Field, construction bonds would be issued.
- To pay the construction bond schedule, a proposed method by which the incremental tax revenues created inside Wrigley (sales tax, amusement tax and other taxes collected) that go into the general fund coffers would be baselined using 2007’s figures.
- When the taxes collected at Wrigley exceed the baseline, they would be used to pay the construction bonds for the renovation.
Read that through a few times and it makes sense and doable. Where things get confusing is when this model is set against comments by former Gov. Jim Thompson, who is the ISFA chairman. Thompson said that no tax money would be used as part of the renovation to Wrigley. As reported in the Chicago Tribune:
"We are working on a proposal to present to Tribune Co. that will allow ISFA to acquire and fully restore Wrigley Field, as well as add parking and neighborhood improvements, without using any public tax money, either state or local," Thompson said late last month.
Speculating for the moment, it may be that Thompson is saying that no new tax dollars would be used. If not, the part of Kenney’s model by which in-stadium taxes above a certain threshold are earmarked for paying renovation bonds goes out the window.
The proposed model outlined by the Cubs and Tribune come at a difficult time for public support of the ISFA purchasing and renovating Wrigley Field. It also comes at a time when the financial “books” are to be delivered to prospective bidders looking to purchase the storied franchise, with, or without, Wrigley in-tow. As we have reported prior, the idea of new ownership paying rent to payoff a facility purchase that they will not own is a glaring negative. By not owning the facility, they do not control it. In that sense, they may have input on the renovations to Wrigley, but not the final say.
As to the renovations, the Chicago Tribune story offers the following:
Kenney also said the Cubs want to restore Wrigley Field to "its original look," which would include removing exterior chain link fences and concrete panels. The renovations also would include upgraded luxury suites and premium seating behind home plate that would require the destruction of the team's offices.
Pointing to the bleacher expansion, Kenney said Cubs fans should trust them to treat the ballpark with respect. "We aren't foolish enough to ruin what makes the place special," Kenney said.
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