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Monday, November 15, 2010

White Sox and Bears may have issues with Cubs proposed financing deal

11/13, "Two major players, the Bears and White Sox, could end up blocking the plate, preventing the Cubs from using 35 years worth of amusement tax growth to renovate Wrigley Field.

Sources said the Cubs' elaborate financing plan calls for a 2 percent hotel tax to backstop the Wrigley Field bonds

  • when bonds used to finance Soldier Field and U.S. Cellular Field are paid off.

Bonds for the Cell will be paid off in 2021; those for Soldier Field in 2031. If amusement tax growth is not enough by then to retire the Wrigley Field bonds, the Cubs intend to borrow from the hotel tax and pay it back by extending the life of the bonds.

  • That could force the city and state to forfeit additional amusement tax revenue for longer than 35 years.

And there's another catch: If the Cubs move to the head of the line,

  • the Bears and Sox could be deprived of the money they may need for stadium renovations.

"They're (Cubs) assuming we won't need any major work at Soldier Field and U.S. Cellular Field. These are assets of the state and city that need to be upgraded," said a source familiar with the deal. "... Twenty years from now, the Bears may say, 'For us to stay, we need this and this.' ...

  • The Cubs are saying, when the bonds run out, it'll go to us. The hell with you.'"

The Bears and Sox are withholding comment until they know more about the Cubs financing scheme. Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf opposed the Soldier Field deal until he got something out of it - the right to sell naming rights for the new Comiskey Park to finance continued renovations.

  • Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for the Ricketts family, owners of the Cubs, refused to discuss specifics of the financing scheme.

It reportedly calls for $300 million in bonds to be issued in two layers to reduce the pressure on the Cubs to raise ticket prices.

"The two other teams should have no concerns because the Ricketts family has a prudent financial plan," Culloton said. "It's based on conservative assumptions of attendance levels below the last five years for the team and ticket prices (that would) escalate at a level below the (6 percent) MLB average over the past ten years.

  • The bonds would be paid off through the amusement tax (growth) generated by those ticket prices."

The Cubs are asking Chicago and the state to forfeit at least 35 years of amusement tax growth to finance a $200 million renovation of 96-year-old Wrigley Field, a slight twist on a plan Mayor Richard Daley rejected two years ago.

On Friday, mayoral press secretary Jacquelyn Heard said Daley remains "concerned about the impact this would have on Chicago taxpayers."

  • Two mayoral challengers echoed those concerns.

"While many Chicagoans feel affection for Wrigley Field and the Cubs, I have reservations about asking taxpayers to provide funding to a private company at a time when basic city services like our education and public safety systems are being impacted by the state of the city's finances," candidate Rahm Emanuel said.

  • Gery Chico said, "I don't think that's the proper way to fund any renovation of Wrigley Field. Those monies go for essential municipal services - whether it's police, fire or streets and sanitation."

Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) is on board with the Cubs plan and has agreed to sponsor it, but the Legislature may not be the final word. Because the city and county would be deprived of amusement tax growth for 35 years or longer, the deal may also need

  • approval from the city council and county board."

"Bears, Sox could block Cubs' Wrigley Field renovation plan," Sun-Times media, Fran Spielman, 11/13/10 via SBD

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