There is little question that Wrigley Field is not just a Chicago landmark, but an American one. It is the second-oldest ballpark in the land, housing the game that we still at least partially pretend is our pastime and some slice of Americana. It is a major tourist attraction, and one of the more identifiable structures in Chicago. The oldest park, Fenway, received historic landmark status nearly a decade ago. On the surface, Wrigley gaining federal landmark status should be a gimme.
But these days, you have to dig just below the surface to see the cynical side of it all. After all, when you’re run by a billionaire who’s always fiending for his next financial fix (say that five times fast and then cry) something is afoot. Nothing is ever done for the good of anyone except their own accounts. And so it probably is with the Cubs and Wrigley and Tom Ricketts.
When the Ricketts family first planned on modernizing and remodeling Wrigley Field, they wanted all the normal public giveaways that most every other team gets. In one of the rare instances of standing up to a billionaire’s wishes and demands, the Chicago City Council essentially told Tom to do one and the improvements were mostly paid by private funds. Even trying to influence local elections didn’t win Ricketts any favors, while also trying to claim the Cubs stayed out of politics. The thing about having that much money is you can believe any amount of your own bullshit, as we’ve seen to disastrous extents.
But there’s always an endgame, and with Wrigley on the precipice of gaining landmark status, they’re becoming clear. There’s a pretty immense tax credit that comes along with it, namely 20 percent of the costs of the improvements.
It’s a little hard to figure out just how much that will be, but when Fenway gained that status it was worth $40 million in credits to them, and that was eight years ago. The Cubs have claimed that all of their development work cost them $1 billion, but a lot of that was for the neighborhood around Wrigley, which might not apply. But you can be sure they’re going to claim as much as they can of that $1 billion went into the park, though. Even if half of that total was spent on the park itself, and that’s not a stretch, that’s some $100 million in credits going back to the Cubs. You can do the math all the way down from there. Which just so happens to be around the amount the Cubs are claiming they lost in the 2020 season. Even if that’s spread over a few years, it’s certainly a welcome and lovely injection.
Which certainly makes for curious timing, given that the general feeling around the Northside is that Theo Epstein jumped before he was shoved into burning down the team he constructed. Not only has every big name on the Cubs already been mentioned in trade rumors, but there are even whispers that they’ll straight-up non-tender the likes of Kris Bryant or Kyle Schwarber and simply let them walk into free agency for nothing to avoid paying their arbitration awards. This on the heels of the team launching its own network for the first time, with somewhat predictably laughable results.
It will make for even more awkward viewing for a family, worth a reported $5 billion remember, cutting costs on a team that the fans still genuinely love, despite recent results right after they’ve been given yet another financial gift, and all the fundraising they did for Republicans and the Orangutan in Charge to keep those financial windfalls coming. Especially if fans are allowed back in at any point this season.
But another benefit of having all the money in the world is not really caring how anything looks to all the plebes. Especially when they’ll still send the turnstiles spinning as soon as they can.