Monday, April 01, 2013

If You Build It, Will They Come? Opening Day Shocker: Cubs to Move Downtown?

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It was the opening day surprise no one had seen coming.    After months of unresolved negotiations between the Ricketts family, city officials, community groups and rooftop owners, the Chicago Cubs on Sunday officially spurned an offer of free land from suburban Rosemont and revealed they will build a completely new stadium in downtown Chicago.
At a hastily called press conference at the bottom of the 86-foot wide hole excavated for Santiago Calatrava's abandoned Chicago Spire project, a sedated Tom Ricketts stood next to a beaming Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who called the situation a win-win . . .
Number one, the Cubs stay in Chicago. 
Number two, Chicago will have a first-class, Olympics-ready stadium that guarantees the Cubs will be a Chicago team for the next 50 years, and beyond. 
Number three - there is no number three.  
Number four, the neighborhood, the rooftop owners and the fans will still have Wrigley Field. It's a museum quality facility, a historic landmark, and so we're making it . . . a museum.  Everything that people have loved about the Cubs through all these years when the closest they got to a World Series was when the team bus got lost coming back from Busch Stadium, everything about that great Wrigley experience - the atmosphere, the food, the rooftop bleachers -that's going to be there. 
There'll be a game, every day, during the regular season.  They won't be real games, but they'll look just like it.  The players will be animatronic.  I've seen them.  They're amazing.  There's a little problem right now with the animatronic players having more credible careers than the guys signed to the actual Cubs roster.  But they're working on it.

Santiago Calatrava, who, as you may know, was to design the world's tallest building right where we're standing now, is coming back to Chicago, back to this site, to build what I believe will be the greatest stadium in the world.  This amazing hole we're at the bottom of this morning will fulfill its original purpose.   But . . . in a new way. 
As you know, right to the west of where we are now, we're in the process of constructing the Navy Pier Flyover, which will provide an express path for bicycles over Grand and Illinois.  Now, we're adding ramps, from that path, that will lead right into this hole.  People will be able to bike to Calatrava Field, and park - securely - in the largest bicycle garage the world has ever seen. 
And, we believe, there will still be enough space left in this hole to bury the crushed hopes of Cubs fans for many, many decades to come.
The new, two-block square stadium will actually cross Lake Shore Drive and make use of land, now undeveloped, originally earmarked for a park honoring Jean Baptiste du Sable.  Emanuel anticipated possible objections . . .
As you know, we're marking the 10th anniversary of Mayor Daley closing down Meigs Field, on Northerly Island.  The intention was to make it a park, but that didn't happen.  The only thing that's happened is the temporary Charter One concert pavilion.  It's been very successful, and by that I mean it brings in money, which, frankly, is more than you can say about all those plants on the rest of the island. 
We've done studies, very extensive studies, and again, frankly, every one of them has come to the conclusion that vegetation is a drag on the economy we can no longer afford.  You do have, and I'll be the first to admit this, contracts for spraying pesticides, for watering, for basic gardening.  But if Chicago is to be a world-class city, we need more, and, as mayor, it is my responsibility to make sure we get it.

And so, at DuSable Park, we're cutting to the chase.  Instead of ten years of waiting for a park, we're going to skip directly to not having a park - ever.  We're still working the numbers on how much money this will save. I haven't gotten all the specifics.  But I believe I have heard the word “gazillions” included in the conversations.
Budget Director Alexandra Holt explained the finances behind the deal.
The financing for this truly amazing stadium will also be truly amazing.  Funds from the new Entire North Side TIF district will allow the City of Chicago to guarantee the Ricketts family profits of at least $50 million a year on Wrigley Field, which will now be a private museum, much like the Field Museum, but with more curators.   These TIF funds will also finance the $1.5 billion cost of constructing the stadium, plus an anticipated $1.2 billion in overruns in executing Mr. Calatrava's unique corkscrew design, for which we soon hope to conclude negotiations with National League Baseball over the telescoping configuration of the playing field.

What this means in the end, however, is that the City of Chicago will have sole ownership not only of the stadium, but of the Chicago Cubs, which will become the first major league sports team under municipal ownership.  We anticipate major efficiencies from this, beginning with the replacement of  players with multi-million dollar contracts by members of the family of Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios.   This, alone, we expect to result in savings of tens of thousands of dollars each year.

More importantly, the City of Chicago will also be sole owner of the casino which, we are confident, will soon be enabled by legislation in Springfield, and which will occupy the two bottom-most levels of the hole we are standing in now.  The Ace in the Hole Casino will be a state-of-the-art facility, with world-class restaurants, luxury accommodations, and a 30,000 niche columbarium for gamblers who have expired on site, or just want to be closer after they die to where all their money went.

We are especially grateful to the Village of Rosemont, for putting us in touch with some of their most effective associates in developing an innovative system to reclaim lost revenues from the markers of overextended gamblers.  We believe that, working together, we will make write-offs a thing of the past, and set a new standard for the gaming industry.  We also appreciate the very persuasive negotiators our friends in Rosemont sent in to convince the Ricketts family that his plan was in their best interest.  Accordingly, we are working very closely with Speaker Madigan to advance in Springfield the Slot Machines for Outlet Malls within 1,000 feet of the Balmoral Exit bill.  
Looking up to the vagrant sunlight 70 feet above him, Mayor Emanuel restated how the new stadium plan extends his vision for Chicago . . . 
I want to stress again, this stadium will not only provide the best baseball viewing experience in any city in America, it will also be an Olympics quality stadium.  What does that mean?  It means that next time, things will be different.  I know, in the past, some of my predecessors (Mayor Daley) have promised Chicago an Olympics and it didn't happen.  I'm going to change that.  I believe - and some of the best business leaders in the city tell me the same thing - that with this stadium, Chicago will host not only the 2020, but the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics, the 2022 Winter Olympics, and the Lingerie  Football League Championships for at least 16 of the next 30 years. We don't have the final figures yet, but we believe it will bring 3 trillion dollars in new spending to Chicago over the next two decades - give or take 3 trillion dollars - and it will allow us to buy every homeless person in Chicago a condo in Miami.
photograph: Bob Johnson
There's an old saying that when we find yourself in a hole, stop digging.  Well, my friends of the press, look around you.  We're at the bottom of the biggest hole you've ever seen.  But when it comes to digging deeper, this administration is just getting started.
Read:  Analysis by Ben Joravsky
Read also:  Daley Center in Line for $250 Million Makeover?
And: Pictures of Wombats


Esther said...

I am ready to buy a ticket! Imagine the photo opps!!

Anonymous said...

Wow this will be fun

Anonymous said...

Is this an april fools joke?