Cubs considered using Miller Park during Wrigley Field renovations
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com January 17, 2013 9:36PM
MILWAUKEE - OCTOBER 04: A general view of the Milwaukee Brewers playing against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game three of the NLDS during the 2008 MLB playoffs at Miller Park on October 4, 2008 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Updated: January 18, 2013 2:51PM
Cubs ownership long has insisted it doesn’t consider U.S. Cellular Field an option as a temporary home while renovations to Wrigley Field are being done.
But could the team finally get its long-sought public handout and take its games out of state while locally subsidized construction is being done at Clark and Addison?
That’s one idea that was considered in great detail among Cubs business operations executives.
Cubs spokesman Julian Green said the plan — which called for all home games in April and May in 2014 and 2015 to be moved to Miller Park in Milwaukee — was just one of ‘‘a number of different options’’ being considered and is now ‘‘off the table.’’
For now, the Cubs say they’ll play all their home games at Wrigley Field while the anticipated work is completed.
But the Miller Park plan was considered seriously enough that the Brewers were consulted and at one point late last season Cubs business executives apprised the baseball-operations side about the possibility.
The Cubs played two games against the Houston Astros at Miller Park in 2008 when Hurricane Ike forced the games out of Houston.
While the plan never reached the point of seeking Major League Baseball’s approval for scheduling consideration, it at least provides a glimpse into the team’s thinking on a timeline for its Wrigley Field projects, as well as expectations for a timeline on public-funding efforts.
That’s a sensitive subject for the team, which lost one construction season already when public-funding approval that was perhaps days from an announcement in May was nixed abruptly by Mayor Rahm Emanuel because of ownership patriarch Joe Ricketts’ link to a smear campaign against Emanuel pal Barack Obama.
Green acknowledged the issue of taking games — and revenue — out of the city on the heels of getting approval for city subsidies was at least part of the reason for scrapping the Miller Park idea.
‘‘That would be one of many things that could influence the decision, not the only thing,’’ he said, stressing that the team’s primary concerns involved fan-related considerations. ‘‘While it looked like a desirable option, it would have proved to be very challenging. So we opted not to move forward with it.’’
The larger Wrigley Field issue takes center stage this weekend during the annual three-day Cubs Convention at the downtown Sheraton, where the team plans to unveil detailed renderings of the renovation project, including amenities outside the ballpark, on Saturday.
That figures to include a hotel in the works on the property now occupied by the McDonald’s across Clark Street, a plot already owned by the Cubs. The hotel deal is contingent upon getting the long-sought public money.
Sources say the presentation Saturday will not coincide with any funding announcement, contrary to some speculation earlier in the week.
While the Cubs want local governments to pay for $150 million of the $300 million cost of the renovation project, the team’s focus for achieving that figure has shifted toward a package combining a smaller financial subsidy with the easing of landmark and zoning restrictions at and around the ballpark, according to sources.
Either way, the club’s financial analysis of the renovations’ impact on team revenues suggests it could cover the $150 million in less than two seasons if it paid for it itself.
According to a source with direct knowledge of the analysis, the Cubs anticipate $95 million in additional annual revenue directly resulting from the renovations. That’s more than a 30 percent increase from pre-renovation revenue.