Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts steadfast on issue of Wrigley control
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org March 13, 2013 11:08PM
MESA, Ariz. — Cubs ownership and top business operations executives traveled to Arizona this week to make another pitch to city officials back in Chicago for the concessions they seek in exchange for paying for their $300 million renovation of Wrigley Field.
With the vague contours of the Cubs’ new, still-under-construction spring-training facility as a backdrop, chairman Tom Ricketts answered inevitable questions Wednesday from bused-in media that drew comparisons between the stalemated negotiations over Wrigley Field and the publicly funded $84 million spring facility that opens next year in west Mesa.
“I’ll leave the irony to [the media],’’ Ricketts said. “We’ve always said we wanted to be a first-class organization, and you can’t be a first-class organization with third-class facilities. We’ve addressed the issue in the Dominican [with a nearly completed academy]. We’ve addressed the issue here with the help of our good friends in Mesa.
“We’d like to take some of that momentum into Wrigley and get that project started, too.’’
But rooftop owners with long-term contracts with the Cubs and Wrigleyville neighborhood leaders with concerns over some of the team’s plans won’t roll over quietly. And the team is barely two weeks away from what it has said is a rough deadline for starting the process in time to break ground on the project in October.
Ricketts made it clear the club has no intentions of committing to its 2013 timeline until it gets the concessions it wants to allow street closures and more ballpark signage,
“At this point, before we green light the project, we want to know what the deal is,” Ricketts said. “What we said in January was we’ll pay for the project. But we also need to have control of our ballpark. And that’s still our position.”
Matt Garza (lat) said he’s been so encouraged this week since resuming a throwing program that he’s eyeing a mid-April start to his season — although manager Dale Sveum still is looking at the end of April or early May. Garza increased his tossing to 60 feet Wednesday.
◆ Scott Baker (Tommy John surgery) makes his Cactus League debut for the Cubs on Sunday and remains on track for a mid-April season debut.